Empiires are a four-piece hard rock band, playing out of Dallas, Texas. Like many bands, they put their enforced pandemic lockdown time to good use and, unable to play live, they focused on releasing a couple of new tracks.
The latest is ‘Stronger‘ which pretty much typifies their style – big, chunky, crunching guitar riffs, strong, bold lead vocals with growled backing and loud, melodic, catchy choruses. Factor in short, snappy, searing guitar solos and a pounding rhythm section and ….. well, what’s not to like?
I know it’s been difficult for all bands these past eighteen months, but I do feel that now is the time for Empiires to match their music with their presence. I can find very little info about them out in the ether, and with a few well produced ‘singles’ behind them now, I’d like to see them doing a little more shouting about it! Why keep your light under a bushel?
As you’ll see, each of the song videos available are of the ‘lyric’ nature. Tied in with my point above, I’d love to see the band feature more in them. In fact, if I’m totally honest, especially with reference to the new song ‘Stronger‘ I think the song sounds ‘stronger’ when listened to without the video as it is.
This is not a criticism, just an observation. The band have the perfect image of a hard rocking band – why not let it help them grow their music?
Anyway – back to the music. They guys kick serious ass, so hopefully their enforced additional rehearsal / recording time will pay them due dividend in the months to come now that are back out on the road.
Leviathan were a respected psychedelic rock band from Brighton who, being one of the first British bands to be signed to the Elektra label, recorded three singles in 1969. They also recorded and album, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t released.
In autumn of that year, they split, and drummer Gary Murphy, perhaps a bit disillusioned at the non-release of the album, decided to take a break from the music business.
He was initially adamant, but having been approached by two very persistent ex-members of another Brighton band, The Motion, he eventually relented and agreed to play a jam session …. an that was it! He was hooked.
Hellmet were born.
A month or two later, while on a train journey and discussing just what direction their music should follow, they were overheard by one John Tobler, a respected music reviewer of the time and editor of the underground, Zig Zag magazine.
He took the band under his wing and wrote their first review, in his magazine. He also arranged gigs supporting likes of Groundhogs and Blodwyn Pig, and secured them a slot at the famed Marquee Club venue. All good, high exposure.
As a result of their gigging and growing reputation, they were then approached later in 1970 by local Brighton business who wanted to diversify and break into music management. It was they who financed the recording session at Orange Studios.
An album’s worth of tracks were laid down, but despite the master tapes being hawked around various record labels, no offer of a deal was forthcoming. The acetate, having passed through so many hands, was subsequently lost, and as with his previous band, Leviathan, drummer Gary Murphy had nothing to show for his commitment. The band folded.
(Lucky white heather, eh?)
As seems to happen with surprising regularity, the ‘masters’ somehow turned up fifty years later, and now the album has been made available by Seelie Court.
Musically, the five tracks cover several rock bases: ‘Hazy Shady Lady’ is a blues infused hard rocker; ‘Trust,’ has a Black Sabbath type riff and passes through a few mood and tempo changes, like all good prog tracks are require to do! At times, I’m reminded also of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Dazed and Confused.’ That type of song. ‘Judgement Day (Honest Religion)‘ is a rather sad melodic song about heroin addiction.
‘Sweet Bitch‘ is the first of only two tracks on side two. It’s another standard hard rocker, It’s fast and angry and I’d say my favourite on the album. Album closer ‘What is The Point (Of it All?) is another in the heavy rock mould, but with a jazzy interlude.
I have to say, I’m a bit confused though. The band name, album cover and especially the six paintings of Lucifer that adorn the inside of the gatefold sleeve, seem to contradict the image of the band (see above) and the music they produced.
Overall though, it’s been met with some excitement from collectors of prog rock albums and it’s great to see bands from all these years ago finally get recognition for their creativity.
Terry Aitken – Vocals Stephen Day – Guitar Ray Mellors -Bass Gary Murphy – Drums
If I’ve been puzzled when writing previous posts as to how and why certain albums from the Sixties and Seventies achieved ‘cult’ status, then I’m completely flummoxed as to why THIS, recorded in 1970, has NEVER been released in UK.
Had it not been for me re-reading the sleeve notes to my Sweet albums, I would never have stumbled across this one. You see, I noted Sweet guitarist Andy Scott had previously played with this band. He didn’t actually play on the album, joining after its recording, and his stay was short-lived as the group disbanded not too long after.
It’s amazing though, how a little bit digging around reveals gems like this.
