I clearly remember reading the shock headline in 1972: 'ROY WOOD QUITS ELO'! As a major fan, I was devastated. What would his next 'move' (ha ha) be, I wondered? A few months later, the first Wizzard 45, 'Ball Park Incident', appeared, reminding me of The Move at their most raucous. In retrospect it was a taster of things to come...six album tracks making optimum use of a large and diverse line-up, and no limits when it came to musical policy (jazz, marching band, 50s Rock n' Roll, it was all fair game).
This album seems to pick up from where the 'heavier' Move of 1969-70 left off, which is just fine by me. 'Wizzard Brew' was far more about dense workouts than the Spectoresque feel of those brilliant hit singles. "Meet Me At The Jailhouse', for example, runs for 13 minutes, and will either make your spine tingle, or leave you reeling in shock ! Grinding cellos, Roy's amazing, Hendrixy lead guitar and banks of saxophones, sometimes pushed though a synthesizer...brilliant, weird and totally awsome. However, if you think you might prefer the relative sanity of the hit singles, they've now been added to the album, so you can't possibly lose.
This has always been one of my favourite Roy Wood albums, sounding as fresh and daring today as it did over thirty years ago.
1. Terrific songs. 2. It is so weird! Instruments appear and disappear. Hanging around just to play a few notes or perform a quick solo. 3. So much going on in every track, it NEVER gets boring. 4. The mix is so murky and dense. Sounds like 20 or so people are all in the same room playing at the same time! 5. Roy really gives it some when he is singing, he SCREAMS them out. 6. Its bloody good. 7. Loads of top bonus tracks on this.
I bought this LP when it first came out and was a bit taken aback by it. Now I have it in digital format and it remains one of the very few rock albums that I can play over and over. It has excellent musicianship from start to finish for starters. But something not quite right is going on, the Wizzard, Mr Wood has taken rock'n'roll and rock in particular and done something unnatural to them. Nothing is quite as you expect it, from the driving beats that suddenly get replaced by a bit of cello or sax to the bizarre WWI marching song 'Jolly Cup of Tea'. Brontosaurus beats arrive and depart to allow boogie-woogie its place in the sun. It's an amazing piece of work that would probably have been more popular with the rock and prog-rock mob if they had been able to see past the Top of the Pops performances of Wizzard's singles and their own pomposity. They didn't though and it was their loss. Brew has weak points though. The production is patchy with tracks sounding like they were spliced together from different sessions (this is a bit of a Roy Wood weakness because he uses so many different instruments). The lyrics aren't always up to scratch either (you'll sing them anyway, but cringe as you do). But somehow you can forgive all this just to hear a very unusual album that blends rock, prog-rock, boogie-woogie, ballad, jazz and er, Oh what a lovely war.
Roy Wood let his considerable hair down here, and created a weird and wonderfully eclectic melting pot, with guitars combined with saxophones and cellos, to produce a cacophonous menu that includes rock 'n' roll, doo-wop, jazz, and even a military march!
This album was certainly a big change when compared to Roy Wood's more familiar hit single formula, and was a big shock for many of his fans, including myself, but after a few listens I soon fell in love with it. The second track "Meet Me At The Jailhouse" opens with a powerful guitar riff before confronting the listener with a pair of duelling saxophones.
The next track certainly caught me off guard when I first heard it, opening with sgt major-style barked orders, we are then in the midst of a Sousa influenced march, with the 2-minute "Jolly Cup Of Tea". If I had to pick a favourite track it would have to be "Wear A Fast Gun", a slower composition with a melancholy feel, which features a lovely verse and chorus, the closing stages of this 9-minute track features a verse of "Abide With Me".
On first listen, this album may sound a bit too raucous and off the wall, but with repeated playback I found it all came together to produce a very rewarding listening experience, which I've been enjoying since I first heard it back in 1974. The bonus tracks are a collection of more conventional Roy Wood material, a selection of hits and B-sides, including the 70's hits "Ball Park Incident", "Angel Fingers", "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday", and "See My Baby Jive", which I seem to recall going straight to number one in 1973.
