Wednesday, 12 April 2017

"Bandstand" by FAMILY (February 2006 Repertoire 'Limited Edition' CD Remaster of 4000 in Mini LP Repro Artwork) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...My Friend The Sun...Looks Good On The Run..."

England's FAMILY and its productive 1968 to 1974 Reprise Records back catalogue has had its fair share of reissue go-rounds (See For Miles, Essential, Charly's Madfish and more). But for me - these dinky Repertoire repro sleeves from 2006 - sporting quality CD remasters and relevant bonus tracks - are just what I need.

The German reissue label Repertoire re-released just three of these titles in February and March 2006 - each a limited edition of 4000 non-numbered copies - 1970's "Anyway" on Repertoire REPUK 1082 (Barcode 4009910108222) - 1971's "Fearless" on Repertoire REPUK 1083 (Barcode 4009910108321) and 1972's "Bandstand" on Repertoire REPUK 1081 (Barcode 4009910108123). The barcodes were in fact only on the shrink-wrapped stickers that accompanied each reissue - so many got lost once that was ripped open.

As each original FAMILY album (Reprise Records in the UK, United Artists in the USA) came in unique and beautiful packaging - each of these seminal Rock-Prog albums have been ripe for Repro Artwork fiends. Which brings us to one of their most underrated records - 1972's "Bandstand" – here in all its old TV sleeve splendour ("My Friend The Sun" indeed). Here are the semi-naked Burlesque details...

UK and Europe released February 2006 (April 2006 in the USA) - "Bandstand" by FAMILY on Repertoire REPUK 1081 (Barcode 4009910108123) is a Limited Edition CD Reissue of 4000 Copies with Full Mini LP Repro Artwork (shaped vintage TV sleeve with die-cut plastic screen and shaped inner) and Four Bonus Tracks (53:57 minutes):

1. Burlesque [Side 1]
2. Bolero Babe
3. Coronation
4. Dark Eyes
5. Broken Nose
6. My Friend The Sun [Side 2]
7. Glove
8. Ready To Go
9. Top Of The Hill
Tracks 1 to 9 are their 7th album "Bandstand" - released September 1972 in the UK on Reprise Records K 54006 and October 1972 in the USA on United Artists UAS-5644. Produced by FAMILY and GEORGE CHKIANTZ - it peaked at No. 15 in the UK LP charts and No. 183 in the USA. Tracks 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 written by Chapman/Whitney - Track 3 written by Chapman/Whitney/Wetton with Track 4 written by Chapman/Palmer.

10. The Rockin' R's
Track 10 is the non-album B-side of a UK 7" single "Burlesque" released September 1972 on Reprise K 14196 (peaked at No. 13)
11. No Mules Fool (Live)
12. Good News – Bad News (Live)
13. The Weaver's Answer (Live)
Tracks 11 to 13 first appeared on the February 2004 CD Reissue of "Bandstand” on Mystic MYS CD 173 (Barcode 604388621828)

ROGER CHAPMAN - Lead Vocals, Guitars and Percussion
CHARLIE WHITNEY - Guitars, Mandolin and Percussion
JOHN 'POLI' PALMER - Keyboards, Vibes, Flute and Percussion
JOHN WETTON - Guitars, Vocals, Contracts and Keyboards
ROB TOWNSEND - Drums, Paiste Cymbals and Percussion

Both the UK and American original vinyl LPs came in a beautifully visual 'shaped vintage TV set' sleeve with a plastic die-cut centre for the screen and a shaped Inner Bag cut to the contours of the cathode TV packaging. For this reissue Repertoire have faithfully repro'd that shaped artwork making it a gatefold too so you can see the inner shaped flap (inside the TV) that houses the foldout inlay and CD. They've put the lyrics on one side while the flip is filled with superlative liner notes from an old hand at these things – JOHN TRACY (John did many of the booklets on the early Decca and Deram CD reissues in the late 80s and early 90s – Savoy Brown, Thin Lizzy, Them, Keef Hartley, Moody Blues, Cat Stevens etc). The rear cover of REPUK 1081 also states a 'Limited Edition' of 4000 (the barcode is only on the outer shrink-wrap and not on the repro). It’s one of the loveliest repro’s I’ve ever seen.

It doesn't say which Remaster has been used for "Bandstand" or who did it – but I've never found any Repertoire CD Reissue to be anything other than banging – and their 2006 version of "Bandstand" is no different (see my separate reviews for David Clayton-Thomas, Merry Clayton, CCS and All Kooper/Shuggie Otis on Repertoire). This thing sounds great. Let's get to the music...

