Friday, April 7, 2017

Keef Hartley - 1970 - The Time Is Near

Keef Hartley Band
The Time Is Near

01. Morning Rain
02. From The Window
03. The Time Is Near
04. You Can't Take It With You
05. Premonition
06. Another Time Another Place
07. Change

Bass – Gary Thain
Drums, Percussion – Keef Hartley
Tenor Saxophone – Jim Jewell
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Henry Lowther
Vocals, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Miller Anderson
Flugelhorn, Trumpet – Dave Caswell
Piano, Organ – Stuart Wicks
Tenor Saxophone – Lyle Jenkins

Co-produced by Nick Slaven and Keef Hartley, 1970's "The Time Is Near" probably isn't the Hartley album  most folks would jump into a fire to save from their vinyl collection.  That said, it's the Keef Hartley album that's consistently grown on me over the years.  A big part of your reaction to the album is going to depend on how you feel about early-'70s horn rock.  If you liked bands like Blood, Sweat & Tear, Chase, Chicago, etc., there's a good chance you were going to enjoy Miller Anderson penned tunes like 'Morning Rain', 'The Time Is Near' and 'You Can't Take It with You'.  If you were a fan of Harltey's bluesier catalog, well then this set was likely to be problematic for you.  To be honest, Anderson provided most of the album highlights.   In addition to writing six of the seven songs, he had a great, soul-tinged voice and while he may not have been the flashiest lead guitarist out there, his work was always concise and tasteful.  Check out his work on the closer 'Change'.  Shame he wasn't given more of an opportunity to showcase his chops.

he vagaries of rock and roll means by reasons of timing, management, promotion (or lack of), connections or maybe just a lucky gig, a band is either christened on a firm foundation on which they can grow to aquire some position of respect and be accompanied by a monetary reward or fall into the unforgiving pit of neglect and obscurity. Sometimes unfairly in both instances! One of those bands who fell into a hole of neglect and subsequently obscurity (unfairly) was The Keef Hartley Band. They really had a whole lot going for them musically, starting with the dynamic drumming of Keef Hartley himself. Next, they had a talented vocalist/guitarist in Miller Anderson, who was also a very adept lyricist, writing fully six of the seven songs on this album. Along with these ingredients comes the elements that seperated them from many other bands of the era--an astoundingly good jazz horn section which put them, superficially at least, in the same category as Chicago or Blood, Sweat And Tears. However, the Hartley Band's horn section were much more jazz oriented and full of skilled soloists, including Dave Caswell on trumpet and Lyle Jenkins on tenor sax. These guys could easily have backed any straight forward jazz musician of the day (think Tubby Hayes) and held their heads high. They truly were that good.
    Songs like "Morning Rain", the splendid title track (which really should have been a hit) and  "You Can't Take It With You" are so hook laden and groove with such a distinct, original sound that once they get stuck in your head you'd swear you HAVE heard them on the radio. There is no reason in the listening why other songs made it big in 1970 and these worthy gems were brushed aside. Just the fickle finger of fate I suppose. At any rate, this makes for a great party album and you'll probably have at least one person (as I have) come up to you and ask, "just who is this?", thinking it's someone they've heard.
   As an interesting footnote, the late, one of a kind bass player Gary Thain plays on this. He of course subsequently went on to a great deal of deserved success with Uriah Heep a couple of years later, playing with them when their flame burned most brightly, starting with "Demons And Wizards" through to "Wonderworld." Typical of many rock and roll tragedies, his life ended far too soon due to a heroin addiction, in 1975. That though is another story. If you like your rock with some kickin' jazz horns pick up this fine varietal from a year that gave us an unusually high number of memorable albums. This is (in keeping with the earlier wine analogy) a suprisingly tasty vintage.

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