Saturday, February 7, 2015

Aviator - 1979 - Aviator


01. Your Loving Is My Home (3:30)
02. Keep Your Heart Right (6:21)
03. Evil Eye (3:20)
04. Time Traveller (2:59)
05. Silver Needles (6:07)
06. Cleveland Ohio (5:01)
07. Country Morning (6:14)
08. Greed (3:02)
09. Morning Journey (6:58)

- Clive Bunker / drums
- Jack Lancaster / winds
- Mick Rogers / guitars, vocals
- John G. Perry / bass

AVIATOR was founded in 1978 by Jack Lancaster (saxophone, flute, lyricon, synthesizer) and Mick Rogers (guitar & lead vocals) with the copilotes Clive Bunker (drums) and John G. Perry (bass & vocals). All four musicians already had an impressive background in different bands. Jack Lancaster had played with: BLODWYN PIG, the MICK ABRAHAMS BAND and the SOUL SEARCHERS, Mick Rogers with: MANFRED MANN'S EARTHBAND, Clive Bunker with: JETHRO TULL, BLODWYN PIG and STEVE HILLAGE, John G. Perry with: CARAVAN and QUANTUM JUMP. They played a mixture of straightforward Rock songs alternating with instrumental Jazz-Rock passages reminiscing COLOSSEUM and BLODWYN PIG, Jack Lancaster gave the band a typical sound with the lyricon and soprano saxophone. The weak point was Mick Rogers's vocals.

In early 1979 AVIATOR released their first record named "Aviator" on Harvest/Electrola, coproduced by the band and Robin Lumley from BRAND-X. All tracks were cosigned by the band. The tracks are all different ranging from straightforward Rock to Jazz-Rock and Pop. They went then on a European Tour as a support act for Steve HILLAGE and in the summer of 1979 they did some festivals and venues in Germany, where they did also a public broadcast for the famous WDR radio in Cologne. The tape of the show proves what an excellent live band they had been. On stage they showed their talent, especially in the longer instrumental passages. After the tour Jack Lancaster left the band. The remaining trio recorded their second and last record "Turbulence", released in 1980, with the help of Vivienne McAuliffe, Carol Stocker and Betsy Cook on background vocals. Again all tracks but one, a Dylan cover "get your rocks off", were cosigned by the band. It is still a good record, more straightforward Rock, but less interesting without the sound of Lancaster's sax-playing. All four musicians played together again on Lancaster's 1981 Solo Record "Skinningrove Bay". The first record "Aviator" is highly recommended.

Goodness me, I have been trying to get a CD copy of this lost piece of prog glory for such a while now (30 years by last account), my vinyl becoming a sandbox of gritty snap, crackle and pop pebbles. The story of Aviator is a classic scenario of a hugely talented band that wilted under the anti-prog stance of the late 70s, pounded mercilessly into oblivion by a media frenzy dominated by punk and new wave bands. Mick Rogers is , in my humble opinion, the most underrated guitarist in Progland, his contributions to Manfred Mann's Erath Band are stuff of legends (check out his sulfurous axe solos on "Visionary Mountain", "Martha's Madman", "Solar Fire", "Father of Night/Father of Day" and many more) , former Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker is outright legendary , while John G. Perry is , perhaps the most underrated bass player ever, a fretless stylist of great repute (Gordon Giltrap, Anthony Phillips, Caravan and Quantum Jump , plus two magical solo albums). Throw in Jack Lancaster of Blodwyn Pig and Colosseum on sax and lyricon and you have the makings of a prog super group. The artwork on this debut 1979 album (ooh, bad year for prog!) is still among my all-time faves, being an SR-71 Blackbird aficionado. All great ingredients except for the poor timing, this album basically went nowhere, as the demands of the market were clearly anti-prog, which meant more commercial constraints that artists had to follow (ELP, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Gentle Giant and many more were guilty of such outside pressures) and ultimately wound up being counterproductive in every single way.
The set list is comprised of 3 distinct attitudes, the dashingly progressive jewels such as the magnificent "Keep Your Heart Right", the brooding "Country Morning" (sounding a lot like Italian prog/fusion band Nova) and its companion "Morning Journey". These are absolute prog classics that still stand the test of time and are entirely worthy of attention.

Then there are the outright rockers like the exuberant "Silver Needles" and its extended instrumental platform, "Greed" and the brash "Cleveland Ohio" (great loopy synthesizer riff) which veer near Spooky Tooth/Foreigner- like territory, but graced by some monstrous guitar playing.

And finally the poppy in-betweens such as the rambling and jagged opener "Your Loving Is My Home", "Evil Eye" , "Time Traveller" , all positive ear-candy but far from progressive , outside of a few twists and turns that keep things interesting.