Thursday, 21 November 2019

Terry Reid - Original Album Series

Silver white light....

  

The great thing about music is that I find I am constantly discovering new stuff every day, even material like this, some of which is over fifty years old. Despite having a reasonable musical knowledge dating back to my first conscious listening aged around seven or eight in 1967 I freely admit that until yesterday I had never even hear Terry Reid's name, ever. Having found out about him I now find that incredibly surprising because it transpires that he was the vocalist a that young Jimmy Page had earmarked for the lead singer's role in none other the soon-to-be behemoth rock gods Led Zeppelin. Reid turned the gig down, as we was contracted to touring work, supporting The Rolling Stones at one point. Apparently he pointed Page in the direction of Robert Plant and John Bonham and, of course, we all know what happened next.

Many cognoscenti were aware of Reid's work as a phenomenal bluesy, throaty, range-filled singer and also a songwriter and guitarist but unfortunately and shamefully, many others such myself were not. I owe my discovery of his work to that veritable goldmine of long-lost obscurities, the estimable Mark Barry's Sounds Good, Looks Good blog. I have spent the last day immersed in the five of the six studio albums that Reid released (an odd timescale of 1968, 1969, 1973, 1979 and 1991. One from 1976 is omitted) and have found them to be such a pleasurable revelation - all sorts of varied music, great vocals, echoes of The Small Faces, Paul Rodgers and Free, Donovan, Led Zeppelin, of course, early blues artists, rock and roll, T. Rex, early Rod Stewart, Jeff Beck, Michael Chapman..... the list can go on and on. In many ways Reid's vocal style set a blueprint for so many white, blues rock, rock and prog rock-ish vocalists in the late sixties/early seventies. Lots of artists must have listened to his work, absorbed it and then gone on to have more success, which was a such a shame for poor old Terry.

I spent my teenage years throughout the seventies in record stores, flicking through album sleeves of hundreds of albums I could never afford to buy, day after day. Even after school I would often go "up town" to catch the last half hour at a record shop and leaf through some more albums. How I have no memory of Terry Reid is a mystery. Anyway, thanks to my fellow blogger's incredible knowledge and the wonders of modern technology I am now able to listen to this five album box set at the touch of my ipad control screen. The enjoyment I have got from discovering Terry Reid's work all these years later has been positively therapeutic on a grim, dark, cold November day.

All the albums are different and unique in their own right. Indeed they are all full of varied material within their own list of tracks. None of the albums stick to one formulaic sound. There is rock, blues, blues rock, r 'n'b, folk, acoustic rock. heavy stuff, chilled out bucolic fare too. A cornucopia of innovative and expressive sounds. Terry also loved a cover version, it would seem, and while some of them do not quite hit the mark, others are stunningly good, reinventing the song that he is covering. How this guy never properly made it beyond his peers' respect is criminal.

So, these are the albums included in this collection:-

BANG BANG YOU'RE TERRY REID (1968)

1. Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)
2. Tinker Taylor
3. Erica
4. Without Expression
5. Sweater
6. Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart
7. Season Of The Witch
8. Writing On The Wall/Summertime Blues
9. When I Get Home
10. Loving Time                                                          
This was Reid's somewhat clumsily-titled debut and some have found it to be somewhat patchy. Personally I love it. For 1968 it is a unique creation. It features Reid with Eric Leese on organ and Keith Webb on drums. Yes, it is influenced by both the psychedelia and the folk and blues rock of the day but there is a uniqueness to it that makes it very special. It has a raw, edgy tone to the sound but the remastering is excellent, having a stunning, warm bass sound, which I love. Reid's opening cover of Sonny Bono's Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) is an invigorating mix of bluesy verses and madcap, psychedelic rock frenetic breaks. Tinker Taylor has some swirling, very late sixties organ breaks, an almost funky, rumbling bass and a soaring vocal from Reid. That recurring guitar/bass/organ drum riff is infectiously sublime. Reid now does what he does a lot on all his albums and changes ambience and pace on the sumptuous jazzy and acoustic Erica.

