Saturday, April 8, 2017

Baker Gurvitz Army - 1975 - Elysian Encounter

Baker Gurvitz Army 
Elysian Encounter

01. People
02. The Key
03. Time
04. The Gambler
05. The Dreamer
06. Remember
07. The Artist
08. The Hustler

- Ginger Baker / Drums
- Paul Gurvitz / Bass
- Adrian Gurvitz / Guitars, vocals
- Snips (Steve Parsons) / Lead vocals
- Peter Lemer / Keyboards

Baker Gurvitz Army produced a trio of noteworthy LP's during the mid-seventies, with this 1975 release the highly-recommended pick-of-the- bunch. Sandwiched between their spiky self-titled debut and the underwhelming commercial rock of 1976's 'Hearts On Fire', the eclesiastically-monikered 'Elysian Encounter' finds this sadly short-lived outfit at their most instrumentally ambitious, toning down the brash rock excess of the group-members previous outfits in favour of a slower, more measured brand of still commercially-viable FM rock that also had half-an-eye on the progressive rock market. All three members had come from much more blues-and-R'n'B-based outfits, with the line- up consisting of Cream drummer Ginger Baker and the brothers Gurvitz, Adrian(vocals, guitar), and Paul(bass), from the hard-rockin' Three Man Army. Adrian Gurvitz seems to be the main man here, his tastefully-displayed lead guitar ranging from cool and detached to hot and smoky, sometimes within the paradigms of the same song, and whilst Baker's forceful drumming sometimes strays into slightly indulgent speed metal mode, his calmer, more thoughtful moments add real atmosphere. The opening salvo of tracks run a smoother course than the later, harder stuff, though opener 'People' runs up quite a head of Humble Pie-style steam. 'The Key' and 'Time' also shower the musicians softer side, with psychedelic-tinged keyboards-and-synths colouring the epic blues-flecked rhythms with just enough artfulness, yet not too much, to keep the material on the accessible side of 1970s rock. Of the later material the slick and carefully-constructed pop-tinged rock 'Remember' is perhaps the most distinguished; the tracks later, faster stages approach the edges of say, early-eighties Boston or Journey, but the syncopated style, soulful vocals and almost- melancholy guitars add a real sheen of originality that separates Baker Gurvitz's intruiging sound from the less-assured rock groups of the era. The group's progressive rock credentials as a whole aren't exactly the strongest, and looser, more bluesy material on 'Elysian Encounter' does tend to ape the likes of Ten Years After or Savoy Brown without replicating those groups rootsy charm. However, the epic rock sound the threesome achieve is something else; it's not quite rock, and it's not quite prog, but it straddles the sonic void in-between without favouring either genre, which is a rare treat indeed. The result is a delightfully-original 1970s sound; slick, groovy, powerful and thoughtful. A very nice surprise indeed.

1 comment: