Monday, 17 February 2014

BRAND X: US review


One of the forgotten supergroups of the late-seventies is the UK Progressive Jazz Fusion band Brand X. It included Phil Collins (Genesis) on drums, Percy Jones (Soft Machine) on bass, John Goodsall on guitar and Robin Lumley (Rod Argent) on keyboards. This line-up stayed together for two albums that were mildly successful in the US and UK, before Collins left to record with Genesis. Upon his return, Brand X would record three more studio albums before Collins departed for good in 1980. Their final album with the original line-up was "Do They Hurt," which became a mild hit in the US. Following the band's demise, record labels Charisma (UK) and Passport (US) were owed one more album, which became "Is There Anything About?" It was cobbled together from what little unreleased material was hanging around in the Brand X vault.

Now Gonzo Multimedia is re-releasing the album "Is There Anything About?," along with another post-separation release "Missing Period," which was originally released in 1997. The "Missing Period" album covers the earliest known recordings of the band prior to the release of their debut album in 1976. The album feels more like a jam session as the musicians are feeling their way around each others talents. The seven-minute opening song "Dead Pretty" has a more progressive rock, King Crimson-like feel to the music. The band really takes off into the jazz-fusion of "Kugelblitz" as each band member is allowed to add their own certain elements to the overall sound. This album is more experimental than that of their debut, which gives the music a more spontaneous feel.

The album, "Is There Anything About?" is presented in its original track line-up and showcases Percy Jones' bass as the dominate instrument through the later recordings. Songs like "Swan Song" have a very modern eighties feel to the music, while the title-song is one of the best leftovers from their recording period together. Goodsall's guitar solos are mind-blowing, while Collins keeps the songs on track, not needing much of a solo to display his talents on this album.

Finally, for the first time is a previously unreleased soundboard recording of Brand X "Live At The Roxy LA 1979." It is 70-minutes of live Brand X music at the height of their popularity and performance. It was recorded on September 23rd and shows a band of brothers having fun, performing together like they have been a band forever. Song like "Dance Of The Illegal Aliens" and "Malega Virgin" take you on a journey, with each song pushing the twelve minute mark and beyond. The guitar/keyboard combo of John Goodsall along with Robin Lumley and Peter Robinson highlight many of the album's solo pieces and expands your mind with the music. The highlight of the album has to be the encore "Nuclear Burn" which showcases how locked in Phil Collins and Percy Jones were with the rhythm, doubling the song's original length with a sound you'd wish would go on for another hour or so.

Also from Gonzo Multimedia is the re-release of the long, out-of-print Percy Jones solo album "Cape Castastrophe," originally released in the early 1990s. It features Jones experimenting with sounds using whatever instruments or objects that were available to him. The title-song is the perfect example as he uses an array of different beats and tones as a backdrop for his bass solos. The album reaches its experimental peak on the 23-plus minute mind adventure of "Barrio," before finishing it up with the seven-minute bass solo that slowly takes flight on "Thin Line" and Jones' venture into classical music with "Symphony In F Major."


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What happens when you mix what is - arguably - the world's most interesting record company, with an anarchist manic-depressive rock music historian polymath, and a method of dissemination which means that a daily rock-music magazine can be almost instantaneous?

Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.