Mark Plummer in MM, 29 April 1972
The Live Album with orchestra and singers must rate along with Neil Young's Harvest, Todd Rundgren's solo double, Grave New World, and Quiver's soon-to-released album, as one of the finest pieces of music to be released this year.
But this album departs from the simple funk of the others' pop patterns, and joins that small section of groups who make music and owe more to notes than basic feeling. At the same time they still have a hell of a lot of funk and drive in their music. Listen to Dave Ball's guitar work on the Grand Finale section of the In Held 'Twas in I, the choir pushing their voices to the point of breaking. The audience reaction says it all.
Putting orchestras behind bands has been a kind of in thing with aspiring young musicians like Emerson and Lord for quite a while now, but they have usually been fairly rigid 'classical' pieces that leave a lot to be desired. Mainly this has been the fault of the writer letting his ego run away with him, leaving him with a 'masterpiece' that doesn't really happen.
Gary Brooker has approached his arrangements from the pop side of the orchestra and leans more towards 60s Phil Spector. Consequently the orchestra is used to colour the music, rather than running away with itself. At other times Brooker uses his strings like a simple balladeer, just adding that little extra something to the rhythm sections.
If you can't get that together, nip into a record shop and ask to hear Whaling Stories, which has just about every style Brooker has ever used. A Salty Dog which follows is the Brooker-Reid song that reaches nearer perfection, but Whaling Stories is the one that holds both their arrogance and musical direction.
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More reviews of the Edmonton album
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