Following fast in the wake of Fearless, comes a remastered edition of Family’s follow-up album, Bandstand, this time with only ten bonus tracks, but they were apparently in the States playing on bills with the likes of Elton John so no doubt couldn’t fit in as many BBC Radio sessions.
Originally released in September 1972, vocalist Roger Chapman, guitarist John ‘Charlie’ Whitney, drummer Rob Townsend, bassist and vocalist John Wetton and multi-instrumentalist John ‘Poli’ Palmer gathered again for what’s generally considered a more mainstream album than the schizophrenic genre-hopping proto-prog rock of previous records. This edition comes with fully restored artwork and a new essay.
Many first time buyers are likely to purchase this having heard the singles ‘Burlesque’ and ‘My Friend Sun’ in the years since their first release. The former reached #13 in the UK charts, the latter faired less successfully, but their stature seems to have grown, becoming more familiar tunes now than countless one-hit wonders.
‘Burlesque’ opens the album in fine form. Lurching and sliding slowly, an easy-does-it bump ‘n grind kind-of-funky but slow rocking number. Hindsight tends to make me look on this as a kind of ‘Sat’d’y Barfly’ from Fearless Part 2 in hindsight, as Chapman relates a fun night out on the tiles with “Rita and Greta” while coyly revealing his true intent is to be with another. The three-way musical counterpointing going on from Wettton’s wobbly, almost reggae rather-than-funk bass line, Whitney’s sharpened guitar riff (often doubled by Chapman on soprano sax) and Townsend’s snare drum so deceptively simple until you really listen to the way they perform together. A song that leaves a quiet smile on your face.
By contrast, ‘Bolero Babe’ is primarily a folk rocking number, and what Chapman’s singing about is anyone’s guess frankly; possibly toting on illegal substances and watching the world go by. It’s Palmer’s synthesisers that you’re here for, a lovely sheen of space rock with Wetton’s bass bubbling in a Canterbury-style prog manner underneath, all emphasised by one Del Newman’s string arrangements that pre-empt Deodato’s orchestral disco hit ‘Also Sprach Zarathrustra’ by two years. The piano led ‘Coronation’ once more features Chapman’s penchant for throwing in characters that grab our attention, and here “Dr. Sam going in next door and Jenny laughing on the phone” leave us intrigued as to their life stories outside the three minutes plus song. It’s like one of those classic Play for Today television kitchen sink dramas committed to music, being about someone living in a rundown flat and those he can hear beyond his four walls. Not as depressing or melancholy as one might think but a long way from the frivolity of, say, Rising Damp.
The quiet voicing’s of ‘Dark Eyes’ and it’s all too brief flute solo from co-writer Palmer is a signpost on the wall for early Genesis to carry forward. Continuing to predict the music scene for two years hence we get speedily rhythmed guitars, a squeaking synthesiser and a female singer, only it’s not ‘Nutbush City Limits’ but ‘Broken Nose’ where Linda Lewis joins Chapman on the choruses (Wetton less apparent vocally on this album) where, thankfully, the theme is about some “posh totty” and her “stuck-up nose” to use the parlance of the times, rather than any physical violence being implied. Lewis actually covered ‘My Friend The Sun’ herself on her own album, and the gorgeously uplifting acoustic number is one of the band’s career highlights.
Wetton’s bass, followed by Palmer’s piano, give the impression that a jazz torch sung will ensue in the opening bars of ‘Glove’ as Chapman sings of a chance meeting with a woman who’s dropped her glove and the ensuing chivalric courting acts that take place. The band, alongside a string section, kick in beefing the number up, and Whitney – who’s been relatively restrained on the album thus far – lets rip with some gorgeous soling that continues throughout, Chapman’s voice and the violins swirling around it right through to its climax.
‘Ready To Go’ fires back arrows at those in the weekly music papers of the time who put them wherein the band make soulful progressive sounds on a number that by other hands might be termed proto-yacht rock. Final number ‘Top Of The Hill’ builds slowly, Whitney’s guitar crashing in and the whole thing moving with force between gentler sections as Chapman warns that when the going’s good how wary you should be of those praising you. It proves a worthy conclusion to the original album, features Palmer’s vibes more prominently and how a string section could work so well with the core group (as distinct from the various bass players who doubled on violin and viola).
As bonus tracks, we get ‘The Rockin’ Rs’ – The B-Side to a single but which I’m unaware – It’s an old time rock ‘n roller with soul on the side with some playful electric piano. We also get first takes of that track, alongside album cuts recorded at Olympic studios in May 1972. There’s a naturally echoed, looser but more intimate rationale to them with ‘My Friend The Sun’ sung with concern for the future whereas the finished article declares good times are just around the corner.
I get the impression Wetton left to join King Crimson before the actual release of Bandstand, and Poli Palmer would leave by the end of the year, meaning it’s him on the BBC sessions for Bob Harris recorded in October, and presumably Jim Cregan is playing bass. The tracks, again, all from Fearless, a live but tight feel to each.
As an album Fearless didn’t feature a bad track, the diversity of musicality on offer shared between songs rather than the band sticking as many eggs in basket, or song as they could, and each of those tracks flowed well one to another as an album should. That the bonus tracks often offer genuine different perspectives worth listening to for their own sakes, not simply for comparison.
- Review by Paul H Birch.
Bandstand is released via Cherry Red Records On 24th November 2023.
- Bolero Babe
- Dark Eyes
- Broken Nose
- My Friend The Sun
- Ready to Go
- Top Of The Hill
- The Rockin’ Rs (B-Side of single)
- Coronation (First version – Olympic Studios May 1972)
- My Friend the Sun (First version – Olympic Studios May 1972)
- Glove (First version – Olympic Studios May 1972)
- The Rockin’ Rs (First version – Olympic Studios May 1972)
- Ready to Go (BBC Session October 1972)
- Dark Eyes (BBC Session October 1972)
- Burlesque (BBC Session October 1972)
- My Friend the Sun (BBC Session October 1972)
- Coronation (BBC Session October 1972)