Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Graham Bond albums, 31 Mar 2011
This review is from: A Solid Bond (Audio CD)
The original vinyl 'gatefold' version of this album includes full notes and details of personnel. Basically, it comprises some early jazz tracks from '63 and some later R&B/rock material from '66. The latter were not released at the time because Graham took the advance from the record company (which was intended to pay for completing the recordings) and blew the lot on expanding his wardrobe of psychedelic robes and fancy boots. Then, with the tapes left in the studio unpaid, off he went to America, before coming back to the UK at the end of the 60s. This album was put together at that time, to presumably try to recoup the lost money! It never sold many copies - Richard Branson was remaindering them in his room above the shoe shop in Oxford Street, I bought my vinyl copy from there.

The original sleeve notes suggested that the band may have lost more than they gained by abandoning the relatively unstructured format of modern-ish jazz for the supposedly more restrictive pulse of rock...but the trouble with that line of argument is that cutting-edge jazz was (and remains) a highly specialised and esoteric area of music, for which the audience was always small and seems to get increasingly marginalised as time passes. Bond would never have been commercially successful going down that jazz path, even if the band had been cutting-edge. And to my non-expert jazz ears, I would say that they were not. So they decided to go commercial. It made sense.

It's sometimes claimed that Graham didn't care about commercial success, but I have never agreed with that view. They were probably the hardest working band on the UK club circuit in the '64 to '67 period, a huge draw wherever they appeared. Geno Washington was about the only performer who could pack the clubs more fully. But as Zoot Money and Geno both discovered, a highly-successful R&B-based club sound did not easily convert into commercial success, either in terms of singles or albums. Graham's music, on the 'Sound of 65' and 'There's a Bond between us' albums was not what the mainstream record buyer wanted. Ironically, his sales-focused 'Tammy' single (which was not considered 'proper' Graham Bond by the critics) actually sounds very good, to my ears at least.

So that background sets the scene for my comments on his recordings from '66, which do not include either Ginger Baker or Jack Bruce, who were of course forming Cream. It seems to me that these tracks have a far more commercial dimension than do the two Graham Bond Organisation albums I've mentioned above. In particular, 'Springtime in the City' really is a great recording, with a truly superb instrumental middle section which is in a highly effective jazz-rock style. Graham's vocals can at times be too strained and intense for many ears, but on this track he sings much more freely, and the track gains a great deal from that. 'Walking in the park' is another excellent track, and fairly similar. Amazingly, one of the very few films of Graham's bands (excluding his stint with Airforce, for which TV recordings exist) is of this very period - his band are included in a nightclub scene in the film 'The Breaking of Bumbo' which featured a very young Joanna Lumley. They're performing 'Springtime in the City' as I recall. Once again, this shows the desire to be commercial.

These '66 tracks are a transition between the slightly earlier club-focused R&B material of the Bruce/Baker period, and his subsequent pair of more pop-styled albums recorded in America not too long after. 'Love is the Law' is the key track from that period - again, it is in a commercial style. Those albums were equally unsuccessful in terms of sales and led directly into his 'magical' period, with the two albums from '70 and '71. These in turn led to Bond and Brown (that album didn't sell either) and his final band 'Magus' with Carolanne Pegg, in which his late 60s/early 70s sound was combined with Pegg's folk-rock violin and vocals. The commercial failure of Magus, which never released any recordings, hurt Graham very badly and doubtless was a major factor in his death shortly afterwards.

So what we have here is an example of Graham's decade-long attempt to achieve commercial success for his exceptional talents, not all of which were restricted to music. He changed styles and band line-ups frequently, always seeking to ride the commercial wave, but he never succeeded in that goal. Of course, most bands never achieve success, so Graham is far from unique in that. But many bands are merely 'OK' when seen on stage, and by compaarison Graham was a remarkable talent. Not many people reading these reviews will have been fortunate enough to see Graham at a gig, in full flight. I saw him lots of times with 'Initiation', 'Magick', 'Bond and Brown', and also as part of the 'Jack Bruce Band'. Graham's albums never really came close to capturing his talent but oddly perhaps, the '66 recordings on 'Solid Bond' (it's not 'A Solid Bond') do seem to capture him more effectively than do most of the others. Especially 'Springtime in the City' and some of the others.

At the ridiculous price that this CD is being sold for, it's an absolute 'must'. The trouble with a lot of these old recordings from so long ago is that they're more use as historical documents than as music that one can actually listen to for pleasure. In my opinion, this isn't one of those - in fact it probably represents his most listenable album, alongside the 1964 live recording from Klooks Kleek. Buy it! Or should I say, buy the pair of them.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Nov 2011 11:03:45 GMT
Lars Wexoee says:
Thanks for setting the record(s) straight. GB may indeed have been a 'madman'. The 'Solid Bond' CD has a certain 'jamming' feeling about it - the bands don't really swing in spite of all talent present. Perhaps understandable in view of the circumstances. I still prefer the studio recordings of 1965 which seem to be a bit more 'controlled'.
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