Wednesday, 27 January 2016

GRAHAM BOND LIVE AT THE BBC AND OTHER STORIES


Covering a ten year period starting in 1962, Live at the BBC and Other Stories is another four-CD set of Graham Bond material from Repertoire following their acclaimed Wade In The Water in 2012 and digs deeper to uncover all of Bond’s BBC output – under his own name and featured with other artists – plus bonus material sourced from private home recordings, early jam sessions and rare EP material.

There’s a strong focus on the less celebrated chapters of Bond’s career, namely pre and post the classic Organization line-up. His first recordings, as a member of the Don Rendell Quintet (check Roarin’ from 1961), was as an alto saxophonist and a September ‘62 session gives evidence why he’d claim runner up in Melody Maker’s “New Star” jazz poll that year. Weeks later, foreseeing the changing club landscape, he left Rendell and would then be found behind a Hammond organ – with his name centre-stage - creating a tough, uncompromising amalgamation of R&B, soul, jazz and blues. Introductions by BBC presenters Steve Race, George Melly, Pete Drummond and John Peel have been retained and provide valuable background context to the fractious jazz scene as well as many droll moments. “Ginger Baker looking like a Francis Bacon portrait in 3D,” suggests, not unreasonably, Melly.

Bond’s final years saw deepening drug addiction, deteriorating mental health and a preoccupation with the occult, but his fiery rhythmic 1972 set with Pete Brown demonstrates despite personal distractions he had he could still conjure musical magic. These live versions are far more vigorous than the ones found on Bond’s studio albums of the era. Even more spectacular are two 1970 sessions by the Graham Bond Initiation. Quarter of an hour versions of ‘Wade In The Water’ aren’t for the faint hearted but Bond’s flamboyance and relentless, driving power make them a spectacular tour de force. There are five takes on ‘Wade In The Water’ in total, a track to which Bond repeatedly returned and one perfect for allowing his bands freedom to stretch in whatever direction they felt.

Some of the audio quality of the non-BBC material falls into the collectors-only category and interrupts the flow of the collection. Although at a running time of four and a half hours the set works best by picking and choosing individual sessions at a time. There are also points deducted for the disappointing packaging: two jewel-cases wrapped in a thin card cover with information spread awkwardly across two booklets. It’s a real pity the packaging doesn’t match the book-style and quality of the previous Repertoire box. However, these quibbles don’t’ negate this as a treasure trove from a tremendously talented and magnetic performer. 

A version of this review first appeared in Shindig! issue 53, available now, £4.95.

3 comments:

  1. The BBC session from January '66 is worth the admission price alone. George Melly is on amusing form as the Organization (Bond, Baker, Heckstall-Smith, Felani, and Hiseman - Bruce had recently left for the Manfreds) swing through Wade In The Water, Only Sixteen, and When Johnny Comes Marching Home. Superb performances even if the recording quality lacks a bit of treble. Agreed, the Bond & Brown tracks live tracks on the same CD are very good too and surprisingly focused. Such surreal song titles (e.g. The Milk Is Turning Sour In My Shoes) too. There is so much good music across the four CDs but you need to be open minded to a broad spectrum of jazz, soul, and blues.

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  2. Whoops...just realised I put Jon Hiseman in that Jan '66 line-up alongside Ginger. Please can you remove him if you decide to publish? Btw not sure if you noticed but the quality of the CDs was questionable and I had to rip/re-burn one of them. :-( A bit of a budget job from Repertoire what with the minimal packaging but ace music. Thanks a lot. - Steve

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  3. Hi Steve, unable to edit comments but noted! Yes, agree with your comments - the Jan '66 is certainly a highlight and the package, as you say, does span wide range. Not all of it warrants repeated plays but two-thirds is a decent return. The packaging does really cheese me off though.

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