Sunday, 4 February 2018

"The Elektra Years: The Complete Albums Box" by BREAD featuring David Gates and James Griffin (October 2017 Rhino 6CD Box Set of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Reach Out To The Other Side..."

BREAD albums used to sit in our racks in Reckless Records in Soho for months on end – poo-pooed by hairy badge-laden yet discerning buyers as Los Angelinos Soft Rock or worse – lovey-dovey schlock (yew).

But then you were also aware of those nice love songs Bread did – tunes that used to populate the charts in the early Seventies. Hell you might even have snogged to one or two of them and become animated in the trouser area (not by David Gates you understand). So years later and miles away from 'the pubic-years' - most curious types would opt for the monster 1977 compilation LP "The Sound Of Bread" on Elektra K 52062 as a one-stop (when none of your mates was looking mind). Sporting one of the most boring and lazy corporate sleeves ever to disgrace a Woolworths shelf on a Saturday - "The Sound Of Bread" nonetheless had all the hits anyone would want emanating from its Butterfly Elektra Records label. And played tune-after-tune you could 'so' hear why this nondescript looking album caught the imagination of the public - it was such a lovely listen and became an unexpected No. 1 in Blighty in a year when Punk and New Wave was busy gobbing at this kind of music. Which brings us to this rather dinky 2017 mini box set reissue...

Sporting dapper-looking mini LP repro sleeves – Rhino's "The Elektra Years" allows us to dig a little deeper into their six forgotten albums from 1969 to 1977 before both David Gates and James Griffin went solo after the first 1973 break-up. A nice touch is that the CD labels reflect the original colouring and designs - Red Elektra for the 1969 debut and the Butterfly label variant for each thereafter. Five have their lyric inserts reproduced and although “Manna” doesn’t have its original die-cut triple gatefold artwork – both "Baby I'm-A Want You" and "Lost Without Your Love" do have their gatefolds. A couple of key singles are missing namely the re-recording of the gorgeous "It Don't Matter To Me" - a US No. 10 hit in October 1970. A far better version than the original 1969 LP cut – it's an omission for sure. But outside of that - what we have here is a rather pleasant piece of musical toast and jam. Here are the crusty details...

UK released 27 October 2017 (3 November 2017 in the USA) - "The Elektra Years: The Complete Albums Box" by BREAD on Elektra/Rhino 081227933869 (Barcode 081227933869) is a 6CD Mini Box Set with Six Studio Albums from 1969 to 1977 (all in Stereo and minus any bonus tracks). It plays out as follows:

Disc 1 - "Bread" - 36:07 minutes:
1. Dismal Day [Side 1]
2. London Bridge
3. Could I
4. Look At Me
5. The Last Time
6. Any Way You Want Me
7. Move Over [Side 2]
8. Don't Shut Me Out
9. You Can't Measure The Cost
10. Family Doctor
11. It Doesn't Matter To Me
12. Friends And Lovers
Tracks 1 to 12 are their debut album "Bread" - released August 1969 in the USA in Stereo on Elektra Records EKS 740144 and November 1969 in the UK with the same catalogue number (reissued November 1971 in the UK on Elektra K 42029). It peaked at No. 127 on the US LP charts (didn't chart UK)
BREAD was:
DAVID GATES - Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Organ, Piano, RMI Electric Piano, Moog, Violin, Viola and Various Percussion
JAMES GRIFFIN - Lead Vocals, Guitars and Various Percussion
ROBB ROYER - Vocals, Guitar, Bass, RMI Electric Piano, Piano, Flute, Recorder and Various Percussion

Disc 2 - "On The Waters" – 37:29 minutes:
1. Why Do You Keep Me Waiting [Side 1]
2. Make It With You
3. Blue Satin Pillow
4. Look What You've Done
5. I Am That I Am
6. Been Too Long On The Road
7. I Want You With Me [Side 2]
8. Coming Apart
9. Easy Love
10. In The Afterglow
11. Call On Me
12. The Other Side Of Life
Tracks 1 to 12 are their second studio album "On The Waters" - released July 1970 in the USA on Elektra Records EKS 74076 and September 1970 in the UK on Elektra 2469 003. It peaked at No. 12 in the USA - No. 34 in the UK. Same line-up as "Bread" with MIKE BOTTS added.

Disc 3 - "Manna" - 36:13 minutes:
1. Let Your Love Go [Side 1]
2. Take Comfort
3. Too Much Love
4. If
5. Be Kind To Me
6. He's A Good Lad
7. She Was My Lady [Side 2]
8. Live In Your Love
9. What A Change
10. I Say Again
11. Come Again
12. Truckin'
Tracks 1 to 12 are their third studio album "Manna" - released March 1971 in the USA on Elektra Records EKS 74086 and July 1971 in the UK on Elektra Records EKX 74086 (reissued 1972 in the UK on Elektra K 52001). It peaked at No. 21 in the USA - didn't chart UK. Same band line-up as "On The Waters"

Disc 4 - "Baby I'm-A Want You" - 34:51 minutes:
1. Mother Freedom [Side 1]
2. Baby I'm-A Want You
3. Down On My Knees
4. Everything I Own
5. Nobody Like You
6. Diary
7. Dream Lady [Side 2]
8. Daughter
9. Games Of Magic
10. This Isn't What The Governmeant
11. Just Like Yesterday
12. I Don't Love You
Tracks 1 to 12 are their 4th studio album "Baby I'm-A Want You" - released February 1972 in the USA on Elektra Records 75015 and March 1972 in the UK on Elektra Records K 42100. It peaked at No. 3 in the USA and No. 9 in the UK.