My own personal favourite is up next in Without Expression. It is full of rhythmic melody and a moving, different vocal from Reid. Check out that bass rumbling beautifully away as Terry lifts his voice heaven-bound. There is a vague hint of Neil Diamond's late sixties upbeat output on this, for me. The voice is completely different, of course, but it something about the hook-laden, rousing tune. This song just lifts the spirits. It is way, way ahead of its time, sort of timeless in its appeal (if that doesn't sound ridiculously clumsy).

The jaunty Donovan-esque Sweater has attracted a bit of criticism from some of the feedback I have read but I really like it. Again, that lively bass rhythm is very Neil Diamond (think Cherry Cherry in that slightly Latin groove). Terry's cover of Gene Pitney's Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart is a good one, with lots of sixties organ and a Robert Plant-ish vocal (maybe Plant developed a Red-ish vocal). The album's big number is the brooding, atmospheric ten-minute cover of Donovan's Season Of The Witch which has Reid sounding like The Small Faces' Steve Marriott on the "chorus" parts. The Robert Plant comparisons are there too. By the end he is sounding like Jeff Beck Band-era Rod Stewart. The guitar chops that interject throughout the song are wonderful. It is simple a phenomenal track. That beautiful bass - oh Lordy.

Writing On The Wall/Summertime Blues begins like Deep Purple's Jon Lord in an old medieval crypt before it breaks out into a haunting Beatles meets psychedelia slow chugger that eventually morphs into a superbly riffy and brassy cover of Eddie Cochran's Summertime Blues. Reid sounds so like Free's Paul Rodgers on this too. When the organ, drums and brass kick in it is magnificently enjoyable. The track is another that lasts over ten minutes. They are two separate tracks pretty much, to be honest.

When I Get Home gets lively again, with an organ and brass-driven slice of Small Faces meets Neil Diamond with The McCoys and The Chambers Brothers in attendance too. Some solid chunky riffing and that sixties proggy organ introduce the vaguely funky rock beat of Loving Time to end the album. I think this is a great debut, even more so when you consider Reid was only nineteen at the time. Astonishing. Interestingly, the album was only released in the USA.

TERRY REID (1969)

1. Superlungs My Supergirl
2. Silver White Light
3. July
4. Marking Time
5. Stay With Me Baby
6. Highway 61 Revisited/Friends
7. May Fly
8. Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace
9. Rich Kid Blues                                                    
The follow-up album, with Terry looking like Jeff Beck on the cover, is probably slightly less raw and a bit more polished. It begins with another Donovan cover in the oddly-titled Superlungs My Supergirl. It has a sort of Hang On Sloopy backing riff and Reid's vocal is airily late sixties. The whole organ-based sound is so very 1968-69. It ends with some frantic tambourine-led percussion. Then we get Reid's own buzzy, freakbeat-ish Silver White Light. Once more, there are strong Small Faces hints in the scratchy, fuzzy sound to the track. As on the debut, after a lively beginning we get a blissed-out, acoustic number in the beautiful, tender strains of July. Again, as on the debut, the tempo rises for the next one - the fast-paced organ-riven crazy groove of Marking Time. This stuff is far out, man. The freakbeat feel is present once more. Check out that percussion and drum solo at the end.

Reid's cover of Lorraine Ellison's Stay With Me Baby is dramatic, bassy, soulful and boiling over with rumbling passion. The bass is beautifully big and heavy and the organ is turned up to the power-outage max. Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited is given a rocking, bluesy covering that suits the song perfectly. It segues into a soulful Reid track called Friends that has a feel of PP Arnold about it before returning to the Dylan cover. The guitar solo on Friends behind Reid's vocal is superb. This is really impressive stuff. I am blown away - it's so joyous when this happens, unexpectedly. I'm banging on my desktop as a makeshift drum while playing my "air bass".

