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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.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Album Reviews: Brand X — Is There Anything About? / Missing Period / Live at the Roxy L.A.

http://blog.musoscribe.com/?p=5751


It’s a popular (and not wholly inaccurate) contention that Phil Collins did his best work with Genesis in the immediate years after Peter Gabrielleft, and then – around the release of ABACAB, headed for the ditch creatively. Of course the commercial approach reaped rewards in terms of album sales; once Genesis quite being challenging (and, I’d say, interesting) they shifted a helluva lot more product.

Still, there’s no knocking Collins’ ability as a drummer, and in fact his musical taste in those days was a mite better than he sometimes got credit for. For several years he was deeply involved in a side project, a jazz fusion band calledBrand X. As it happened, Collins was an on-again, off-again member of this aggregation, owing largely to his commitment in his other band.

Being that it’s jazz fusion with which we’re concerning ourselves here, it’s safe to assume that Brand X rarely troubled the upper reaches of the album charts. Though in fact four of their eight studio LPs – including 1982′s Is There Anything About? the last to feature Collins – did in fact crack the US Top 200 charts, albeit briefly.

That 1982 album – actually culled from session tapes after Collins had left – has recently been reissued by Gonzo Multimedia, along with two other Brand X titles. Missing Period is a 1997 collection of “lost session tapes,” and 1996′s Live at the Roxy L.A. is a bootleg-quality document of a live Brand X gig from 1979.

Belying its cobbled-together nature, Is There Anything About?features some catchy fusion playing; highlights include the opening track, “Ipanemia” and the synth-based “TMIU-ATGA” (short for “they’re making it up as they go along”). Collins is in fine form, but the real stars here are guitarist John Goodsall and fretless bass virtuoso Percy Jones. Jones’ work on “Swan Song” suggests whatThe Police might’ve sounded like had they given weight to their own jazz inclinations. The band’s approach is perhaps best summed up on the aptly-titled “Modern, Noisy and Effective” (though the signature melody sounds, er, borrowed).

Missing Period collects session tapes dating from the band’s earliest days. Here they sound a bit like a more hyperactive version of Phil Manzanera‘s Quiet Sun; the various instruments all seem to be soloing at once, yet somehow it all (just) hangs together. “Dead Pretty” might not have impressed Genesis fans of the era, but for anyone who enjoys knotty, precise jazz fusion with equal emphasis on chops and melody, it’s impressive stuff. “Kugelblitz” recalls Frank Zappa‘s work around the same time. 

Collins and his bandmates are on fire and they play with a mix of reckless abandon and cold precision. Overall, though, the album seems to focus primarily on the work of keyboardist Robin Lumley. And that’s just fine. Comprised of six longish tunes (none clocks in under seven minutes), Missing Period flies by quickly, but deserves repeat plays.


CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM GONZO
The X Files - A 20 Year Retrospective
2CD - £11.99

Is There Anything About?
CD - £9.99

Live at the Roxy, LA 1979
CD - £9.99

Missing Period
CD - £9.99

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