Thursday, May 19, 2016

Brand X - 1976 - Unorthodox Behaviour

Brand X
Unorthodox Behaviour

01. Nuclear Burn (6:20)
02. Euthanasia Waltz (5:39)
03. Born Ugly (8:13)
04. Smacks of Euphoric Hysteria (4:26)
05. Unorthodox Behaviour (8:25)
06. Running on Three (4:37)
07. Touch Wood (3:03)

- John Goodsall / electric, acoustic (7) & 12-string acoustic (2) guitars
- Robin Lumley / piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Moog
- Percy Jones / fretless bass, marimba (5), acoustic bass (7)
- Phil Collins / drums, percussion, tambourine, vibes (2)

While Genesis was in a delicate phase, looking for a new frontman and its guitarist was releasing his first solo album (Acolyte), Phil was patiently waiting in the wings and became involved in this project, composed of absolute then-unknown, if it wasn't for maybe Goodsall, whom had a stint with Atomic Rooster. Phil Collins' participation in Brand X will actually play a role in Genesis, since his dabblings into JR/F will guide his choice into hiring both Chester Thompson (Zappa, Weather report) and a tad latter Daryl Struemer (Jean Luc Ponty's group). Obviously when listening to Phil drum works on BX and comparing it with Genesis material, it's quite clear that Phil listened and impregnated himself of Billy Cobham's Spectrum album.

Out of the mists of a post-modern world in Nuclear Burn, rises a guitar that has obviously been influenced by Carlos McLaughlin and the rest of the formation slowly rises from the ashes to become an instant success. Outstanding stuff. The first few seconds of Euthanasia Waltz are again reminiscent of Caravanserai, but Goodsall's acoustic strumming saves it and allow Lumley's Rhodes and Jones' ultra bass to shine. The following track's name the ultra-funky Born Ugly cannot possibly be talking about itself because it is one of the best electric piano-led funk-fusion pieces, courtesy of Lumley's Rhodes, but Goodsall's guitar does more than its share. It could've been an RTF track on their No Mystery album, Lumley's piano style certainly aiming at Corea's, while Jones's usual Jaco-esque game is replaced by a Stanley Clarke slapping play. Out of the deep vinyl groove, comes Euphoric Hysteria, which hesitates between Mahavishnu and Santana, before deciding neither with Lumley's disputable synth sound. The title track is slowly emerging a clock-like rhythm and a rounded bass and the two spend their time twisting about your eardrums and diddle with your sanity, slowly deconstructing its propos. Not exactly a winner, but it shows another facet of the group for albums to come. Running Of Three returns to the influence of Carlos McL and if it wasn't needlessly "flamboyant", you could imagine yourself on my jazz-rock reference Caravanserai. The short and soft Touch Wood is a calm ending to a fiery album: a fitting outro.

A classic fusion album of the times but the real interest is that, as opposed to contemporary groups such as Return To Forever, Spiro Gyra, Weather Report or even JL Ponty, this had a definitely English twist to it and it was a welcome change (just like the post-Allen Gong jazz-rock albums are) but this is not really Canterbury-style either although some people have done that amalgam. IMHO, however, the better times for this sort of music had already passed along with the 1st generation groups such as Mahavishnu, Miles Davis, Nucleus, Soft Machine, Mwandishi, etc.... But this one is definitely a gem!

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