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Various - Riding The Rock Machine: British Seventies Classic Rock

  by Lisa Torem

published: 5 / 5 / 2021



Various - Riding The Rock Machine: British Seventies Classic Rock
Label: Grapefruit Records
Format: CD X2

intro

Well-researched three CD box set which provides to the listener with a compelling sonic history of 1970's rock's lesser-known acts as well as also its legends


The statement, “British rock bands may have ruled the charts and air-waves on both side of the Atlantic in the Seventies, but they did so with more than one signature tune,” drives home hard the consummate vision of this outstanding collection. If you loved The Who, 10cc, Faces, Mott the Hoople, and so many other iconic acts but feel that your pop culture perspective needs more comprehensive rewiring, look no further. The 40-page booklet features fascinating back stories and humorous asides. Most interesting are the details about the lesser-known acts, but observations about the legendary stars will also peak your curiosity and draw you to the music. That said, you’ll enjoy four hours of vintage sonics on the three expansive discs which include 59-tracks of varying lengths. Disc 1: ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’ from Rainbow starts the line-up, with bombastic vocals, breathtaking electric guitar solos and aggressive drum fills. Wedded with a truculent chord progression, this combination yields an air-tight performance. ‘Easy Livin’’ (Uriah Heap) contains magnificent keyboard riffs set against multi-ranged lead vocals and heart-pumping percussion. It’s remarkable how much energy was packed into a 2:35 minute package. ‘I’m Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)’ is, of course, a Moody Blues staple. The measured percussion on the intro. lies in sharp contrast to the fast-paced vocal performance. This is a richly produced effort, packed with vivacious horns and lush vocal layers. ‘I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You’ is the brainchild of the Alan Parsons Project. This mellow brew of strategically-placed electric piano and buzzing beats imbues a head-bopping beat throughout; the generous tings of cymbal made my day. Foghat’s ‘Slow Ride’ will make you clap your hands high above your head. This is one infectious romp featuring unique electric guitar textures. ‘Catch You on the Rebop’ is a lesser-known Spencer Davis Group tune. Man, who can argue with the infectious clop-clop of that attention-getting cowbell? Not to mention the bluesy piano and elated choral response. Unless you were born in a cave, you’re familiar with The Who’s pantheon to mods, ‘Can’t Explain’, but Yvonne Elliman adds a sincere layer of female warmth, which, while less emphatic than that “other band” is genuinely pleasing. ‘Cindy Incidentally’ is 2:37 of pure bliss! Arguably a fantastic song, but too often ignored in the Faces reviews. Rod Stewart’s voice is expectantly seductive; the players have his back and then some. ‘Robert’s Box’ by Procol Harum, with its off-kilter beat, and passionate vocals, may not have ever been a radio hit, but is surely a testament to this band’s versatility. ‘Standing in the Road’ by Blackfoot Sue shows off outrageous percussive ideas, but the greatest impact comes from the generous electric guitar interjections amid the vocals. ‘Back to the Wall’ by Medicine Head is most noted for its fierce narrative and mind--expanding images. Furthermore, there’s a true-garage band sensibility to this punk crossover. ‘Success Story’ by the Who begins with Roger Daltrey’s proclamation: “They ought to make work a crime.” His slacker vision is offset by an impermeable riff, thanks to his band mate, Pete Townshend. “The big break better happen pretty soon ‘cause I’m pushing twenty-one…” Despite the fact that his youthful wish makes us all feel incredibly old, this is a cool jam. ‘Black Cloud’ by Trapeze yields an uncharacteristically elongated introductory solo; the band moves along at a faster clip once things get going. ‘Hold Out Your Hand’ was a real star vehicle for bassist extraordinaire Chris Squire; the former Yes patriot tied together all elements of the arrangement with his proficient technique. ‘Spirits in the Night’ by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band features the whisper of wind chimes which magically draw you in… the conversational tone and multi-effects make this a very likeable tune. ‘The Boston Tea Party’ by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band puts those American hooligans under proper surveillance; this song is notable for its delirious build and excellent guitar bursts. ‘Bungle in the Jungle ’is by Jethro Tull. The booklet explains that Ian Anderson had no idea what the message was here; but it’s such a fun listen, nevertheless, with flights of his famous flute, and with his voice in fine form, the song has retained a rare timelessness. ‘Clever Fool’ by Agnes Strange maintains a constant interplay in this blues tango between guitars and drum. ‘She’s Riding the Rock Machine’ is by Fancy. It’s a wry commentary on rock music promotion. Quickly-paced, it blends screeching female lead vocals with cool male backing singers. ‘Action’ by Sweet could have been a great cover for Queen or The Struts; the energy is non-stop and jammed with crazy twists and turns. “I was suicidal ‘cause you were my idol…” I mean, who HASN’T been there? Disc 2 ‘Feels Like the First Time’ by Foreigner sets this uber-romantic ballad into action with bright harmonies, magical drum fills and throbbing guitar riffs. ‘The Flight Tonight’ by Nazareth is