From North Wales, Mayfield’s Mule was formed by guitarist Chris Mayfield in 1969. Chris had previously played with several notable bands of the Sixties, including (the original) Nirvana and Ian Hunter. However, becoming a bit disillusioned at how his music career was panning out, he joined Amen Corner as a roadie.
It was when that band’s sax player, Mike Smith was presented with a few demos of Chris’s own work, that fortunes changed, leading eventually to a record deal. Gathering around him Pete Saunders (keyboards), Steve Bradley (bass) and Sean Jenkins (drums) Mayfield’s Mule was born.
The new band quickly recorded three singles on Parlophone, which between A and B sides swing from heavy rock to blues and country. Over the winter of 1969 / 1970, an album was cut at Abbey Road studios. All tracks were written by Chris himself, and the album covered many bases. Laced liberally with Hammond organ, I guess I’d sum the eponymous album as a blend of Creedence Clearwater Revival meets Canned Heat, meets Mungo Jerry, meets Deep Purple. It depends really what track you listen to!
P.P. Arnold contributes backing vocals on the album which was engineered by Alan Parsons. Mike Smith was also on co-production duties and he’d later join the band himself. So, some ‘big hitters’ were involved with the band at this stage.
Amazingly, for whatever reason, EMI decided against releasing the album in the UK. It did, though, secure a release in Uruguay of all places. Apparently the band had no input or indeed any notion that this was happening!
Not long after this, Andy Scott, who had played with drummer Sean Jenkins in The Elastic Band, joined …. which is where we came in.
(The album has subsequently been released – 2007 -in CD format by the Italian label, Night Wing, but that’s about as far as it goes. Any takers here in the UK?)
MAYFIELD’S MULE Chris Mayfield – Guitar / Vocals Steve Bradley – Bass / Backing Vocals Sean Jenkins – Drums Pete Saunders – Keyboards + ‘Moxie’ Gowland – Harmonica / Flute Andy Scott – Guitar Mike Smith – Saxophone / Tambourine
Leaf Hound were one of those bands who seemed to morph naturally from the Blues and R&B boom of the late Sixties into a heavier rock centred band of the early Seventies.
The band’s origins lie in the blues rock of South London band, Black Cat Bones, which at one point counted then future Free guitarist, Paul Kossoff and drummer Simon Kirke in their number.
When, in the latter half of 1970 Rod Price left to join Foghat, remaining members and brothers, Derek and Stuart Brooks enlisted the vocal talents of Pete French and his guitarist cousin Mick Halls.
(If Pete’s name rings a bell, it’s because he would later join Atomic Rooster performing vocal duties on their 1971 ‘In Hearing Of‘ album. He would later also play with US band, Cactus, featuring Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice )
With the addition of Keith George Young on drums, the band were re-named Leaf Hound and began gigging around UK, gaining quite a reputation for their brand of raucous rock.
A deal with the Decca label wasn’t long in being offered and by the end of 1970, ‘Growers of Mushroom‘ was recorded – legend has it, in eleven straight hours in Mayfair’s Spot studios.
Strangely though, having toured Germany, the album was licensed to that country’s Telefunken label before being released in UK. Even more weird, was the album being produced without either the title track (see top of post and ‘Freelance Fiend‘ which opens the subsequently released UK version.
In the autumn of 1971, ‘Growers of Mushroom‘ was finally granted its UK release, but by that time, the band had called it quits and all moved on to other projects.
Their legacy is this storming album of heavy rock. It may be pretty generic stuff, at times sounding like Jethro Tull, (the title track and ‘Sad Road to the Sea’) and others with hints of Led Zeppelin / Free, but it does have a character of its own and the more I listen to it, the more I love it!
I should add that my copy is a re-press on the Akarma Record Label. It’s not an original 1971 Decca release, copies of which sold for £4732 and £4218 via Discogs in 2019! This makes the album one of the most expensive major label recordings of the Prog Rock era.
In 2004, Pete French and Mick Halls formed a new version of Leaf Hound, recording an album ‘Unleashed‘ which was well received on release in 20007. I believe they continue to perform live to this day.
This is them back in 2012.
LEAF HOUND Pete French – Vocals Derek Brooks – Guitar Stuart Brooks – Bass Mick Halls – Lead Guitar Keith George Young – Drums
Fuzzy Duck released just five hundred copies of their only album in 1971, resulting in original copies now fetching up to £900. The interest in the band these past fifty years has led to many re-pressings and re-issues. Some, like my copy, have added as bonus tracks, the band’s two singles and their respective B-sides.