A gentle acoustic turn is taken on the lovely May Fly. Paul Weller does this sort of thing these days. I'm sure he has listened to this. The opening riff and pounding drum beat to Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace could be Oasis with bits of The Small Faces thrown in. Rich Kid Blues is a very late sixties piece of slow burning, organ-powered blues with Reid going all Paul Rodgers again. Unfortunately, after these two really impressive albums Reid wouldn't release anything again for four years. No matter, though, the next album would be a corker, with a real change of style. Goodbye to psychedelia, freakbeat and the blues. The seventies were coming.

RIVER (1973)

1. Dean
2. Avenue
3. Things To Try
4. Live Life
5. River
6. Dream
7. Milestones                                         

On this album, possibly the best of the five, Reid discovers his inner funk rocker and the first four tracks a very much in the contemporary funk rock sound that was beginning to catch on. Reid’s vocals are very much Paul Rodgers-influenced though You can really hear it on both Dean and Avenue, which were excellent, lively openers to the seven track album. Dean is full of irresistible funky wah-wah guitar. All very West Coast, Doobie Brothers and Little Feat. It comes as no surprise to learn that a lot of this album was recorded in California, where Reid was now living. The backbeat to the track is great, slow cooking and funkily seductive. White guitar-driven funk at its very best. There’s a great guitar solo in it too. Avenue has a slightly more rocky drumbeat but there is still a funky feel to the song and its lazily attractive vocal. Reid gets into an effortlessly addictive groove on this material and it has a completely different feel to the two previous late sixties albums. The vocal on Avenue is very Paul Rodgers at times that it almost could be him, though.

Things To Try starts with a finger-picking country rock-style guitar passage. Once more, it sounds very Little Feat-ish to me.   It is far more country rock-ish than funky, this one, although there is swinging looseness to the drum rhythm. Some commenters have not been happy with the sound on this album, but personally, I have found it to be surprisingly good - nice and warm and defined, typical early seventies. Live Life sees a return to the funk with a groovy guitar and congas sound and a soulful, grainily seductive vocal. Mick Hucknall of Simply Red would love this (he probably already does). The vocal is also very Robert Plant-ish at points.

River provides a bridging point in the album - a beautifully laid-back, chilled-out number with an almost Samba-style sensual beat. The guitar and gentle percussion rhythms are very Brazilian, as indeed is the vocal. The final two tracks are even more understated. Dream is a slice of slow, acoustic jazzy Samba that you expect to hear Reid singing in Portuguese to. Milestones is even more quiet. This is very much a album of two parts. To be honest, as nice as the last two acoustic numbers undoubtedly are, it is the funkier, more upbeat ones that have caught my ear.

ROGUE WAVES (1979)

1. Ain’t No Shadow
2. Baby I Love You
3. Stop And Think It Over
4. Rogue Wave
5. Walk Away Renee
6. Believe In The Magic
7. Then I Kissed Her
8. Bowang!
9. All I Have To Do Is Dream                           

Seemingly oblivious to punk/new wave in 1979, Terry Reid released this rocking, riffy album that was completely culturally incongruous.

Ain’t No Shadow starts with some excellent rock riffage and sounds very West Coast in its easy rock feel, like something off Frampton Comes Alive. The female backing vocal and slightly funky backbeat give the track a tiny bit of a disco groove to it. It is a good enough track listened to now, but would I have wanted to hear this in 1979? Hell, no. As for the cover - dear oh dear. Not de rigeur in 1979, was it? It is almost Spinal Tap-esque.

Now, I have always loved The RonettesBaby I Love You and to be fair, I like Reid’s bombastic but dignified cover of it. A good song is a good song. The Ramones would cover it the following year. It would have sounded better in 1970, however.

Stop And Think It Over is an appealing bit of funky, easy pop of the type Rod Stewart was putting out at the time. It is inoffensively pleasing. However, ten years earlier, Reid was recording ground-breaking, influential material as opposed to merely pleasant stuff. Rogue Wave is a low-key but muscular rock ballad of the sort Nazareth would do occasionally with, appropriately, Reid sounding like Dan McCafferty and also Frankie Miller in places. The Left Banke/Four TopsWalk Away Renee is given a chunky, reggae riff-ish makeover. As a long time lover of the song I like it. You can’t argue with either Reid’s voice or his willingness to change a song to make it his as opposed to simply covering it straight. It has a nice guitar solo in it too.

