Alternately hard-edged and erotic, 1971’s “Broken Barricades” may have provided a striking contrast to “Home” that preceded it, but PROCOL HARUM saw no logic in following their own templates, and without this sybaritic album there wouldn’t be “Grand Hotel” and other orchestral escapades the band embarked on at the time. Although some fans still find it strange, the record’s charm and significance is impossible to overestimate, so its new emergence in the Esoteric’s reissue programme on May 31st will be more than welcome. Given remastered sound and extra tracks which mostly didn’t see the light of day before, it’s also expanded with two concert documents – the NYC one being one of the last to feature Robin Trower in his first tenure in the ensemble – and a Beeb session to make the re-release definitive.
It’s been some time since we last heard of Manfred Mann whose last works were done in a solo mode and whose ensemble’s latest line-up didn’t issue a single studio album. Yet May 10th will see the release of “Radio Days” – four volumes, available on CD and vinyl not as a box set but separately, that cover the early period of the legendary player’s career, from 1964 to 1973: with two incarnations of MANFRED MANN – fronted by Paul Jones and Mike D’Abo, – with MANFRED MANN CHAPTER III and with the first vertion of MANFRED MANN’S EARTH BAND. Each of the discs is very extensive and bursting with rarities, especially the third one, containing snippets from the “Venus In Furs” soundtrack, although no less delightful must be cuts such as “Big Betty” which Mann’s first collective passed to his definitive one. A treasure trove, really, augmented with interviews for further immersion into the era.
Last year, Cherry Red Group acquired the catalogue of Witchwood Media, the label which belongs to STRAWBS; this meant it was only a matter of time before their classic records would be reissued in expanded form – and, of course, it would be on Esoteric who released the veterans’ latest discography entry, "The Ferryman's Curse", in 2017. Now that time is nigh: following the group’s 50th Anniversary concerts in April, a box set of “Deadlines” will see the light of day on May 31st. The ensemble’s final ’70s offering, the original LP remains one of a genuine aficionado’s favorites, while for occasional listener it’s mostly memorable thanks to the cover designed by Hipgnosis, yet there’s no denying the strength of songs such as “No Return” – and there’s a reason why the old albums’ new advent starts with this particular title. All four main players on the 1977 platter – Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert, Chas Cronk and Tony Fernandez (interviews with three of them are planned for later in the year) – are present in the band’s current line-up and still carry the banner.
“I’ve never really been happy with being the band leader,” Bernie Tormé told me once – but he was good at it, although the guitarist who passed away yesterday on the brink of his 67th birthday will always be remembered for his immense contribution to GILLAN and his brief stint with Ozzy Osbourne. With the former, the Irish artist created such seminal albums as “Mr. Universe” and “Glory Road” – Bernie’s assault on the likes of “Unchain Your Brain” is worth the praise of any metal axeman out there – and with the later, Tormé filled the space left by Randy Rhoads but didn’t stay, as he always preferred to pursue his own, so-called Electric Gypsy, thing.
One of the finest British singers, Paul Williams, has died today at the age of 78, a man whose voice graced such diverse collectives as JUICY LUCY, TEMPEST and Allan Holdsworth’s I.O.U. – although, of course, they were all connected on many levels. One of those levels was Williams’ vocals that saw him progress from blues – Paul began his road to glory in Zoot Money’s BIG ROLL BAND and John Mayall’s BLUESBREAKERS, where he also played bass – to prog rock in the company of Jon Hiseman, where he met Holdsworth, and to the latter’s fusion ensemble.