Formed in 1971 in North London, their sound was principally of a heavy progressive rock nature, built on a foundation of hammond organ, time signature changes and elements of jazz .
The guitar and organ combine seamlessly and I’d say there are future echoes of Uriah Heep in here. That may not be too far from the truth, for though he didn’t join Heep, organ player Roy Sharland was previously a member of Spice, who were indeed the mighty Heep’s first incarnation.
The track above, ‘Mrs Prout,‘ is typical sounding of what the band were capable of – I just love how the track uses that shuffling drum sound, mixed with a rolling bass line. The second half of the track I’m sure must have been in the subconscious of The Stone Roses when they wrote ‘Fools Gold.’
Looking at the credits on the album sleeve, only four band members are listed. However, from what I can make out, guitarist Garth Watt Roy was also in Fuzzy Duck. Indeed, he wrote their first single, ‘Double Time Woman,’ and contributed to the writing of two other ‘bonus tracks’ on the album. I can only assume he had moved on before the album was recorded? (The aforementioned track and the other two in which Garth wasinvolved, differ, I think from the others in that they have that sharp edge of Atomic Rooster poking through.)
What interested me here, though was the surname, Watt Roy. Not a common one in the music business back in the early Seventies, I’ll wager. I checked, and my hunch was correct – Garth is the older brother of Norman Watt Roy, who played bass in one of my favourite bands, Glencoe.
It’s such a shame Fuzzy Duck din’t leave more of a legacy. This album has seen more visits to my turntable these past few weeks than any other in my collection. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in early Seventies rock.
FUZZY DUCK Mick Hawksworth – Bass Roy Sharland – Organ Paul Francis – Drums Graham White – Guitar / Vocals Garth Watt Roy – Guitar
It feels a little strange, sitting here at home outside Glasgow, Scotland and writing about one of our city’s most famous ‘unfamous’ bands. I mean, everyone knows that members of Tear Gas ultimately joined forces with Alex Harvey to form ‘The Incredible Alex Harvey Band,’ right?
At least, that’s what was proclaimed on the sticker that adorned the sleeve on my copy of their re-issued debut album, ‘Piggy Go Getter.’ A bit of a ‘Sensational’ cock-up, by the record company, I’d suggest.
Playing the local Glasgow circuit as The Bo-Weavels, the band changed their name to Mustard, when vocalist George Gilmour left. Andy Mulvey, formerly with top Scottish beat band, The Poets, stepped in,
More changes would follow with Mulvey himself moving on. Wullie Munro signed up, taking over on drums. He was backed up in the rhythm section by new bass player Chris Glenn, while Eddie Campbell came in on keyboard duties. Joining forces with the two remaining members of The Bo-Weavels / Mustard, Davey Batchelor and Alistair ‘Zal’ Cleminson, it was decided that another name change was in order, and, in keeping with the ‘mustard’ theme, I guess, the band were re-named, Tear Gas.
They were billed as a ‘heavy rock’ outfit, though I find that hard to comprehend from their debut album, ‘Piggy Go Getter.’ Most of the tracks are pleasant enough, but pretty much soft rock at best, and not so memorable, if I’m honest. The second side of the album has a bit more of a rock edge and perhaps the final track, ‘Witches Come Today,‘ was a better indication of what was to come with the follow-up.
The eponymous, second album, now with Ted McKenna on drums, is much more like what I would have expected from a band who were scouted by Alex Harvey when looking for a ‘backing band.’ Having lost his brother, Les, guitarist with Stone The Crows, and who was electrocuted during the soundcheck for a show in Swansea, Harvey searched for solace in his work. He had previously been working with the stage musical, ‘Hair,’ in London but now sought to embark upon a solo career … if only he could find the right band.
Following the release of the second album, Ted Mckenna’s cousin, Hugh Mckenna joined in place of keyboard player Eddie Campbell. Hugh would also take on lead vocals when Davey Batchelor left to pursue a career in production.
The resultant line-up of Zal Cleminson, Chris Glenn, Hugh McKenna and Ted Mckenna was the one ‘spotted’ by Alex Harvey, and though the band had some misgivings about their new ‘boss’ (Alex was about fifteen years older for a start) and his rather autocratic attitude, they realised they had probably gone as far as any ‘big fish in a small pond’ could and …. well, the rest is history as they say.
TEAR GAS (Ultimate / Final Line up) Zal Cleminson – Guitar / Vocals Hugh McKennna – Keyboards / Lead Vocals Ted McKennna – Drums Chris Glenn – Bass / Vocals