Friday, 26 April 2019

Bread




Soppy bedsit balladeers or wannabe rockers? Bread were a bit of a conundrum....

Bread (1969)

This album was a real surprise to me, as, for many years, I had (misguidedly) viewed Bread as a somewhat wishy-washy student bedroom band, full of gentle melodies and earnest, lovelorn lyrics. This album, from the very late sixties, sort of contradicts that, showing first of all that they could certainly play (the musicianship and sound quality is uniformly excellent), and secondly that they had considerable rock sensibilities in there. The album was a veritable pioneer in Californian country/folk-ish soft rock. The Byrds were heading this way, and Crosby, Stills and Nash too, of course. In the wake of these artists would come the excellent America and the genre would spread out to include some aspects of the music of The Doobie Brothers and the early Eagles.

Bread also were quite Beatles-influenced, in their McCartney-ish lyrics and melodies at times and in the Ringo Starr-esque drumming. Their vocals are wonderfully harmonious, often falsetto from David Gates, and the acoustic guitars clear and sharp. The electric guitar is subtly riffy and the bass beautifully subtle.

There are no well-known Bread songs on here in the Baby I'm A Want You-I Want To Make It With You category, but there is some beautiful, laid-back material and some deceptively rocking fare too, admittedly very much in a breezy late sixties style.
                     
Dismal Day features a strange high-pitched vocal from David Gates, but is also an appealing, lively hippy-ish track. London Bridge is very Beatles-esque, with that instantly recognisable Ringo Starr-style drumming. Could I has a great piano and percussion intro and a very late sixties vocal feel to it. It sounds very representative of its era. The electric guitar on it is superb. Look At Me is a very hippy, dreamy acoustic number. This was very much the period of the "serious", contemplative song. This is a fine example of it.

The rocky The Last Time shows a distinct sixties inventiveness borrowed from psychedelia, slightly. Anyway You Want Me is pleasantly driven by its electric guitar riffs and upbeat drums. Its vocal is stronger, more direct, too. Lovely guitar-drum interplay in the middle as well. 
Move Over is one of the album's rockiest, powerful numbers, driven along by some great drums and fuzzy electric guitar. Great stuff. Most underrated and misjudged. Turn this up and you can feel the band's power. This is Bread, remember. The rock continues on the cowbell-driven rhythm of the catchy Don't Shut Me OutYou Can't Measure the Cost is an airy, acoustic and harmonious America-style ballad that moves on to include a deliciously heavy bass line. Family Doctor has strong echoes of The Band all over it, and Crosby, Stills & Nash too. Check out those harmonies on It Don't Matter To Me. Beautiful. Add to those the freaky, buzzy electric guitar interjections and you have a great song. 

Friends And Lovers is a pleasantly enigmatic and infectiously catchy folky rock number. There is no way that this album should be dismissed as romantic, drippy pop (Bread were, it seems, very unfairly labelled in that respect). This is a highly credible, truly worthy late sixties album full of songs and musicianship of the highest quality. I really like this album.

On The Waters (1970)

Bread became instantly more well-known with this, their second album, due to the huge hit Make It With You, although this album is one that provides many different sounding tracks to that one. It is quite a rock album, in its hippy Californian warm but airy sound and vague psychedelic influences appearing here and there. It is very Crosby, Stills and Nash-influenced and laid foundations for groups like America to follow. I should imagine many who bought the album on the back of Make It With You may have been slightly disappointed in its hippy rock earnestness and, at times, quite heavy passages. Not me, though, I think it's great. A most underrated gem. It is, though, quite a dense,  serious album, despite its West Coast inherent sunny disposition. Personally, I prefer the group's debut album. It is Bread's equivalent of The DoorsWaiting For The Sun, quite experimental and uncommercial in places. Of course, this is not a full-on rock record, but it is certainly not an album of slushy, acoustic ballads. Far from it.
              
Why Do You Keep Me Waiting is an upbeat, rocking number to begin with, with hints of Neil Diamond's early material in its vaguely Latin strummed riff. Its changes of pace and rock rhythms are redolent of Crosby, Stills and NashMake It With You is, of course, the song that really made it big for Bread and tended to make people pigeonhole them. You can't deny its laid-back, hot Californian summery sound is completely intoxicating. A classic of its type. Blue Satin Pillow has a big, heavy rock riff and a typically early seventies rock feel, with airs of Cat Stevens in its vocal, for me. Beatles harmonies are in there too.

Look What You've Done had a riff that sounded like a prototype of the later Guitar Man at the beginning. When it breaks out into its "rock" passages, its is truly uplifting. It almost goes a bit proggy in its organ sound. 
I Am That I Am also continues that proggy, pace-changing sound. It reminds me slightly of Ringo Starr's It Don't Come Easy at times. Been Too Long On The Road has that Marrakesh Express breezy, harmonious feel to it and features some killer electric guitar over a quirky, staccato beat. I Want You With Me has a haunting air to its beguiling, gentle vocal, over its gently melodic bass line. This is something approaching what The Beach Boys were trying to achieve during the same period, and sometimes coming up short. This album gets it right, in my opinion, anyway. Coming Apart is a very CSN-style appealing, tuneful rocker. Like lots of the material it is very typical of its era. Easy Love begins with a Byrds-style jangly guitar and has a lovely vocal and drum sound. In The Afterglow is a very McCartney-esque song, with those Beatles drums again. 

