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.