built around skin-tight tremolo and ambience. ‘Wishing Well’ by Free has an easy-going vibe, but is less impactful than their signature tunes. ‘Out of Your Head’ by Man is peppered with unique instrumentation and has a slightly rubato feel. ‘My Friend Peter’ is one of the Strawbs’ most unique tunes; primarily because of the amazing lead vocals, thump-y bassline and killer guitar solo. ‘Quark, Strangeness and Charm’ by Hawkwind sets forth a grinding chord progression which gives this word-salad a distinctive edginess. The loopy lyrics recall Lou Reed: “We got sick of chat-chat-chatter…” ‘Ace Supreme’ by Silverhead is another ripe contender for the punk era, based on a simple progression and repetitive lyric. ‘Mystery Song’ by Status Quo has a Yardbirds feel; clanky acoustic guitar and straightforward storyline; it smoothly melds into a psychedelic oeuvre. 'U.H.F.' by Curved Air is awash in roller coaster rhythms and electrifying guitar work, but that’s only one aspect of this anthem—it’s also exciting to witness the ever-changing soundscapes. ‘Baby I Need’ by Magnum is short, but exceedingly sweet, with tear-stained vocals. ‘Showdown’ by the Electric Light Orchestra’ makes beautiful use of strings. ‘Momma’s Boy’ by City Boy excels over a hodge-podge of dynamic effects, which ring out over the pedestrian refrain. ‘The 1959 Rock ‘n Roll Boys’ by Duffy is a fun excursion back to a simpler musical era; wish the vocals were further up in the mix,though. ‘Hoodlum Fun’ by Rococo is quite reminiscent of Bowie, and especially memorable is the unapologetic bassline. ‘Only After Dark’ by Mick Ronson is an echo-y splendour with driving vocals and wonderfully weird effects, not to mention a command vocal performance. ‘Straddle’ by Strider has little in the way of a lead-in; the vocals are left to carry the weight, but the call and response between vocals and rhythm guitar spice it up plenty. ‘Move It’ by Stray is marvelously old-school; a defining moment on this variety pack. There’s not a lot left to say about Bullfrog’s ‘Ice Cold Dick’ that hasn’t already been relayed: “You keep saying no,/I’m not allowed to touch,” and “ice cold dick won’t hang around and look like a fool…” If the content was anymore clear, you wouldn’t need to clean your spectacles. ‘Shoelace’ by Maggot—This innocent ditty makes me want to hear more of Maggot’s stuff--the incredible acoustic guitar fills and super-sharp percussion… ‘Lucky Man’ by Emerson Lake and Palmer was groundbreaking for the Moog synth work and it’s impossible to otherwise find fault here, unless you detest gorgeous harmonies, precise imagery and all-around expert musicianship. Disc 3: ‘Street Life’ by Roxy Music’ has exciting, upfront and exceedingly raw vocals, not to mention virtuosic guitar. ‘Maid in Heaven’ by Be Bop Deluxe escalates from scratchy guitar to bombastic percussive statements in one fell swoop, but stand back for the soaring vocals. ‘Devil’s Answer’ by Atomic Rooster has some engaging lyrics; “Come back tomorrow; show the scars on your face. Sing!” ‘In My Own Time’ by Family features stabbing guitar but spare percussion conjoined with growling vocals which detonate much vigour and heat. ‘Get My Rocks Off’ by Dana Gillespie could be considered the quintessential stoner cause celebre: “Some folks need some killer weed and some folks need cocaine…” “New York Groove” by Hello has lovely, initially-whispered vocals colored with blues harp and Bo Diddley rhythms. ‘Jailbreak’ by Thin Lizzy is a chestnut extraordinaire. Those famous twin-guitars are juxtaposed with exciting effects and powerhouse statements: “Tonight’s the night all systems fail…” Nobody ever said it better. Tucky Buzzards’ ‘Can’t Live Without It’ bears much similarity to a typical Stones’ tribute band; not that that’s a bad thing. ‘Blowing a Million’ by National Flag reminds us that there’s no stopping at a red light in classic rock. “When somebody showed you how to walk, you ran…” ‘Monster in Paradise’ by Hard Stuff gets the blood boiling with truculent prog. rock stretches; smartly arranged. “Shut your mouth, close your eyes and run.” ‘Black Sheep of the Family’ by Fat Mattress— “My future’s in the bottom of a teacup” and other such sundry lines kept me fully inspired. ‘Life is a Minestrone’ by 10cc is an imaginative cinemascope with zany accoutrements and angelic vocals. I enjoyed the linguistic contrasts: “I’m like a gourmet in a skid-row diner.” ‘Dream Kid’ by the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver makes for some easy-listening. In complete contrast comes the fierce vocalizing in ‘Got a Bad Leg’ by Smokestack Crumble. ‘Fever’ by the Winkies is a creative remake of the Peggy Lee favourite, which vibrantly places electronic riffs over the male/female vocals in the refrain. Mott the Hoople’s ‘Ready for Love’ has always retained a grace and simplicity, yet a real sense of urgency. The nuances include blasts of horn, flashy keys and an extended guitar solo that left me breathless. ‘My Oh My’ by Sad Café bridges the gap between blues and folk. It’s a slice-of-life with attitude. ‘Jack O’ Lantern’ by Babe Ruth has vitality and a highly original flavour. The project’s grand finale, ‘God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll to you’ could not have been better chosen: Rod Argent, one of rock’s most underappreciated arrangers, does not disappoint. This is an all-consuming closer, with an epic message of optimism plus ample room for all players to shine. I really had fun listening to this diverse three-disc set. And after having done so, I came to realize how resilient some of our favourite bands really were.



