Saturday, 6 January 2018

"Bored Civilians" by KEITH CROSS and PETER ROSS (April 2014 Esoteric Recordings 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…I Planned To Get To You..."

(This review and 299 more like it available in the following e-Book from Amazon
No duplicates with Volume 1 or 3)

Housed in a dreadful sleeve (front and rear) that gives no indication of the mellow musical brilliance that's contained within - our songwriting heroes KEITH CROSS and PETER ROSS saw their hugely accomplished 1972 platter on Decca Records disappear without a trace on release. In fact as a long-time collector myself and rarities buyer at Reckless Records for nearly two decades - I can remember seeing this album in secondhand racks in the Eighties and Nineties when you couldn't give it away. Nowadays of course it's been rediscovered and clocks in a princely £300+ on the collector's market.

And re-listening to it on this gorgeous-sounding April 2014 CD remaster (Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2441 - Barcode 5013929454149) - it's easy to hear why that amount of money is being exchanged whenever it comes up for sale. The cliché of a 'lost classic' immediately jumps to mind - and in my mind - reissue of the year too (52:34 minutes).

Some background first - Lead Guitarist Keith Cross had been in the hard-rocking British band BULLDOG BREED who made a lone album on Decca's Progressive Rock label imprint Deram Nova in January 1970 called "Made In England". Cross then left to form T2 who put out a similarly blistering hard-rock effort shortly after (July 1970) called "It'll All Work In Boomland" on Decca. So those expecting more of the same genre when Cross teamed up PETER ROSS of HOOKFOOT would have been in for a short sharp shock with their combo-credited effort "Bored Civilians". Musically it's more Matthews Southern Comfort meets Help Yourself circa their first Folky LP meets Elton John's "Madman Across The Water". There are elements of Nick Drake, Smith-Perkins-Smith, CSYN, Brinsley Schwarz and Caravan too coming out of these beautifully recorded tracks.

1. The Last Ocean Rider [Peter Ross song]
2. Bored Civilians [Keith Cross song]
3. Peace In The End [Trevor Lucas/Sandy Denny song - Fotheringay cover]
4. Story To A Friend [Keith Cross song]
5. Loving You Takes So Long [Peter Ross song] [Side 2]
6. Pastels [Keith Cross song]
7. The Dead Salute [Peter Ross song]
8. Bo Radley [Keith Cross song]
9. Fly Home [Keith Cross and Peter Ross song]
10. Blind Willie Johnson - non-album B-side to "Can You Believe It" released September 1971 in the UK on Decca F 13224 and in the USA on London 45-20069

11. Prophets Guiders - non-album B-side to "Peace In The End" released May 1972 in the UK on Decca F 13224 and in the USA on London 45-20073

Released September 1972 on Decca SKL 5129 (Tracks 1 to 9) - the album was produced by one of Decca's top people at the time - PETER SAMES - and along with Engineer DAVE GRINSTEAD - they achieved truly gorgeous warmth on every track. That has been completely captured by PASCHAL BYRNE and his remaster from original tapes - this CD sounds just glorious.

KEITH CROSS and PETER ROSS share Guitars and Lead Vocals while the quality guests include NICK LOWE on Guitar (then with Brinsley Schwarz), DEE MURRAY of the Elton John Band and CHRIS STEWART of Spooky Tooth on Bass, JIMMY HASTINGS on Flute and Saxophone (Caravan, Soft Machine), PETER ARNESEN on Keyboards (later with If, Ian Hunter and The Hollies), STEVE CHAPMAN on Drums (Judas Jump, later with Poco), TONY CARR on Percussion and Pedal Steel Guitar legend B.J. COLE.

The album opens with the massively impressive "The Last Ocean Rider" where a soft melody, harmonizing vocals and BJ Cole's Pedal Steel go into a near seven-minute overdrive. The album's title track floats in like a Simon & Garfunkel song circa "Bookends" when you're then hit a minute-in by the gorgeous string-arrangements done by TONY SHARP (he also arranged and conducted on "Loving You Takes So Long" and "Fly Home"). It's followed by an inspired cover-version choice tailor-made to the Folky feel of the whole album - Fotheringay's "Peace In The End". The cops-hassling-the-band-at-customs "Story To A Friend" has fantastic mid-song arrangements where Elton John type piano chords mix with Jenny Mason and Nicholson's ethereal backing vocals and brill Flute playing from Jimmy Hastings. Side Two opens with the piano-drum beat sound of "Loving You Takes So Long" which aurally reminds me of another forgotten classic - the Side One brilliance of "Foreigner Suite" by Cat Stevens. The pretty "Pastels" follows with immaculate acoustic guitars swirling around your speakers like some David Crosby "If I Could Only Remember My Name" outtake. But best of all for me is the seven-minute album finisher "Fly Home" - it's magnificent in a grand way - a superb combination of highly produced acoustic guitars, languid melody and those beautifully complimentary vocals and strings. It sounds so David Crosby and Graham Nash - so sophisticated West Coast - and quite brilliant. Very, very nice indeed...lyrics from it title this review.

Slip-ups - Esoteric have included the superb B-sides of both rare singles listed above - but they haven't thrown in the uber-rare non-album A-side "Can You Believe It" from 1971 nor have they explained why. And the even harder-to-find six-track EP on Decca EPS 1 is pictured in the excellent booklet but it doesn't explain that each cut was a promo-only `edit' and could therefore have been added on as six extras too. Minor points but worth noting. "Prophets Guiders" is particularly lovely.

Like on the sleeve they went down different roads after the failure of the album and little seems to be known of their post life. But man what a legacy.

With Mellow Candle's "Swaddling Songs", their Help Yourself double CD retrospective "Reaffirmation" and this - Esoteric Recordings are rapidly carving their reissue name in my Irish heart.

Brilliant - and well done to all the good people involved...

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