If ever there’s a record in my collection that could be termed a ‘grower,’ then this is it!.
The Steve Brown Band were a progressive rock unit from Newcastle who injected a jazz feel into their music to create something quite unique. They gigged extensively between 1971 and 1975, cultivating a huge and enthusiastic local following in the North East of England,
They would also make lengthy trips to London where they would often headline The Marquee Club.
They thought their efforts had been rewarded when offered an album deal by Transatlantic Records, but for whatever reason, the album never saw the light of day.
Now, over fifty years later, the excellent Seelie Court Records have dug out and released the band’s debut album, ‘Soul Full of Sin.‘
They did record and release one single, ‘Street Fighter,‘ on Petal Records in 1977, but my understanding is they were edged towards this more basic rock sound by a new management team, and decided to call it a day at that. (I actually like it, I have to say.)
The album itself comprises six tracks, which though kind of laid back in nature, with saxophone and I think, flute switching the feel between prog and jazz, still gently rocks along with some warm vocals and a tight rhythm section. At times, the electric piano reminds me of Also Sprach Zarathustra, at times the guitar reminds me of Man.
Told you it was a quite unique sound!
Unfortunately, you’ll just have to take my word for that, because I can find no recordings on the internet that I could share here with you.
The best I can manage is this link to Juno Records, who I’m sure will bemore than pleased to supply you with a copy in exchange for poundssterling. (Only brief samples of the tracks are available – my favourite being the third track on the first side, ‘Shine a Light.’
One thing I can find though, is a shed load of positive comment about both the band and this album. It took me a few listens, I have to say, – but I am now of the mind that The Steve Brown Band are definitely the best band you never heard of – and will be up there with those you have.
There is an extensive and really interesting history, of The Steve Brown Band as detailed from the reproduced scrap book entries of drummer Jeff Barak – here.
THE STEVE BROWN BAND
Steve Brown – Guitar / Lead Vocal John Farmer – Bass / Vocal Jeff Barak – Drums / Vocal Gowan Turnbull – Saxophone / Vocal Charlie Gordon – Electric Piano / Keyboards / Vocal
From the age of fifteen and while travelling to and from work in central London, guitarist Phil Newton was writing song lyrics. He played in his own little band at that time, rehearsing in his Mum’s front room
Fast froward four years to 1969, and Phil was by now an accomplished Blues player. After befriending Dave ‘H’ Holland, who played bass, the two would often be asked to jam with Powerpack, resident band at the Bridge House, Canning Town.
Buoyed by the complimentary remarks on his guitar skills, Phil decided to again form a band. Dave, naturally came on board as bass player, and having played with them in a previous band, Dave recruited the talents of Ray Curtis on drums and Fred Lilley on vocals. For his part, Phil persuaded Jan Chandler to join up on flute and Mellotron (one of the first to be used by a band, I believe.)
Nobody seems to recollect exactly how the band name came about other than Phil suggested it, and the rest went with it! For a while, they played mainly covers of blues standards in local, London East End pubs.
Phil and Dave soon became drawn more to the progressive sounds of King Crimson, Yes and Led Zeppelin and Phil again took to writing his own songs, reflecting this new sound. These were gradually worked into the live sets, and went down well with the punters.
It was now 1971, drummer Ray Curtis had moved on, replaced by John Clarke and Grannie had become an established band in the capital. The next step in their progression, then, was to get their songs down on vinyl. An advert spotted in Melody Maker to record an album for £100 offered the ideal opportunity. and so the five-piece, joined by John Stevenson, who would play organ on the album’s nine-minute long closer, ‘Coloured Armageddon,’ booked their session at SRT Studios in Herfordshire.
None of the band had previous studio experience, and with a mere eight hours available, the tracks were all recorded ‘live,’ with no over dubs or double tracking.
The result was six tracks of mainly guitar driven progressive rock, encompassing a melodic and ‘psychedelic’ feel at times but also with a nod to the heavier side of rock music.
For their £100 investment, the band were presented with ninety-nine copies of the album, the plan being to use them more or less as demos, and hawk them around various labels in search of a record deal. Some would also be sold at live shows.
