Friday, July 7, 2017

Neutrons - 1974 - Black Hole Stars

Black Hole Stars

01. Living In The World Today (6:11)
02. Feel (3:10)
03. Mermaid And Chips (4:50)
04. Dangerous Decisions (6:05)
05. Doom City (Scrino's Revenge) (4:00)
06. Dance Of The Psychadelc Lounge Lizards (3:20)
07. Going To India (5:03)
08. Snow Covered Eyes (4:31)

- Phil Ryan / keyboards, vocals
- Will Youatt / bass, guitars, vocals
- John "Pugwash" Weathers / drums
- Martin Wallace / guitars, vocals
- Ray "Taff" Williams / guitars, bass
- Stuart Gordon / strings, string arrangement
- Caromay Dixon / vocals

- Pique (Withers) / hand drums (2)
- The 4 Skins / backing vocals (6)
- The Quickies / backing vocals (7)

This short-lived formation from the 70's were an offshoot of Welsh psychedelic band MAN. Two of its members, namely keyboard player Phil Ryan and guitarist/bassist Will Youatt, left in 1973 to form the NEUTRONS with drummer John Weathers (GENTLE GIANT), violinist Stuart Gordon (INCREDIBLE STRING BAND) and a slew of other musicians. They took their name from IORWERTH PRITCHARD AND THE NEUTRONS, a band Ryan and Youatt had created prior to forming the NEUTRONS.

Whereas the music of MAN was predominantly guitar based, the NEUTRONS concentrate on the keyboards; their heavy use of synthesizers, a strong GENTLE GIANT edge as well as slight Brit-folk overtones characterize their sound. Of interest to prog lovers is their first album titled "Black Hole Stars", which features interesting keyboard-driven psych prog with good guitar leads.

I had no big expectations for this band, since it's almost completely forgotten and ignored. But what a charming album! First some obligatory band info: the founding members, keyboardist Phil Ryan and bassist 'Will' Youatt had a vision of a band of their own when the latter had joined Pete Brown's Biplokto! for gigs, which group broke soon after. But before NEUTRONS started life, they both joined MAN for a couple of years/albums (and Ryan returned to MAN in 1975 when NEUTRONS broke). But this is quite a different band than the guitar-oriented MAN! More emphasis on keyboards, either organ or MMEB-style playful synths. Singer-songwriter Martin Wallace was thought to be a frontman but the album includes only one of his songs because Ryan's and Youatt's ambitions got bigger. Wallace's Eastern-flavoured 'Feel' is a folkier song than the rest, but a fairly good one, like all tracks actually. GENTLE GIANT drummer John Weathers and INCREDIBLE STRING BAND violinist Stuart Gordon were added to the line-up and they brought just the right ingredients to the whole. Gordon brought also his girlfriend, 17-year old Caromay Dixon, as an additional vocalist.
'Living in the World Today' rocks deliciously, reminding distantly PINK FLOYD's 'Run Like Hell' for the guitar riff and two male vocals singing in turns from different speakers. It and the last track were recorded before the line-up was complete and they are the most rocking ones. Elswhere you hear some psychedelia. Some tracks sound a bit like NEKTAR. Quirky 'Mermaid and Chips' is fantastic, sort of a cross between Gentle Giant and 10CC, showing in full bloom the lovely sound and style of the band. 'Dance Of The Psychadelc Lounge Lizards' is as interesting as the title! Very charming 'Going To India' sounds a bit like early (Prologue-era) RENAISSANCE, but with more tongue-in-cheek hippie feel. 'Doom City' is a bluesy song, maybe the least interesting but nice nevertheless.

So, to say that NEUTRONS were just a spin-off of MAN is a bad understatement. Their second album (still good if not as great as this) was made under worse circumstances and it sadly doesn't share the same cheerfulness, the joy of playing, as this one. 

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