Believe In The Magic sees a look back to the melodic funk rock of 1973’s River album with an attractive slice of gentle funk/pop/soul. This is a nice track. The guitar almost sounds like The Police on Walking On The Moon at times, to me anyway. You’re right, it’s probably just me. The crashing cover of The Beach BoysThen I Kissed Her is initially a bit of a shock, but, if you imagine not knowing the original song, it would serve as a big, rock ballad in the Stay With Me Baby style. I like its big, chunky power, I have to say. Bowang! is another solid rocker and the cover of The Everly BrothersAll I Have To Do Is Dream is done in a soulful Bob Marley on Redemption Song fashion. It is a nice interpretation with Terry sounding like Dan McCafferty again.

This wasn’t a bad album but, as I said, it was culturally irrelevant at the time of release. Now, it has a sort of quirky appeal. 

THE DRIVER (1991)

1. Fifth Of July
2. There’s Nothing Wrong
3. Right To The End
4. The Whole Of The Moon
5. Hand Of Dimes
6. The Driver (Pt. 1)
7. If You Let Her
8. Turn Around
9. Gimme Some Lovin’
10. Laugh At Life
11. The Driver (Pt. 2)                                        

Twelve years after his previous album, the final studio album is The Driver, released in 1991. Terry is back with polished nineties sounds. Lots of keyboard riffs and that synthetic nineties drum sound, produced by Trevor Horn, who always liked that sort of thing. Fifth Of July is sumptuous piece of Don Henley meets Chris Rea early nineties melodic pop. Interestingly, it was written by Louise Goffin, daughter of legendary songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King. It is pleasant enough, but a bit unthreatening. It was perfect for the times, musically, I guess. There’s Nothing Wrong is overflowing with slick, computerised nineties rhythms. Again, Terry is moving with the times. Beneath the polish lurks some nice wah-wah guitar, however, but I still find this much less uplifting than the sixties/early seventies albums. This is simply typical early nineties wine bar pop rock, unfortunately, like a Rod Stewart album from the time, or a Mick Jagger solo offering. The same applies to the lush ballad Right To The End. It is a sort of hands in the air REO Speedwagon style rock tearjerker. Terry handles it well, but having spent the last twenty-four hours listening to that stunning early material, this is all a bit underwhelming.

Terry’s cover of The WaterboysThe Whole Of The Moon is good, because firstly it is a good song, but it is not a patch on the original. It suits Reid’s voice, though. There is something moving about hearing this lost voice from the late sixties still hammering it out here, I have to say. Makes me all tearful. You tell ‘em Terry. Hand Of Dimes is a lovely, peaceful acoustic number of the kind he always had in his locker. The Driver (Pt. 1) is an inconsequential instrumental interlude. The very Stonesy If You Let Her thankfully revisits the old guitar-driven riff sound although it still has a nineties sheen to it. Those big nineties drums are all over Turn Around which is a sleepy late night radio ballad.

Spencer Davis’s Gimme Some Lovin’ gets things going again with some nostalgic sixties organ sounds. The haunting Laugh At Life sounds like some other song that I can’t place, but it is a Reid original, surprisingly. It has that Phil Collins nineties pop ambience about it. The Driver (Pt. 2) is a nice, slow sensual number with more of those dramatic nineties vibes. This album has been nothing like the others. In summing up, I can’t get past loving the very first one the most. The first three are great, the last two are inessential.

Terry Reid’s albums have spanned musical generations- freakbeat, psychedelia, blues rock, funk rock, metal and synth pop/rock. Listening to his work is like a trip in a musical time machine. He is an artist who deserved far more commercial success that he had. I am grateful that I am now familiar with him and his material.

B+