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Unjustly Forgotten Album Month!
What makes an album unjustly forgotten? These are albums by artists that I have never seen reviewed (or for the most part mentioned) on the WRC, and that I didn't come across in my old copy of the AMG (The Blossom Toes and Mighty Baby are the two big examples of that). Instead, these are albums that I bought blind, and turned out to be really good (***1/2 or higher), unlike Tranquility or Ultimate Spinach. This may beg the whole, "if they're so good how come I've never heard of them" question, but here are a few interesting points. All of these groups, or some members of them, were recognized as talented as some point in their careers, usually just not at this point. Plenty of groups went unheralded during their existence (think Velvet Underground, Stooges, Big Star to name a few) but were then rediscovered. I'd like to think these albums' time has yet to come.
Previously reviewed albums that could have fit in on this page include The Two Sides of Peter Banks and Woyaya.
The Flock (1969)
Usually when liner notes use the term "underground group" it's code for "group that never had any success and didn't deserve any", but Andromeda deserved better than they got. This was the time when heavy psychedelia and blues really crossed over into the beginnings of early metal. Cream was all over the charts with a mixture of the first two, but never went down the metal path, while fellow power trio Andromeda did. This album was released after Cream broke up, but the group had been around since early 1968. As for the music, it's an enduring combination of blues, jazz, metal, Holst's The Planets based around the talents of John Cann. The guitarist and singer wrote almost all of the songs and he shows a real talent for constructing multi-part songs with completely different sounds and tidy transitions to link them ("Turns to Dust", "Return to Sanity", "When to Stop"). But what really drives the album is his guitar work - he tosses off riff after amazing riff, frequently overdubbing multiple lines in the same song and even cranks it up to full-blown metal (the "Determination" part of "Turns to Dust" is just one example). Bassist Mick Hawksworth is with him every step of the way, with some amazingly deft bass work to match Cann's fleet fingers ("Too Old"). Drummer Ian McLane might be the lesser member, as his drumming style belongs more to the 60s than the whole Bonham/Baker/Paice large sound trend. But he can be a real basher when it is appropriate and is more than adequate. The album isn't all blues and metal, there's a well thought out classical element as well - usually in the form of musical quotes from The Planets ("Return to Sanity" is bookended by them, "Day of the Change"). There's a touch of Quicksilver Messenger Service as well, in both the backing vocals throughout and the traditional Spanish guitar in "When to Stop" (the only acoustic guitar on the entire album). The only lesser points are the fact that McLane's drumming is for the most part unmixed (the album might have been recorded on the cheap), and Cann has a couple of lesser (but still good) jazzier almost pop songs ("And Now the Sun Shines", "I Can Stop the Sun"). Whatever shortcomings this album may have, the writing and the playing more than make up for it - Cann might have been the best of the "second-tier" guitarists based on this album alone. Some music is meant to played out loud, and this is a good example. Cann and Hawksworth previously played on a one-off album Five Day Week Straw People, which I am anxious to hear, as well as in the Attack. Andromeda broke up after Cann joined Atomic Rooster, which found actual success. Produced by the group, with Eddie Offord as the engineer.
The album has been reissued in a couple of different formats, all with bonus tracks that are arguably just as good as the album. My edition has both their only single Go Your Way/Keep Out 'cos I'm Dying, as well as some unreleased songs that are fantastic ("Let's All Watch the Sky Fall Down", "See Into the Stars"). The version that is in-print as of right now is actually a two-CD collection with even more unreleased material, and alternate takes.
Elephant's Memory: Take It to the Streets (1971)