Saturday, December 3, 2016

After All - 1969 - After All

After All
After All

01. Intangible She 7:12
02. Blue Satin 3:46
03. Nothing Left To Do 7:04
04. And I Will Follow 4:46
05. Let It Fly 4:30
06. Now What Are You Looking For 3:02
07. A Face That Doesn't Matter 4:30
08. Waiting 4:20

Bass, Vocals – Bill Moon
Drums, Vocals – Mark Ellerbee
Guitar – Charles Short
Organ – Alan Gold

Throughout my musical journey my constant goal has been to find music that stands out from the crowd. It is a never-ending exploration that has been extraordinarily satisfying but invariably dissatisfies; where music is often very good but falls short of what I would deem remarkable. Anyone reading this can easily foresee what’s coming and yes, for me, this album does fall into that rarefied category of “lost classic”.

All but one of the songs were co-written by local poet Linda Hargrove and lead vocalist and drummer Mark Ellerbee. The former apparently went on to become a song-writer and performer in Nashville, presumably in the Country and Western genre, whilst the latter, according to other reviewers, sounds like the Blood, Sweat and Tears’ vocalist David Clayton-Thomas. He does, nevertheless, possess a baritone voice of somewhat similar tone to that of The Doors’ Jim Morrison, albeit without the control or finesse. Ellerbee has a bit of a wobble and a certain roughness but it’s a nice voice and one that melds perfectly with the music.

The keyboards of Alan Gold are an equal mix of Hammond organ and grand piano. The Hammond has a lovely tone here, reminiscent of Mark one Deep Purple, whilst the piano is predominantly a mix of a couple of influences/styles, particularly that of Jazz and J.S. Bach. These qualities accentuate the mellow nature of the album and are always of the highest quality and interest.

The rhythm outfit are very good, they also had a background in Jazz and that’s very evident in their style. The guitar work is good, whilst not hitting the quality of the keyboards, again fitting in perfectly with the album’s style and feel.

Their style? If pushed, I'd say late psych, early Proto-prog with a real Jazz sensibility but it's all just a game in semantics. Some tracks are stronger than others but there are certainly no clunkers and overall the album is very laid back with a fantastic groove. Of the latter I cannot stress its importance enough. It’s very mellow without sounding remotely cloying, a charge which could easily be levied at some mellow albums of the period. The most extraordinary factor is the amount of time the band would have had together, either to record or to rehearse the album. According to Ellerbee, they came together, wrote it as a concept, an intentional nod to the vibe of the time, recorded it over a couple of days and then went their separate ways. By all rights it should be a sprawling, incoherent mess. It is anything but and has a maturity that sounds like they had spent a great deal of time and effort over the endeavour. I, for one, would have expected that an album produced under the above circumstances would have been more frenetic and less assured. In their defence and of course to their benefit, they all had a sound and extensive musical pedigree with a couple of them being alumni of the Florida state school of music.

Audio quality: There are many aspects that make this album remarkable, not least the quality of the audio. According to the liner notes, which are brief but at least have authenticity as they are provided by Mark Ellerbee, the amount of studio time allotted to the band was all too brief. The budget was low, in fact they got a freebie from a producer friend.
It was recorded at a time when albums tended towards a stark quality, very different to what the modern ear has come to expect. Here the sound is warm and full, with a bass that is situated perfectly in the mix. Often older albums had the bass placed so far back that it could become all but inaudible, yet here it is on the same level as the other instruments and beautifully clear and deep. On extensive listening the reason for the clarity becomes apparent as this turns out to be a needle-drop, which is often the best way to get a great sound on CD for an older album, especially when the master tapes are likely to be long lost. It is one of the very best needle-drops I have in my possession, with only a small handful of clicks audible. It may have been de-clicked in production but either way, it sounds really good. Crucially, the very best aspect is the mix which sounds like it was done with modern ears in mind; in fact I’d confidently state this has one of the best mixes from the whole of the sixties!
It’s not perfect though, as there is a little studio echo present but that’s a minor quibble.