No other band on earth quite sounds or sounded like the classic line-up of the Graham Bond Organisation. The combination of definitively cool 60s Hammond organ, Bond's throaty and vaguely malevolent vocals, Heckstall-Smith's fluid sax and of course a great rhythm section set the Organisation apart from their peers. Unlike most of their British R and B contemporaries, the sound wasn't based on guitars, maracas and rave ups, but slow-burning very black sounds closer to jazz and soul than Chicago Blues.
For years, their modest back catalogue (two studio albums, a few singles and a posthumously released live album) lay hidden away, occasionally spotted in a cut out bin or a stray track on a 60s compilation. But "Wade In The Water" solves all this. In four lovingly compiled cds, we have (almost) the complete recorded works of Graham Bond (vocals, organ, alto sax), Jack Bruce (vocals, bass and harmonica), Dick Heckstall-Smith (saxes) and of course Ginger Baker (drums).
The Organisation were a force of nature at their best - although the wildness of their live act was never quite captured on record, "Wade" includes a bunch of hitherto unreleased live takes, hardly pristinely recorded, which give some idea of the band's vision and drive. The studio albums have their moments as well, although a combination of some odd song choices ("Tammy" for one) and not wholly sympathetic production lessens their effect. Then there are intriguing previously unheard oddities like "Johnny Comes Marching Home".
As with many box sets, there are multiple versions of some tracks (the title track weighs in with seven) and perhaps too many early recordings (with Duffy Power for instance), but on the whole this a comprehensive, long-overdue attempt to comprehensively cover one of the most intriguing bands ever. Die hard completists will cavil at the exclusion of the Klooks Kleek live recordings, but they can be easily obtained elsewhere.
All in all, this set is a worthy tribute to a ground-breaking bunch of musical eccentrics - while Bruce and Baker found huge fame and success with The Cream, the GBO are often sadly overlooked. "Wade In The Water" does a fine job of setting that straight.