måndag 25 januari 2010

Steamhammer - MK II (Deras 2a Album UK 1969)




230:- (24-Bit Limited Remaster Edition. Utgången utgåva sedan 2010.)

Not selling as many records as they had hoped, Steamhammer nevertheless became a top European open-air attraction, mainly due to their excellent live performance. For over two hours each night they would provide instrumental improvisations, exemplarised by the guitar work of Martin Pugh and the harmonica of Kieran White. In summer 1969, Martin Quittenton left the band, followed by drummer Michael Rushton. They were replaced by Steve Jolliffe (saxophone, flute) and Mick Bradley (drums).

Jollife's feel for precise arrangements and jazz influences especially inspired the recording of this second Mk II album. Going beyond the boundaries of traditional blues forms, the band members applied their musical creativity and imagination without the need for technical trickery.

The second version of the British combo Steamhammer released its first LP utilizing the talents of Steve Davy (bass), Martin Pugh (guitars), and Kieran White (vocals/guitar/harmonica/Jew's harp) from the original band as well as new recruits Steve Jolliffe (woodwind/brass/harpsichord/vocals) and Mick Bradley (drums). It was the blues that initially drove the combo on its debut long-player, Reflection (1969), likewise known as Junior's Wailing. This lineup adds more exploratory and intricate melodies, courtesy of the multi-instrumental talents and sonic sculpting of future Tangerine Dream member Jolliffe. 


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While this version of the band would not remain past this album, its unique fusion would arguably peak on Mountains (1970), the follow-up to MK II (1969). There are definite shapes of things to come throughout this effort, thanks to the aggressive interaction of the new recruits. They immediately step up to the plate, providing a variety of interesting melodic and instrumental textures. These range from the full-speed gallop of Jolliffe's "Johnny Carl Morton" or the Baroque waltz "Turn Around" — both of which are punctuated by some prominent harpsichord interjections reminiscent of other U.K. progressive groups such as Family and Blossom Toes.

Pugh's guitar work is another of the band's conspicuous assets, as he is able to fluidly waft between the acoustic romanticism of the diminutive "Sunset Chase" to the bluesy and tongue-in-cheek "Contemporary Chick Con Song." The latter track includes a stretched-out instrumental jam that captures Pugh's criminally underrated electric fretwork. Steamhammer's various and seemingly disparate musical elements coalesce on the manic "6/8 for Amiran." They blend the complexities inherent in the time signature with a tightly executed and churning blues — much in the same way that early Jethro Tull was able to do on sides such as "Nothing Is Easy" or "For Our Mothers." The second side consists of a suite containing "Down Along the Grove," "Another Travelling Tune," and "Fran and Dee Take a Ride." This 16-plus minute epic allows Steamhammer to improvise and stretch out. The open structure makes room for the various musical styles to be thoroughly explored with more intricacy than a majority of the three- and four-minute tunes. The double lead electric guitars, courtesy of the song's co-authors, Pugh and White, blend well with Jolliffe's jazzy sax and flute improvisations. Enthusiasts are encouraged not only to seek this platter, but the Mountains (1970) follow-up as well.

01.Supposed to Be Free
02.Johnny Carl Morton
03.Sunset Chase
04.Contemporary Chick Con Song
05.Turn Around
06.6/8 for Amiran
07.Passing Through
08.Down Along the Grove
09.Another Travelling Tune
10.Fran and Dee Take a Ride