Friday, April 14, 2017

Gravy Train - 1970 - Gravy Train

Gravy Train 
1970 
Gravy Train



01. The New One (5:11)
02. Dedication To Sid (7:21)
03. Coast Road (6:46)
04. Enterprise (6:20)
05. Think Of Life (5:07)
06. Earl Of Pocket Nook (16:15)

- Norman Barrett / guitar, vocals
- Barry Davenport / drums
- J.D. Hughes / flute, alto & tenor saxes, vocals
- Lester Williams / bass, vocals


 Gravy Train's self-titled debut is a compelling slab of late 60s progressive blues-rock. Defined mainly by the fabulous flute of J.D. Hughes and the theatrical vocals of Norman Barrett, this record will remind you of early Jethro Tull (that first incarnation in which Anderson and Abrahams tussled for control of the band). Whether one deems it an essential part of the prog adventure will indeed depend on whether one has just a passing interest in, or is thoroughly fascinated by, the raw experiments in music making that foreshadowed prog rock's golden age.
After taking a moment or two to get into stride, The New One explodes into an eerie jazz-inflected extravaganza, "Tell me where you're going" screams Barrett, and believe me, you'll want to know. Dedication To Syd may conatain a Pink Floyd reference in its title, but while it takes a few journeys from flute-driven blues-rock to Traffic-style psychedelia, none of it is particularly Floydian, least of all Barrett's vocals which sound like an audition for a part in Jesus Christ Superstar!

The leaden blues of Coast Road is the weakest track here, and even some nice fuzz guitar colouring doesn't make up for the lack of ideas. Thankfully, the fun resumes with the psychedelic swirls of Enterprise, which suddenly becomes a real dark stomping track. Think Of Life too starts off with a riff of monstrous power and allure, but loses its way just a tad as the song stretches out. Ultimately though, the album's "prog-quotient" probably hinges on the closer Earl Of Pocket Nook which runs for over 16 minutes. It's an exciting, oft-ramshackle hard rocking stew, in which Barrett's guitar and Hughes' sax (he occassionally plays simultaneous alto and tenor!) take turns to lead the parade, but despite the shifting moods, the end result is often "just" improvised blues-rock and as such, is unlikely to be everyone's cup of tea.

Indeed, to many this record will bear the dated feel of the late 60s progressive blues scene but therein lies its allure as far as yours truly is concerned. It's certainly not the most crucial stop one can make ... Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, The Nice, East Of Eden and Colosseum all made more exciting proto-prog records, but this isn't bad at all.

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