Monday, 5 June 2017


Wakeman, Rick & Tony Ashton present: Gas Tank

Considering how bland, blinkered and boring coverage of music on British television has become, it's hard to conceive of a time when a programme like Gas Tank could exist. However, back in 1980 Channel 4 brought Rick Wakeman and Tony Ashton together to basically jam with a succession of their famous mates once a week and film the whole shebang. General chit chat and 'interviews' were also part of the presentation but across these 3 CDs Gonzo Multimedia have brought together 52 tracks of mainly just the music; a few little song introductions and skits allowed to slip through.

The cast list is stellar, Wakeman, fresh from his second tenure with Yes, and Ashton, probably best known for his time with Ian Paice and Jon Lord in (you guessed it), Paice, Ashton and Lord, present throughout, backing the stars with their House Band. It's this factor that proves the ace in the hole here, for while some artists do perform their own, or their band's songs, they do so with different personnel, instruments and arrangements. Although for the main it's a selection of covers and classics that are jammed through in mighty fine style. You get ex-Thin Lizzy men Phil Lynott and John Sykes shining brightly on the light rock of "Growing Up" and "The Man's A Fool" from Lynott's second solo album, while hearing Suzi Quatro (who proudly and rather defiantly announces she's the only female to play an instrument across the full six episodes) rattle through "My Baby" and "CC Rider" with Steve Hackett on harmonica is too good to pass up. Hackett also appears under his own steam, excellent versions of "Camino Royale (Hackett To Pieces)" and "Hackett's Boogie" proving a highlight.

Wakeman takes solo centre stage sporadically, the chance to hear small, intimate takes on "Elgin Mansions", "Catherine Howard" and "Catherine Parr" a real joy. While Ashton provides comic interludes, his musical odes to "Cigarettes!" (cough, wheeze, hack, hack, cough), "Beside The Seaside" and a few other topics, chucklesome the first few times you hear them. Rick Parfitt turns up for storming, almost heavy honky-tonk versions of Quo tracks "Little Lady", where his vocals are immense and "Rain", by which time he's already blown his voice out, while John Entwistle adds a touch of class to "Twist & Shout" and aided by Steve Harley, "Go America". However with everyone from The Cimarons, The Strawbs, Donovan, Eric Burdon, Ian Paice and Alvin Lee, to Chris Farlowe Andy Fairweather Low, Godley & Creme, Maggie Bell, Ronnie Scott, Howie Casey and the irrepressible Frankie Miller, lending their talents, there really is an embarrassment of riches.

What lets the whole thing down is the slap dash way it's been put together. A previous pledge campaign saw DVDs of the show available – something sadly missing from this release, while the lack of any liner notes leaves you grasping to find any context to what you're listening to. The House Band are not even credited, and when given their performances that in itself is a real oversight. With the only images in the booklet being a few blurry stills from the TV show, with the musician's 'name caption' below them, the chance to really celebrate this collection of music is passed up for the decidedly cheap and just about cheerful option.

In truth it's all too easy to hear why Gas Tank didn't last. Everything feels a little pally-pally, a small studio audience adding a patter of applause to some famous names larking about in the most glorious of fashions. While the off the cuffness of the presentation in places can almost be as grating as the well rehearsed music undoubtedly is rewarding. If you're a completist of any of the artists involved in this 3 CD retrospective, then it's simply too good an opportunity not to hear them in these unusual, but still impressive circumstances. Even if, in many ways, this release is a huge and disappointingly missed opportunity.

Track Listing
Disc 1 Episode 1&2
1. GasTank Theme
2. Little Lady Rain
3. Catherine Howard
4. Raggy
5. He Gave Up To I
6. Cigarettes!
7. Heart Attack
8. Trying To Get Back To You
9. R 'n' R medley/Be Bop A Lula
10. Episode 2 Aeroplane
11. Man Smart, Woman Smarter
12. Wide Eyed and Legless
13. In The Midnight Hour
14. Gerrard Street
15. Catherine Parr
16. Blackpool's 1st Twist Victim
17. Crazy

Disc 2 Episode 3&4
1. TV Set
2. Growing Up
3. The Man's A Fool
4. Keyboard Adlib
5. Mellow Yellow
6. Lalena
7. Staring
8. Outta Windows
9. Stormy Monday Blues
10. Lucille
11. Episode 4 GasTank
12. I May Be Wrong (But I Won't Be Wrong Always)
13. Tell Me Baby What's On Your Mind
14. Resurrection Shuffle
15. Possibly
16. My Babe
17. CC Rider
18. Sweet Little Rock n Roller

Disc 3 Episode 5&6
1. I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside
2. Mr Soft
3. It's Weird
4. The Hangman
5. Elgin Mansions
6. Jam & The Blues
7. Twist & Shout
8. Go America
9. Episode 6 Why Oh Why?
10. California Man
11. I Got My Eyes On You
12. Gone But Not Forgotten
13. He'll Have To Go
14. My Soul Wants to be with Jah…
15. Deep Pockets
16. Camino Royale (Hackett to Pieces)
17. Hackett's Bogie Hackett's Bogie (reprise)

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