Track Listing:-
1 LONG LIVE ROCK’N’ROLL – Rainbow
2 EASY LIVIN’ – Uriah Heep
3 I’M JUST A SINGER (IN A ROCK AND ROLL BAND) – The Moody Blues
4 I WOULDN’T WANT TO BE LIKE YOU – The Alan Parsons Project
5 SLOW RIDE (single version) – Foghat
6 CATCH YOU ON THE REBOP – Spencer Davis Group
7 I CAN’T EXPLAIN (album version) – Yvonne Elliman
8 CINDY INCIDENTALLY – Faces
9 ROBERT’S BOX – Procol Harum
10 STANDING IN THE ROAD – Blackfoot Sue
11 BACK TO THE WALL – Medicine Head
12 SUCCESS STORY – The Who
13 BLACK CLOUD – Trapeze
14 HOLD OUT YOUR HAND – Chris Squire
15 SPIRITS IN THE NIGHT – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
16 THE BOSTON TEA PARTY – The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
17 BUNGLE IN THE JUNGLE – Jethro Tull
18 CLEVER FOOL – Agnes Strange
19 SHE’S RIDIN’ THE ROCK MACHINE (single version) – Fancy
20 ACTION (single version) – Sweet
21 FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME – Foreigner
22 THIS FLIGHT TONIGHT – Nazareth
23 WISHING WELL – Free
24 OUT OF YOUR HEAD – Man
25 MY FRIEND PETER – Strawbs
26 QUARK, STRANGENESS AND CHARM – Hawkwind
27 ACE SUPREME (single version) – Silverhead
28 MYSTERY SONG (album version) – Status Quo
29 U.H.F. – Curved Air
30 BABY I NEED – Magnum
31 SHOWDOWN – Electric Light Orchestra
32 MOMMA’S BOY – City Boy
33 THE 1959 ROCK’N’ROLL BOP – Duffy
34 HOODLUM FUN – Rococo
35 ONLY AFTER DARK – Mick Ronson
36 STRADDLE – Strider
37 MOVE IT – Stray
38 ICE COLD DICK – Bullfrog
39 SHOELACE – Maggot
40 LUCKY MAN – Emerson Lake & Palmer
41 STREET LIFE – Roxy Music
42 MAID IN HEAVEN – Be-Bop Deluxe
43 DEVIL’S ANSWER (US album version) – Atomic Rooster
44 IN MY OWN TIME – Family
45 GET MY ROCKS OFF – Dana Gillespie
46 NEW YORK GROOVE – Hello
47 JAILBREAK – Thin Lizzy
48 CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT – Tucky Buzzard
49 BLOWING A MILLION – National Flag
50 MONSTER IN PARADISE – Hard Stuff + 9 Others



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