No deal was forthcoming however, but the band played on! Vocalist Fred Lilley left to be replaced by Steve Betts, and Grannie’s reputation continued to grow. They supported the likes of Uriah Heep, Groundhogs, Gnidrolog and Arrrival, playing iconic venues like The Roundhouse and Marquee, eventually securing a residency at the famous Speakeasy Club in West London. There they’d often play in front of stars in their own right such as, David Bowie, Elton John and Pete Townsend.
Drummer John Clarke left around this time, his place being taken by Graham Guthrie, but things were going well for the band. Until …
Having loaded all their gear into a transit van following a rehearsal at the Club, they discovered the next morning it had all been stolen from where it had been parked up overnight outside the house of the Club manager. Everything was gone, including Jan’s expensive mellotron. Much of the equipment was still being paid up an so with no means of replacing it, the band folded.
Over the ensuing years, collectors of this type of music clamoued for one of the ninety-nine original copies in existence. I don’t see any having been sold via Discogs, however, Vernon Joynson’s ‘Tapestry of Delights’ tome describes them as ‘very few exist and are very sought after,’ indicating a fetching price of between £1000 and £2000!
Of course, the increase in awareness and popularity has resulted in several limited re-pressings over the years, with the latest of these worth around £30.
**(Sadly, Phil Newton died alone at age fifty-one in 2001, before fulfillinghis dream of fame that he’d held for many years.) **
Phil Newton – Lead Guitar / Vocals Dave ‘H’ Holland – Bass / Vocals Jan Chandler – Flute / Mellotron / Vocals John Clarke – Drums Fred Lilley – Lead Vocals + John Stevenson – Organ
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
Reading the ‘tags’ above, you’d be forgiven for thinking there had been some kind of editorial cock-up. Ska & Blue Beat? Yes, obviously, if you played the track above. Prog / progressive rock? Eh?
Read on – I shall explain.
Locomotive (initially billed as The Locomotive)were formed in Birmingham, England, during 1965, by trumpet playing jazz musician, Jim Simpson. (Jim is on the far right of the opening image, above.) The original line-up, which wasn’t to last too long, also boasted Chris Wood (bottom left of photo) who would leave towards the end of 1966 to join forces with Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood and Dave Mason, to form Traffic.
There had been several personnel changes throughout 1966 and Chris’s departure left only Jim Simpson of the original line-up.
Amongst those enlisted to the new line-up was keyboard player Norman Haines who had previously played with The Brum Beats. Norman worked in a record shop in the Smethwick area of Birmingham which had a large West Indian population. The shop would meet the local demand for ska and blue-beat records, and Norman himself became a big fan of the genre.
His influence was brought to bear with the release of the ‘new’ band’s first single ‘Broken Heart.’Written by Haines, it had a blue-beat feel, but was drenched in soulful vocals and horns.
Other than the track itself, there are two interesting facts about this release: 1) it was the last records to be played on the original ‘Jukebox Jury’ television programme … and voted a ‘Miss.’ And it was. 2) the B-side was a cover of Dandy Livingstone‘s ‘Rudy, A Message To You,‘ which would become a hit for The Specials some twelve years later.
The following year, saw the band spend eight weeks in the UK charts, peaking at number twenty-five, with ‘Rudi’s In Love.‘ (This single would be reissued in both 1971 and 1980 during the respective periods of skinhead and two tone popularity, the latter being when I myself bought a copy.)
The remaining original band member, Jim Simpson left in 1968 to concentrate on music management … and did reasonably well, I’d say, going on to eventually look after Black Sabbath.
With a ‘hit’ single and lots of airplay behind them, an album deal beckoned and in early 1969, the lead single from the soon to be released, ‘We Are Everything You See’ long player hit the shops.
You will of course have detected a change in Locomotive’s musical direction!
Opening with a short classical piece, ‘Overture,‘ the album then progresses into blend of psychedelic, jazz and soul. Listening to ‘Mr Armageddan’ puts me in mind of some Paul Weller / Style Council type songs that would follow, the best part of forty years later.
‘Lay Me Down Gently‘ in parts echos The Small Faces, while the Nigel Phillips (three part) composition ‘The Loves of Augustus Abbey‘ has that prog-rock reflection of medieval England.
It’s most certainly an adventurous release. However, as great as it sounds, and no matter the positive music press reviews , the album pretty much bombed as it was released to a somewhat confused fanbase.