I first bought this album on vinyl upon its release in 1973 on the strength of the sterling work that Roy Wood had done with ELO (who he co-founded with Jeff Lynne) and The Move before that. Indeed, traces of the wonderful experimental, prog-classic rock of ELO's debut can be heard on some of the tracks within, notably "Wear A Fast Gun".
The rock 'n' roll based tracks transcend from mere Showaddywaddy tribute treatment to an exciting blend of 50s pastiche and psychedelia. However, the best track is the 13-minute classic that is "Meet Me At The Jailhouse". I would describe it as prog-jazz-metal but there is more here besides. Its hard rock riff underpins some wonderful brass and changes in time signatures to keep you interested right to the very last fading cello.
And then there are the bonus tracks. What a collection. The nod-to-Zeppelin "You Got The Jump On Me", the jazzy "Bend Over Beethoven" and the harpsichord-dominated "The Carlsberg Special" are tracks I never get sick of listening to - and they sound much better than my scratchy vinyl 7" b-sides! However, I could do without the inclusion of their A-sides ("Ball Park Incident" aside) as these tracks represent the familiar, commercial side of Wizzard. I always preferred their b-sides and this album, a collection of music that is organically brilliant and criminally underrated.
I reckon everyone knows by now that this isn't an album full of hit singles! I've nothing to add to previous comments and I'm not going to go down the road of pretentiousness that some "reviewers" do. Suffice to say that even as a teenager I knew Roy Wood wasn't the most orthodox of writers/musicians. Whilst my school pals were into "Deep Purple In Rock" and the like, I couldn't understand why they couldn't see the formulaic approach to the music the were listening to (no offence to Deep Purple fans intended!) and appreciate this revolutionary approach to music (well, that's how I saw it - and still do!). This is an album full of everything you wouldn't expect and it still sounds great all these years later. Be warned, though, it might not be everyone's (jolly) cup of tea!
This is a fascinating CD to revisit. Wizzard was Roy Wood's post Electric Light Orchestra Project, and it was released after the success of a couple of singles - "Ball Park Incident" and "See My Baby Jive". These were admittedly "heavy" in some respects, but Wood's in-built pop sensibility showed through nonetheless, and they both ended up high in the charts. In retrospect, there are hints in these two singles of what was to come on the album, but it did nothing to prepare me for the shock when I bought Wizzard Brew in March 1973, lured by the singles and by the splendid cover. In those days buying a record was a fairly big investment, and for me the guilt factor of money not wisely spent soon kicked if I didn't immediately like what I heard.
The opening track "You Can Dance the Rock and Roll" takes us straight away into very hardcore guitar rock territory, and then turns disconcertingly to dissonant free jazz for the second track, "Meet me at the Jail House", with its extended passages for savage saxophones at the opening and closing. After that, another complete contrast: "Jolly Cup of Tea" is a Sousa-like piece for brass band, massed male voices and whistling that might easily have been recorded by the Bonzo Dog Do Dah Band, or the Beatles in "Yellow Submarine" mode. Roy also gets out his 1950s Elvis Presley rock and roll impersonation on "Gotta Crush (About You)" complete with anarchic instrumental interpolations.
The one track I did latch onto at the time was more in Wood's epic melodic style, familiar from the Move and (particularly) ELO. "Wear a Fast Gun" is still the album's highlight for me with its accessible pop melody mixed with florid classical horn solo lines and everything-but-the kitchen sink orchestration. Best of all is the lengthy coda where the hymn "Abide with Me" is introduced as a counter melody to powerful effect, either side of an elegiac orchestral interlude led by the cellos.
Those who buy the CD version nowadays get extra tracks - the four Wizzard hit singles plus the intriguing "Ball Park Incident" instrumental B-side called "The Carlsberg Special (Pianos Demolished)". As if the original music on Wizzard Brew wasn't diverse enough, the CD now ends with the pop novelty classic "I Wish It Could be Christmas Everyday" - arguably one of the catchiest songs of all time, though still featuring massed horns, children's choirs and whatever other instruments Roy Wood had to hand.