Prepping the public for the album in September - 18 August 1972 saw the fabulous "Burlesque" issued as a 45 in Blighty on Reprise K 14196 with the non-album "The Rockin' R's" on the B-side (Track 10 in the four Bonus cuts). With such a hooky riff and those rollin' 'n' tumblin' Roger Chapman vocals (a fine lady in a Leicester nightclub was the inspiration) - it's hardly surprising that the raunchy rock-classic "Burlesque" was an immediate adrenaline-rush. The UK 7" single enjoyed a twelve-week run peaking at No. 13 and is beloved to this day. Bad timing and musical differences saw the band take a hit with Bassist John Wetton leaving for King Crimson - Jim Cregan from Blossom Toes and Spud brought in as a speedy replacement. No sooner had the album hit the shops and all hands needed for a tour – Family also lost Poli Palmer who was replaced with Tony Ashton of The Remo Four and "The Resurrection Shuffle" trio of Ashton, Gardner & Dyke. "Bolero Babe" sounds like its title - a rumbling lead in of keyboard sounds is accompanied by marching drums and trippy vocals rounded off as it ends by clever string arrangements that give the relentless groove an epic feel (I've always loved this track).

"Coronation" is the first of set of 'mellow' Family songs - Chapman controlling the vocal hysterics as he sings of "...Jenny laughing on the phone..." and "...A Coronation mug of mine...heirlooms from a bygone an open drawer..." It's a fabulous groove with great use of the electric piano where the music has Family feel like The Faces meets Genesis at times. The short but powerful "Dark Eyes" is essentially a Piano and Acoustic Guitar duet with doubled-vocals – another winner that’s over too quick for me. "Broken Nose" goes back to the "Burlesque" sound and vibe - but ups it a notch - Chapman letting rip with barely disguised venom about a society lady whose tips would pay his rent. The wild rhythm section is supplemented by a Moog solo that would make Rick Wakeman itch.

But then we're hit with my all-time fave-rave - the stunning "My Friend The Sun" - the kind of tune a smart bloke Robert Elms would play on his daytime radio show as he reminisces about Seventies clobber and its importance to hip 'n' happening London kids. "My Friend The Sun" is the kind of tune that makes me weep and still sends those chills up my arms - gorgeous acoustic guitars flit in and out around a harmonium as the words sing about the 'chances you've had' and a sun that 'looks well on the run'. It still amazes me that the January 1973 single of "My Friend The Sun" with "Gloves" on the flipside (Reprise K 14218) didn't chart at all - how did British DJs miss this? Speaking of good songs - if any other LP cut was to be chosen to show the band's growing maturity in the songwriting stakes – it's the accomplished "Glove". Rock, Melody and Strings combine in one lethal assault - a song that may be about a prostitute or even a cross-dresser smiling at the 'young man' kindness of a stranger. "Ready To Go" is the funky number on the album - a chap wanting to break free from the crap and the labels and the scowling men in pulpits. The LP ends on the epic "Top Of The Hill".

The BONUS TRACKS are a very mixed bag of the good and the awful. "The Rockin' R's" is a great B-side - Family does Rock 'n' Roll in a Prog-Rock way (if that makes sense). It's a dash-off about their love for blue suede shoes and slippin' and slidin' on a Saturday night in Leicester's finest emporiums. But the three 'live' cuts are dismissible - "No Mules Fool" feels like a BBC Session or rehearsal outtake and is OK - "Good News - Bad News" is probably the heaviest of the three (more Hard Rock than Prog) but the production values are crap. "The Weaver's Answer" is the same only burdened with even higher layers of tape hiss. It’s bootleg standard at best and feels more like a burden than a bonus track. After the class of the 9-track album - the three live cuts tagged on at the end feel like obvious filler - and bad ones at that. In some respects I wish Repertoire had stuck with the non-album B-side alone – keeping the overall impact sweet as...

This most British of bands would go on to form their own Raft Records and put out the final Family album "It's Only A Movie" in 1974 - before Chapman and Whitney called it a day and formed Streetwalkers - moving over to Vertigo. But I'd remember them this way - Family in their Reprise Records heyday.

"...There'll come a time when you remember it well..." - Roger Chapman sings on the beautiful "My Friend The Sun".

"Bandstand" is a criminally neglected Family album featuring the classic line-up of the band - Rock Music with elements of Prog, Harmony and Balladry that deserves rediscovery and is worth shelling out on. 

And despite those audio dogs at the end of this particularly visual TV set - Repertoire's CD reissue is a very cool way to remember it and them...

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