Friday, 19 September 2014

Brand X: UK press

Gonzo Multimedia have been doing superb work of late, re-releasing a number of rock and progressive classics from musical eras gone by. The latest in this programme is a trio ofBrand X albums. Best known perhaps for including drum maestro and Genesis skins-basher Phil Collins, the band in fact featured a massive roster of jazz rock talent, including John Giblin (bass), Preston Heyman (percussion) and John Goodsall (guitars). ‘Is There Anything About?’ features the final proper line-up of the band, and will certainly appeal to lovers of Steps Ahead, Jean-Luc Ponty et al. Although technically a ‘rarities’ (iecontractual obligation) album, the musicianship is uniformly excellent and the sounds really nice, albeit with a bit of an 'eighties glaze. 'A Longer April' (sax ahoy!) and the bass-heavy and mightily groovy title track are the standout cuts. ‘{Missing Period}’ is something special for Brand X freaks, as it amounts to a never before released first album, thought lost, recorded in 1975 and '76, but recently rediscovered in the family vaults of John Goodsall. 

The sound is pretty good overall. 'Dead Pretty' is a high-intensity opener with shed-loads of solos and a sliding, growling bass, while the eleven minute 'Kugelblitz' features some Ponty-esque synths and the kind of guitar solos Alan Holdsworth was doing at the time; also hints of the Mahavishnu Orchestra in the top/tail chord structures. Still loads of original stuff though. 'Why Won't You Lend Me Yours?' brings in a little more variety - there's a terrific strings/breakdown section in the middle powered in large part by Percy Jones' bass - while concluding cut 'Tito's Leg' is just manic. Sixty-odd minutes of the band at their live peak is what's offered on ‘Live At The Roxy LA,’ which dates from 1979 and features Robin Lumley on keyboards. This is a previously unreleased soundboard recording. The tracks are all quite long - typically twelve minutes - and allow the band to breathe a little; witness the synth/drum opening, with the full band coming in section by section. The audience is enthusiastic and the improvised sections are great, with bassist Percy Jones on particularly fine form. The album highlight for me is 'Malaga Virgin' which features all those wibbly synth solos and fuzzed guitar scorches that you expect from jazz rock. Much US-style whooping from the audience here! Finally, something a little different is Percy Jones' solo album ‘Cape Catastrophe,’ which dates from the late 'eighties and was recorded in New York. Comprising eight tracks, the music is founded in a drum machine and various synths, with Jones' bass added live during a digital mixdown. The mood is distinctly cooler than the classic Brand X material, with hints of techno (sampled rhythms and weirdness) and electronica, all overlaid with bass parts that sometimes you might count as solos, elsewhere as accompaniment.

The lengthier tracks are the standouts: 'Cape Catastrophe' (found sounds and digital rhythms that hint at the ethnic dance music that was to follow a few years later) and the twenty three minute 'Barrio,' which is a weird amalgam of ethnic sounds, rhythmic glitches and sliding bass. In places gothic, elsewhere a kind of trippy minimalism.


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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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.