Perhaps understandably, established fans of the ska-infused Locomotive did not take to the new prog- rock imbued version of the band. Likewise, the new target audiences regarded them as a bit ‘poppy,’ and were reluctant to buy in.
The follow-up single, ‘I’m Never Gonna Let You Go,’ a cover of the ? and The Mysterions song,also missed the charts.
As a result, Parlophone delayed the album’s release. It did eventually see the light of day in February 1970, but by this time, Norman had left the band and in effect, Locomotive no longer existed.
With no promotion or marketing, sales were unsurprisingly poor, and the album was quickly withdrawn, marking it a rare collector’s item, with copies at time of writing for sale via Discogs at upwards of £500!
Norman would go on to form Sacrfice, later to be known simply as The Norman Haines Band. Remaining band members Bob Lamb (who would later join The Steve Gibbons Band) Mick Hincks, John Caswell and Keith Millar would record one more single before changing the band name to The Dog That Bit People.
Yeah – while the ability to diversify is a great attribute, I wonder how things would have turned out had the band simply avoided any confusion and conflict of fanbase by changing their name prior to releasing the album.
LOCOMOTIVE (Throughout their time, I count twenty musicians who played with the band. The following are those I believe were involve with the album’s recording.)
Norman Haines – Keyboards / Vocals Bill Madge – Saxophone Mick Hincks – Bass / Vocals Bob Lamb – Drums Mick Taylor – Trumpet + Dick Heckstall-Smith – Saxophone (session musician) Henry Lowther – Trumpet (session musician) Chris Mercer – Saxophone (session musician)
(Submitted by John Allan, Bridgetown Western Australia, August 2021)
It was the early 70s and I must have been about 15 and already a hardened Progressive Rock devotee. My Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant and JethroTull albums were already crowding out my brother’s collection of Beatles and Fleetwood Mac LPs and the half dozen classical and British comedy recordings of my parents. Bernard Cribbins’ “Right Said Fred” would not make an appearance again for a few decades until wearing shirts became too sexy !
For reasons that are lost in the sylvan forests of that dingily dell of prog rock/adolescent halcyon, time, I thought my collection lacked a Scandinavian slant. ABBA hadn’t had their Waterloo moment yet !
How or where I first discovered Tasavallan Presidentii (President of the Republic) is a complete mystery or major mental blackout. Maybe because my surname was included in the band’s name. I can only speculate.
Lambertland was a proud addition to my ever expanding sonic library.
The cover was like a water colour Roger Dean. All trees and mountains and suns with a splash of pseudo religious symbols floating about. I thought they might throw in a free yoga lesson or a weekend mountain retreat to straighten out your Shakra with every album sold.
As for the music, it had all the ingredients of the genre – rock, folk, ambient, jazz, and the obligatory blues jam in an odd time signature. There was quite a smattering of flute and sax which appealed to me. Clever guitar work and sympathetic bass and drums.
The vocalist was a required taste with a very thick Scandinavian accent and would have been better singing in his native tongue going by some of the lyrics. No keyboard player was credited but I definitely heard the tasteful tinkling of electric piano and perhaps a sparse string synthesizer. The music certainly didn’t require any of the usual heavy handed Hammond, muddying Mellotron or meddling Moog.
6 tracks over 2 sides is probably prog de riguer. My favourite being the title track though where this mystical place may be – whether the far forests of Finland or a walk in a London suburb (sorry that’s Lambeth) is not clear. It has echoes of folksy Tull, jazzy Soft Machine and zippy Zappa. Not so much in a lumpy porridge sort of way, more a light, healthy, if not hunger abating, muesli.
Where that album ended up I’ll never know – probably an ashtray now at my nieces flat.
Does it stand the test of time ? Not really. Like most prog rock, it sounds dated on the naive side of edgy but it’s all space and time, innit or eikӧ olekin as they say south of Lappland !
Tracks: 1. Lounge 2. Lambertland 3. Celebration of the Saved Nine 4. The Bargain 5. Dance 6. Last Quarters
Recorded: April-May 1972 at Finnvox Helsinki, Finland and at Europafilm Stockholm, Sweden.
(Line-up relates to this particular album.)
Jukka Tolonen – Guitar Eero Raittinen – Vocals Pekka Pӧyry – Saxophone / Flute Måns Groundstroem – Bass Vesa Aӓltonen – Drums