Woops! What with Christmas on the way and my laptop dropping over 18,000 tracks into the ether, my attention’s been diverted …. I should have had this review posted a week or so back, as the album came out this week!
And what an album to miss! It’s certainly one of the most varied of the year, and would definitely rank as one of my favourites.
Readers of a certain age (cough.. like mine!) are going to love this. But it shouldn’t be considered as just of interest to crusty old rockers – much of the music contained within this eighteen track (sixty-six minutes) compilation is of the type that shaped rock music of today.
Essentially, this is a release that celebrates the unreleased / demos / rare tracks of some of Greater Manchester’s ‘unknown’ bands of the 1970s. And listening to this album really just highlights how the ‘right place, right time’ ethos comes to bear in the fickle music industry. I mean, who’s to say that any of these bands less deserved a ‘major deal’ than many of their contemporaries or those who followed in the trail they blazed locally.
In general, this is like listening to what goes on behind the doors of Riff Heaven! But there’s also a nice mix of rock, progressive rock (first time around) and funk. You can also get a feel for who inspired the bands on this album as there are definitely some similarities to let’s say, ‘more famous’ bands.
(Or maybe that should be other way around…??)
‘Good Lovin’ Woman’ by Oscar, the opening track, at least in the running bass line, sounds like Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’ on 7” played at 33rpm. The vocals however dispel this notion, being rasping and soulful. And not for the only time on the compilation, there are nice little flashes of saxophone.
The initial riffs on Urbane Gorilla’s ‘Ten Days Gone’ epitomise Seventies Rock for me. The previously unreleased track sounds a little under produced, which adds to the nostalgic quaintness.
There follows a demo of the unreleased ‘Hunt The Stag,’ track (kind of obscure, huh?) by Stackwaddy. In between the riffs, searing guitar, and lazily rolling drums the vocals sound like someone’s had a few too many on a Saturday night out!
‘Windy Day’ by Greasy Bear goes down the ‘wah wah’ pedal route on a track that features some understated rasping vocals on a song that has a definite Southern Rock feel to it with some nice, tight harmonies.
The single ‘Is This Really Me?’ by JC Heavy was released only in Germany for some reason. Vocalist Josephine Levine reminds me of a more famous singer whose name escapes me at the moment … maybe Julie Driscoll? The song mixes more conventional riffs with a psychedelic, trippy sound and comes off really well.
‘Johnny,’ by Socrates (a trio who apparently won on TV talent show ‘Opportunity Knocks!) is very much in the Small Faces / Stevie Marriott mould, while ‘Seven Stars’ by Plasma is a kind of funky sounding space rock instrumental with some excellent guitar work and a nice little hook that pops up every now and then. However, if it’s ‘proper’ funk you want, then ‘Come On In’ by Slipped Disc will satisfy that little craving. It’s probably more Average White Band / KC and The Sunshine Band than Red Hot Chilli Peppers, but then some would prefer it that way. It’s certainly quite different to the preceding tracks on this album, and maybe a little out of place perhaps?
I was never into the type of ‘progressive’ rock produced by Yes, but ‘Dragon Flight’ by Savoury Duck is what I always imagined they would sound like if I ever had the willpower to sit through one of their albums! This track is full of gentle time changes, soft harmonised vocals and is predominately keyboard loaded. It sounds very much ‘classical’ inspired.
‘King Dick II’ by The Way We Live is more my bag, if a little ‘standard’ in formula and delivery – straight up heavy guitar rock. The Spider Jive track, ‘Crocadilla’ must have been way ahead of its time when it was previously unreleased! It has an almost modern day artrock feel about it … a little quirky, again with saxophone and sung in a sort of pseudo-cool lounge-jazz style. ‘Wildside,’ by Sweet Chariot is billed as ‘commercially unreleased’ which I presume means the band made some private pressings available to fans?
Samsun chip in with ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ which seems to mix a funked-up reggae style back-beat with soul infused vocals and a whining Hammond organ. So On And So Forth have ‘Bringing It all Back Home,’ and its loud / quiet verses and infectious hook-chorus. It’s pretty bass-driven with a reverb-loaded guitar line running throughout.
Grisby Dike is such a fantastic name for a band that I had to look them up! Not too much to be found, but they did support esteemed bands such as Fleetwood Mac, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Rod Stewart! Their contribution is the excellent ‘Nebula,’ and features heavily some flute solos! Initially, there is a distinct Jethro Tull sound to the track, but that somehow morphs to reflect more of a Moody Blues feel as it progresses.
‘Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love,’ by Young & Renshaw is another one of those rock / funk / soul melting pots that swings between heavy riffs and Paul Rodgers / Bad Company styled vocal delivery. Plasma’s ‘Hazel Time’ is another funk-fuelled number (instrumental) that incorporates an excellent guitar solo, before the final track, ‘Getaway’ by Chris Stratham races through its three and a half minutes to close the album in a rather frantic fashion.
(MAN CHEST HAIR is released through Finders Keepers Records and available now – December 2012)
(9.5 / 10)