If you don't know Brand X, then you quite possibly don't know the roots of English progressive jazz rock fusion. This seminal band featured, at the core, John Goodsall on guitar, Percy Jones on bass, Robin Lumley on keyboards, and Philip Collins on drums. Yes that Phil Collins of Genesis fame. These mates jammed on a regular basis, if anything, for the shear pleasure of experimentation and camaraderie. Then Collins brought manager Tony Smith to the gig, and he concluded that they should record. The first album was 1976's quite successful Unorthodox Behavior. The rest, as the say, is history, with many more additional albums with curious names (but no significant meaning to them.
I was a fan back in the day and nearly every one of their albums. UK label Gonzo Multimedia has seen fit to re-issue three recordings from the band's catalog: one a prequel, so to speak, of their earliest stuff, another a live album, and the third, a re-issue of the seventh album, last to have Phil Collins, Is There Anything About?. I'll speak to each one briefly.
Missing Period, as hinted to above, are the earliest recordings of Brand X, before Unorthodox Behavior, and recently recovered by Goodsall from family members. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this album (and the others as well) is that they are analog recordings set to tape, yet still have an amazing freshness. Something to challenge our current digital world view. Regarding the musical beginnings of Brand X, you'll discover some musicians deep into improvisation and experimentation as the explore convergence of jazz and rock fusion. While all track are entertaining and telling of the band's direction, my top picks would be Ancient Mysteries and Miserable Virgin.
Live at the Roxy LA, recorded in 1979, finds the band in high gear with some commercial and popular success. Yes, the band did tour and successfully so. Not unlike the those early recordings, this one is from the theater's PA monitor-mixing board, in cassette form. Brand X recorded every show and rehearsal the same way; many were lost, this one survived. Again, this all analog stuff, a bit clumsy and muffled at times, but the music comes through. There's also some quaint banter between the band, displaying more than a little bit of Brit dry humor. Favorite tracks: all, but especially Disco Suicide and Malaga Virgin.
Is There Anything About is the re-issue of the 1982 album, the last to feature Phil Collins. First, the re-issue does not follow the original song lineup from vinyl, but I don't think it matters. It also includes some additional personnel: John Giblin, bass, Peter Robinson, keyboards, Raf Ravenscroft, saxophone, and Steve Short, syndrums. Excepting Jones, who plays bass on only one track, these players aid rather than replace the core band. Is There Anything About certainly stands in the Brand X tradition, offering some new material, as opposed to the previous Do They Hurt, which was merely out takes from Product. That album, in my opinion, was their last best album. So this one finds the band alive, yet fading. There's a piece called Swan Song that may have been more prophetic than the band could know. Yet, Is There Anything About is still entertaining and worth a Brand X fan's time. Top picks: TMIU-ATGA ("they're making it up as they go along"), Modern, Noisy and Effective, and the title track.
So there you have it. Grab them while you can. Easily recommended.
Gonzo Multimedia offers three terrific albums from the seminal English jazz rock fusion band, Brand X. All well worth your interest.
Mat Sinner is both an icon and legend in the German, and the larger European, hard rock and heavy metal scene. Cranking out music since 1982, Sinner is an industrious and prolific musician and producer whether through his namesake band, the heavy metal heroes Primal ... [ Read More ]