Saturday, April 8, 2017

Baker Gurvitz Army - 1974 - Baker Gurvitz Army

The Baker Gurvitz Army
The Baker Gurvitz Army

01. Help Me 4:36
02. Love Is 2:47
03. Memory Lane 4:46
04. Inside Of Me 5:33
05. I Wanna Live Again 4:22
06. Mad Jack 7:54
07. 4 Phil 4:25
08. Since Beginning 8:05

- Ginger Baker / Drums
- Paul Gurvitz / Bass
- Adrian Gurvitz / Guitars, vocals

Keyboards, Synthesizer, Vibraphone – John Norman Mitchell

This is the 1st album by the British supergroup Baker Gurvitz Army, which was created when legendary drummer Ginger Baker joined forces with brothers Adrian Gurvitz (guitar) and Paul Gurvitz (bass), known to British proto-Prog fans as the founders of the legendary band Gun. Before the trio was joined by keyboardist and vocalist, they recorded this excellent debut album. These three formidable musicians had enough talent between them to blow any band off the stage, which is clearly evident from what's enclosed here. Both Baker's drumming and Adrian's guitar playing is some of the best ever heard on record. This music simply refuses to fade out and remains to be vibrant and exciting. Play it loud!

In 1974, legendary drummer Ginger Baker (ex-Cream) got together with brothers Paul and Adrian Gurvitz to form the quasi-super group Baker Gurvitz Army. The Gurvitz Brothers had enjoyed fleeting success with The Gun ("Race with the devil") and would later join up with Graeme Edge of the Moody Blues. Aridan also enjoyed solo success with the hit single "Attic".

Adrian takes on the role of principle songwriter here, with Ginger helping out on a few tracks, and the trio assuming collective production duties. This, their début album, was released on the Vertigo label, but was unfortunately too late to be blessed with the legendary swirl logo.

The album consists of eight tracks, roughly split between five shorter ones on side one and three longer ones on side two. The overall mood is of an upbeat rock album with strong pop influences. The opening "Help me" features the synthesisers of guest John Norman B Normal Mitchell (sic) (presumably the unidentified fourth horseman on the front cover illustration) which help to swell out the guitar driven sound somewhat.

Baker's drumming is naturally well forward in the mix, with the frantic instrumental "Love is" being a cross between a drum solo and a dramatic orchestral piece. "Memory lane" is slightly harder with Arthur Brown like echoed vocals and solid guitar riffs. Unfortunately Baker decides to slip in a drum solo to this otherwise mildly exciting song.

Adrian Gurvitz slows things down for "Inside of me", a sort of power blues with some of the best guitar work on the album. This extraordinarily long side (for an LP) closes with the mushy orchestrated soul ballad "I want to live again", complete with female vocal chorus. It is not as bad as it sounds, but somewhat out of place on the album.

The first of the three tracks on side two is the 8 minute "Mad Jack", a fairly prosaic hard rock number with an extended lead guitar jam at its core. There is also a sort of "Hare who lost his spectacles" type spoken section for no apparent reason! The two extended songs on this side are split by "4 Phil", a lighter lead guitar instrumental which, while impressive, doesn't really go anywhere.

The final track is the longest at a shade over 8 minutes. "Since beggining" (that's how it is spelled on the sleeve!) offers some more intricate vocal harmonies to complement a stronger melody. Adrian's characteristic guitar tones are more in evidence here than they are throughout much of the album. For me this is the most accomplished track on the album, a bit muddled at times but pleasingly ambtious.

Overall, a reasonably enjoyable début from the trio, which offers promise more than it actually delivers. At the time of its release, this album would probably have been seen as hard rock rather than prog, but our ever widening definition of our genre means that it now sits comfortably within these confines.

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