Call On Me has Bread going a little blues rock-ish. It has hints of The BeatlesCome Together and is very Lennon-influenced. The album ends with the low-key, gentle The Other Side Of Life. This is an album that deserves more than a few listens. It has hidden depths.

Manna (1971)

It is popularly thought that Bread were a slow, acoustic-based band that delivered slushy romantic songs. Sure, they did a few of those, but it is often forgotten that they could actually rock quite hard. Their brand of country-ish rock packed a harder punch than their notable contemporaries CSN, CSNY, The Byrds and America. There was a fair amount of solid riffing, and muscular drums around on many of their tracks. In my opinion, Bread have always been a bit unfairly maligned and pigeonholed. This is largely an upbeat album of quite strident country-influenced, typically early seventies rock. It is quality easy listening rock.
                               
Let Your Love Go is an upfront, rocking number to begin with, while Take Comfort starts with some solid guitar riffing and thumping drums. It moves into a dreamy, hippy-ish slow part in the middle, before returning to the buzzy guitar. Like much of their material at the time, there are vague proggy aspects to it. Too Much Love is a laid-back country-ish rocker with a delicious bass line and a distinct Beatles influence in places.

If is the archetypal Bread track that many know them for - a gentle melody, a sensitive lyric and David Gates' melodic, almost angelic voice soaring high above it. Rhythmic rock is back for the next one, however, with the appealing, bluesy groove of Be Kind To MeHe's A Good Lad is a very CSNY-esque plaintive number. She Was My Lady rocks gently, tunefully and captivatingly. It features some excellent guitar soloing. Unfortunately it ends too soon. Live In Your Love is a McCartney-esque rock ballad that just reminds me of Wings.

What A Change has those airy, sweet uplifting CSNY harmonies once more. I Say Again is another one in that style too. The Ringo Starr-influenced drums and their interplay with the bass is lovely. 
Come Again continues the sensitive, thoughtful balladry. It has some beautiful piano and strings in its backing, underpinned by some subtle electric guitar. Just at the tempo had slowed down a bit we end the album with the roadhouse rollicking of Truckin', as Bread go all Doobie Brothers-early Eagles.

This is a beautifully even-tempered warm wind of an album that cannot help but relax you while lifting your spirits at the same time.


Baby I'm A Want You (1972)

For many, this was Bread's best album, containing two of their biggest hits and successfully merging sensitive ballads with some deceptively hard rocking cuts. It shows that they were more than just slushy pop balladeers, despite the perfection of their tracks that fit that particular bill. This is an eminently listenable example of early seventies Californian rock.
                           
Mother Freedom is a powerful rocker with some killer buzzsaw guitar. Baby I'm A Want You is known to many, it's great. Lovely vocal, lovely atmosphere, lovely bass line. Just a perfect easy rock song. So wonderfully early seventies. Byrds-esque jangly guitar riff introduces Down On My Knees. The track rocks from beginning to end in a seventies-era Fleetwood Mac style. Everything I Own is, of course, beautiful. As a reggae fan, I always associate this song with the Ken Boothe 1974 cover that hit number one in the UK, but this is the original. It is moving, sensitive and timeless. When that chorus kicks in - oh yes. Nobody Like You is an Elton John-esque piano-driven rock-blues rousing rocker. Yes, Bread could do bar-room rock too and sing about "having a fight" without sounding strange. 

Diary is thoughtful and moving. Dream Lady has some of Bread's regular prog-rock influences as a swirling organ, heavy guitar and drums interplay dramatically. Daughter is another deceptively heavy rock ballad, with power chords and pounding piano, together with a convincingly strong, harmonious set of vocals. Games Of Magic is a gentle, acoustic, sleepy and sensitive number. Now, up next Bread get all political, for the first time, on This Isn't What The Governmeant, a rousing country style questioning of the rule-makers of the time. Just Like Yesterday is a lovely, stately and inspiring song. The gruff, mid-pace rock of I Don't Love You is a surprisingly acidic end to the album. There is more Elton John about this, for me.

If you like West Coast early seventies rock mixed with some classic rock ballads played with seriously good musicianship then you can't go far wrong with this. A classic of its genre.


Related posts :-
The Byrds
CSN
Paul McCartney

2 comments:

  1. I never found much beyond the hits on their albums but The Best of Bread is a knockout. The Melodies for all those songs are unbelievable. And the guitar parts on most of those hits are super great. Especially Guitar Man and Make it With You and Baby I'ma Want You. As far as I'm concerned, I think of these records as great classic rock as good as anything the whole classic rock era. They just have that certain quality that makes something classic rock rather than just straight-up pop. I don't know exactly what I mean. But they just seem like major records rather than minor ones or something. idk

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  2. Like we were discussing for Carole King's "Tapestry", Bread were far more rocking on occasions than their reputation would have you believe.

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