Saturday, June 24, 2017


Following my attempts at finding songs which I loved as a youth, I turned my attention to the third Island Records sampler, 'Bumpers', which was released towards the end of 1970. Almost all of the acts who appeared on 'Nice enough to eat' returned to this album, but as several acts had spawned offspring, Island now had enough acts to fill a double album. I was familiar with most of the groups who appeared here, but there were some curiosities which I enjoyed but never followed up on (probably because of budgetary reasons although also as these groups didn't perform in Bristol and I was turning towards folk music).

Whilst researching this blog entry, I came across someone else's blog which covers the entire double album, giving a certain amount of information about every track along with lyrics. There wasn't much information which was new to me, but it's always interesting to read another take on the same record. The collected lyrics are worthy. I remember that the Blodwyn Pig track had a different vocal mix to the one found on its parent album; this factoid is not mentioned.

The first song which I tracked down is "Island", by Renaissance; it quite amused me at the time that they had a song referencing their record company. This group also recorded a song called 'The sea', which possesses the same name as a song by Sandy Denny on the contemporary Fotheringay album: two different songs with the same name. I was able to find the entire album as well as various histories of this group: after their eponymous debut album from which this song is taken, the group split and the name laid dormant for a year or so until another line-up formed and eventually became quite successful. I've been listening on and off to the album over the past few weeks but can't say that I find it compelling.

The other track which caught my interest was "Reaching out on all sides" by jazz-rock group If. The riff of this song stuck in my memory and I often used to play it in order to check the tuning of my guitar. It took me many years to realise that the riff is in 7/4 time. Youtube has the entire album available; again, after listening to it on and off for some weeks, this opening track is the only one which I like to hear. This is a masterpiece of dynamics: maintaining the 7/4 rhythm throughout, the arrangement moves though various sections, highlighting different instruments in the group.

The Bumpers blog contains the following description of the song (which is attributed to Jim Newsom; I read it elsewhere on the Internet but can't find the original at the moment): The song opens quietly, a lone guitar playing a gentle, bluesy intro that becomes a repeating riff in 7/4 time. Hodkinson's vocal arrives, with the first couple of verses accompanied only by the electric guitar floating atop barely audible organ chords. The saxophones appear playing a complementary pattern as the bass guitar and drums sneak into the mix. The song builds for a couple of minutes, the odd-metered rhythm becoming more insistent. Then the guitarist's riff turns into a sizzling two-minute solo flight over smoldering organ, bass and drums. When the horns reemerge to resume their earlier pattern, vocalist Hodkinson returns to take the song to its lyrical climax. Saxophones, organ and guitar build to a climax, until guitarist Smith is left alone for the denouement. I especially like the short passage between the second and third verses.

So, in retrospect, it's just as well that I didn't follow up on these songs then as I wouldn't have enjoyed their parent albums.

Bonus material: I was listening to 'Reaching out on all sides' whilst writing this. When it finished, Youtube then played a song called 'Listen' by Chicago. I have no recollection whatsoever of ever having heard this song, although I do recall that someone at my youth club had a copy of their first album (when they were still called 'Chicago Transit Authority'). The bass line of this song is identical to the tune of a very early song of mine, which was never written down. Did I 'quote' this bass line? I have no idea.

No comments: