Friday, 17 March 2017

"Fearless" by FAMILY (2006 Repertoire 'Limited Edition 4000' Mini LP Artwork Repro CD Remaster with Four Bonus Tracks) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Daft, I Call It..." 

Family's back catalogue has had its fair share of reissue go-rounds (See For Miles, Essential, Madfish and more). But for me - these dinky Repertoire repro sleeves from 2006 - sporting quality remasters and relevant bonus tracks - are just what I need.

The German reissue label Repertoire re-released just three of these titles in March 2006 - each a limited edition of 4000 non-numbered copies - 1970's "Anyway on Repertoire REPUK 1082 (Barcode 4009910108222) - 1971's "Fearless" on Repertoire REPUK 1083 (Barcode 4009910108321) and 1972's "Bandstand" on Repertoire REPUK 1084 (Barcode 4009910108123). The barcodes were in fact only on the shrink-wrapped stickers that accompanied each reissue - so many got lost once that was ripped open.

As each original FAMILY album (Reprise Records in the UK, United Artists in the USA) came in unique and beautiful packaging - each of these seminal Rock-Prog albums have been ripe for Repro Artwork fiends. Which brings us to one of their best albums - here are the 'daft I call it' details...

UK and Europe released March 2006 (April 2006 in the USA) - "Fearless" by FAMILY on Repertoire REPUK 1083 (Barcode 4009910108321) is a Limited Edition of 4000 Copies with Full Mini LP Repro Artwork (flaps sleeve and red inner) and Four Bonus Tracks (53:46 minutes):

1. Between Blue And Me [Side 1]
2. Sat'd'y Barfly
3. Larf And Sing  
4. Spanish Tide
5. Save Some For Thee
6. Take Your Partners [Side 2]
7. Children
8. Crinkly Grin
9. Blind
10. Burning Bridges
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 6th album "Fearless" - released November 1971 in the UK on Reprise Records K 54003 and February 1972 in the USA on United Artists UAS-5562. Produced by FAMILY and GEORGE CHKIANTZ - it peaked at No. 14 in the UK LP charts and No. 177 in the USA.

11. In My own Time
12. Seasons
Tracks 11 and 12 are the non-album A&B-sides of a UK 7" single released July 1971 on Reprise K 14090 (peaked at No. 4)
13. Between Blue And Me (Live)
14. Sing 'Em The Way I Feel (Live)
Tracks 13 and 14 first appeared on the February 2004 CD Reissue of "Fearless” on Mystic MYS CD 172 (Barcode 604388621729)

ROGER CHAPMAN - Lead Vocals, Guitars and Percussion
CHARLIE WHITNEY - Guitars, Mandolin and Percussion
POLI PALMER - Keyboards, Vibes, Flute and Percussion
JOHN WETTON - Guitars, Vocals, Contracts and Keyboards
ROB TOWNSEND - Drums, Paiste Cymbals and Percussion
The Ladbroke Horns 

Both the UK and American original vinyl LPs came in an elaborate 'flaps sleeve' with a Red Inner bag – lyrics on one side, the other side blank. Repertoire have cleverly repro'd the four-flap gatefold sleeve into a slightly-oversized 5”Mini LP carefully including the 'daft I call it' bunny rabbit on the rear cover along with the 'this album is dedicated to all the people who have pulled strokes for or against us, for they shall be called fearless' quote. They've put the lyrics on one side of the red four-leaf foldout page with the blank side now filled in with JOHN TRACY and his superlative liner notes (John did many of the booklets on the early Decca and Deram CD reissues in the late 80s and early 90s – Savoy Brown, Thin Lizzy, Them, Keef Hartley, Moody Blues, Cat Stevens etc). The rear cover also states a 'Limited Edition' of 4000 (the barcode is only on the outer shrinkwrap and not on the repro).

It doesn't say which Remaster has been used or who did it – but I've never found any Repertoire CD Reissue to be anything other than banging – and their 2006 version of "Fearless" is no different (see my separate reviews for David Clayton-Thomas, Merry Clayton, CCS and All Kooper/Shuggie Otis on Repertoire). This thing sounds great. Let's get to the music...

It opens with "Between Blue And Me" – a gentle acoustic strum intro soon becoming "...waves of emotion, sea of joy..." as the big guitars dominate and Roger Chapman lets rip with that utterly extraordinary voice of his. Even though I've heard it so many times over the years - somehow it keeps growing on me - the drums and bass are particularly prevalent in this transfer. Downtown cruisin' with a diamond pin and a funky hat sees "Sat'd'y Barfly" get all barroom leery with a barrelhouse piano and brass band (drunk as Hell and the band still playing at 4 a.m.). Again it's another clever little bleeder of a song that's actually better than its boozy beat. "...Losing sometimes means you win...if you let the true you thru..." Chapman sings on the very Colin Blunstone "Larf And Sing" - a strange little song with clever vocal passages. "Spanish Tide" is a typically beguiling Family song - all chopping and changing as it chugs along from its sweet clavinet opening - Wetton's King Crimson influence showing in the complicated yet somehow beautiful structure. Side 1 ends with the very Jethro Tull rhythms of "Save Some For Thee" - and once again those brass moments punchy as a kangaroo on crack...

The decidedly jagged "Take Your Partners" is essentially a six-minute guitar work out occasionally interrupted by a few rapidly sung verses - I've always honestly found it hard work. The impossibly pretty "Children" is the opposite - an all-melody acoustic ditty that feels like the carefree child that inspired the song. Poli Palmer penned the short Colosseum/Greenslade keyboard-and-guitar instrumental "Crinkly Grin" - the kind of Fusion Rock that feel like it should have been allowed to play longer. The slide guitars and eerie background soundscape to "Blind" make Family feel like Beefheart's Magic Band chipping away in the background while the master growls his way through 'pictures of people in pain' on the microphone. It ends on my personal fave - "Burning Bridges" - a guitar builder that features amazing vocal patterns and feels like Kevin Ayers swirling around images and sounds over on Harvest Records. The inclusion of the superb July 1971 UK single "In My Own Time" and its chipper B-side "Sometimes" feels like the words 'Bonus Tracks' actually do apply here.

I'd admit that FAMILY would not be everyone’s idea of musical Nirvana and parts of this lovely CD of "Fearless" only hammers that home. But that doesn't stop this from being a very tasty reissue in every department and there's nowt daft about that... 

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