Disc 5 - "Guitar Man" - 43:15 minutes:
1. Welcome To The Music [Side 1]
2. The Guitar Man
3. Make It By Yourself
4. Aubrey
5. Fancy Dancer
6. Sweet Surrender
7. Tecolote [Side 2]
8. Let Me Go
9. Yours For Life
10. Picture In Your Mind
11. Don't Tell Me No
12. Don't Even Know Her Name
Tracks 1 to 12 are their fifth studio album "Guitar Man" - released November 1972 in the USA on Elektra Records EKS-75047 and November 1972 in the UK on Elektra Records K 52004. It peaked at No. 18 in the USA - didn't chart UK. First LP to feature LARRY KNECHTEL who replaced ROYER

Disc 6 - "Lost Without Your Love" - 36:21 minutes:
1. Hooked On You [Side 1]
2. She's The Only One
3. Lost Without Your Love
4. Change Of Heart
5. Belonging
6. Fly Away
7. Lay Your Money Down [Side 2]
8. The Chosen One
9. Today's The First Day
10. Hold Tight
11. Our Lady Of Sorrow
Tracks 1 to 11 are their sixth and final studio album "Lost Without Your Love" - released January 1977 in the USA on Elektra Records 7E-1094 and January 1977 in the UK on Elektra Records K 52044. It peaked at No. 26 in the USA and No.17 in the UK

There is no booklet nor mastering credits but the Audio is superb throughout so these must be the Rhino Remasters of old. Outside of the obvious hits like "Make It With You", "If", "Guitar Man" and "Baby I'm-A Want You" (proper tunes one and all) - it's those album cuts that interest me. Great guitar work on "Call On Me" from "On The Waters" and the ethereal slightly trippy vibe achieved on "I Am That I Am" where Bread gets all mystical. There's amazing punch on "Could I" and beautiful Acoustic guitar-pings coming off "Look At Me" (both from the debut LP) and you hear Gates the hitmaker already peering through. Elektra tried "Move Over" in early 1970 as a US and UK 7" single but its flanged guitars and treated chorus didn't catch the public's ear ("Friends And Lovers" might have been a better choice).

By the time you get to 1971's "Manna" and 1972's "Baby I'm-A Want You" - Bread are a bona fide hit-single making machine. While I never liked the heavy-handed "Let Your Love Go" (the lead-off 45 from "Manna" still made No. 28 in the USA) - "Too Much Love" could easily have tapped into that America audience. The lovely "If" was a deserved No. 4 hit and the audio on it and tracks like "Take Comfort" and "She Was My Lady" is beautifully done. "Manna" album sleeper is the piano-pretty "Come Again" - a typically sweet melody from Gates although the strings threaten to over egg the 'tears welling up inside'.

Can't say "Mother Freedom" floats my boater but the title track to the "Baby I'm-A Want You" album sounds fabulous here (and still such a tune) while the boppin' David Gates and James Griffin countrified "Down On My Knees" could easily have come of the more Pop side to "Desperado" by the Eagles. Although its been mucked about with by too many cover versions over the years - "Everything I Own" is still a great David Gates song - as is the truly lovely "Diary" - both sounding dapper and spangly-new here. The anti-establishment "This Isn't Want The Governmeant" and the unusually acidic "I Don't Love You" now feel a little clunky despite some cool harp blowing and harmony vocals in the latter – whilst "Games Of Magic" might just be the album's sleeper.

Their second album in 1972 "Guitar Man" saw the departure of Robb Royer and the arrival of Larry Knechtel and opens with a band already used to jets and Carnegie Hall. The rollicking "Welcome To The Band" soon gives way to a far-better winner – the album’s title track – a No. 11 hit Stateside while it made a respectable No. 16 in England a couple of months prior to the LP’s release. The smoochy "Aubrey" provided them with a No. 11 hit in America while "Sweet Surrender" managed No. 15. But even with these Summer-easy tunes (the jaunty "Yours For Life" could easily have been another hit) – Bread were no longer making the Top Ten and beyond and the end seemed on the cards. Both Gates and Griffin went solo with two albums each only to reform in late 1976 for 1977's well-received "Never Let Her Go" (and again the audio rocks on this one too).

For sure you could say that a 15-track 'Hits Set' is all anyone really needs for BREAD – but having revisited this six-pack of albums – I find enough in-between the cracks to be more than pleasantly surprised. David & Co I’m-A Want You indeed (oh dear)...
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