If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Monday, 22 March 2010

Desert Island Discs 7

A bit of cheating here, so you're getting two for the price of one.

I was a big fan of Family in the late 60s and 70s. They had a very individual take on what was rock music. When everyone else was using the guitar/bass/drums line-up, Family featured violins, saxophones, harmonicas, organ, Mellotron and vibes, amongst others. The music ranged from hard rock to psychedelia, and was always interesting, if sometimes a little rough at the edges.

The unique thing about Family in those days was the leadership of vocalist Roger Chapman. In the normal register, his voice was a good, smoky R&B voice, full of humour, passion and aggression by turns. But when Chappo let fly, his voice became something unworldly: a heavy vibrato that sounded a bit like a bleating sheep on acid, and totally dominated the band's sound. People either loved or hated it. I loved it. His presence on stage was dominant, too - shouting, stamping about, with shaggy hair, balding on top, and throwing the mike stand about like he held a personal grudge against it.

These songs are from what I consider their best album Fearless. The first, Spanish Tide, was on the original release, and is a good, loud bit of early 70s rock, with some excellent vocals and instrumental passages (including a massively-overdriven vibes solo). The second song is their highest-charting single In My Own Time, which reached No. 4 in 1971 and is included on the latest edition of the CD. This has a fine example of Chapman bleating his way into the stratosphere. Perhaps not the best rock band ever, but interesting, innovative and pretty wild. I saw them at Leeds Uni in '71, and they were the best live band of that year.

Here we go:

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