Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Affinity - 1970 - Affinity


01. I am and so are you (3:31)
02. Night flight (7:15)
03. I wonder if I care as much (3:20)
04. Mr. Joy (5:02)
05. Three sisters (4:57)
06. Cocoanut grove (2:35)
07. All along the watchtower (11:36)

Bonus tracks on Angel Air re-issue (2002):
08. Eli's coming (3:32)
09. United states of mind (2:49)
10. Yes Man (7:25)
11. If You Live (3:15)
12. I Am The Walrus (4:08)
13. You Met Your Match (3:03)
14. Long Voyage (4:18)
15. Little Lonely Man (3:58)

- Mo Foster / bass, bass (electric)
- Linda Hoyle / vocals
- Mike Jupp / guitar, guitar (electric), guitar (12 String)
- Lynton Naiff / piano, harpsichord, piano (electric), vibraphone
- Grant Serpell / percussion, drums

Like many bands riding on the crest of the jazz-rock wave in the early '70s, AFFINITY released one album and were just getting their footing when they decided to split up, despite the album being well received by the critics. They were fronted by Lynda Hoyle, a powerful vocalist who sounds like a cross between Carol King and Julie Driscoll. The other band members were Mo Foster (bass), Mike Jupp (electric and 12-string guitars), Lynton Naiff (keyboards) and Grant Serpell (drums and percussion). Basically, their music is an eclectic mixture of a blues-rock with jazz, pop and folk influences as well as some rudiments of early '70s psychedelia. Their sound is very brassy and the Hammond organ omnipresent, the overall product sounding very progressive for its day.

Issued in 1970, their only official (self-titled) album shows much variety as well as plenty of soloing. As the excellent sound, musicianship and production will attest, it is a superb achievement for the times. Their material has since been reissued on different cd's, some featuring studio demos and full-band rehearsals. One of them is made up entirely of live instrumentals, recorded at a time when vocalist Linda Hoyle was temporarily hospitalized for a vocal chord operation, leaving the rest of the band on their own.

With horn-based rock bands like Blood, Sweat and Tears, Chase and Chicago enjoying massive late-1960s commercial successes, it was only naturally that record companies all over the world would begin signing any group of folks holding brass instruments.  If nothing else, statistics would dictate that on occasion someone with actual talent would get signed to a recording deal and in this instance the Vertigo label had the numbers on their side.  (Paramount acquired US distribution rights.)

Affinity traces its roots back to the mid-1960s when Lynton Naiff, Nick Nicholas and Grant Serpell met while attending Sussex University.  The three discovered a common interest in jazz, forming The US Jazz Trio.  When Serpell graduated fellow student Mo Foster took over the drums.  Graduating themselves, Naiff and Serpell recorded a pair of singles with the Sussex-based pop outfit Ice, before deciding to return to a more jazz-oriented sound.  Auditions added English teacher/singer Linda Hoyle and  former Tridents guitarist Mike Jopp to the fold (Jopp had previously replaced Jeff Beck in The Tridents).  Jopp's addition had another benefit in that his father agreed to finance the purchase of instruments for the group.

With their line up in place the band spent several month rehearsing and settling on the name Affinity.  They made their public debut at a October 1968 performance at Ronnie Scott's London Revolution Club.  Scott signed them on as house band and quickly became their manager.

Showcasing the talents of bassist Mo Foster, singer Linda Hoyle, guitarist Mike Jopp, keyboard player Lynton Naiff and former Ice drummer Grant Serpell, 1970's John Anthony produced "Affinity" is actually pretty entertaining.  It's far better than the critics careless 'jazz rock' label would have you expect and while the horns undoubtedly put off  lots of potential listeners, they're kept largely under control throughout the seven tracks.  Instead the primary focus was on the attractive and talent Ms. Hoyle and to a lesser degree Naiff's keyboards (betcha thought I was going to say 'Naiff's organ') and Jopp's tasty guitar (check out his work on 'Three Sisters').  That's not to say I don't understand where the critics were coming from.  Musically the collection shared some common ground with the likes of Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll, though thankfully without the irritating jazz influences favored by the former.  I've also read comparisons to Grace Slick and the Jefferson Airplane though I don't really hear it.  Hoyle certainly had a nice voice that shared the same crystalline delivery, but anyone expecting to hear West Coast-styled psych would be grossly disappointed by these measured performances.  So what are the highlights?  Well, to my ears Hoyle and company were at their best on the more focused, rock-oriented tracks like 'I Am and So Are You' and 'Night Flight'.  On the downside, they turn in one of the worst Hendrix-does-Dylan covers I've ever heard (a seemingly endless 'All Along the Watchtower').   Vertigo also tapped the album for a UK-only single: 1970's 'I Wonder If I Care As Much' b/w 'Three Sisters' (Vertigo catalog number 6059 007).

"Affinity" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) I Am and So Are You  (Alan Hull) - 3:30
2.) Night Flight  (Mike Jopp - Linda Hoille) - 7:15
3.) I Wonder If I Care As Much   (Don Everly - Phil Everly) - 3:19
4.) Mr. Joy   (A. Peacock) - 5:03

(side 2)
1.) Three Sisters   (Lynton Naiff -Linda Hoyle) - 4:56
2.) Cocoanut Grove (sic)   (John Sebastian - Zal Yanovsky) - 2:45
3.) All Along the Watchtower   (Bob Dylan) - 11:37

Credited to Linda Hoyle and Affinity, there's also a 1970 English non-LP single: 'Eli's Coming' b/w 'United States Of Mind' (Vertigo catalog number 6059 018). 

Having begun sessions for a follow-on album and an American tour, in early 1971 Hoyle and Naiff both handing in their resignations.  

The survivors subsequently recruited ex-Principal Edwards Magic Theatre singer Vivienne McAuliffe and former Tornados keyboardist Dave Watts as replacements.  The new line recorded some demos and actively toured, but didn't release another effort until some thirty years later when the small Angel label reissued the original LP with the inclusion of the single and five previously unreleased tracks, including two new instrumentals recorded by Foster and Jupp ("Affinity 1971 - 1972" - Angel catalog number SPJCD145). 

 AFFINITY's self-titled album from 1970 is one of the best English progressive albums ever. This album has been available on CD before, but this new Angel Air edition contains no less than 8 bonus tracks. The original LP was released on the well-known Vertigo label, which at the time were one of the most interesting labels for progressive rock. The value of the original LP has reached £100.
Their music is a blend of blues, jazz-rock and progressive rock with lots of nice Hammond organ. The band had a fantastic female vocalist in Linda Hoyle. AFFINITY started writing for a second album, but in January 1971 Linda left the band and that was the end for the whole band.
If you're into 70's progressive rock this album should have its given place in your collection, and if you haven't already got it you should buy it immediately.

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