An album that forms an interesting stitch in Rock’s Rich Tapestry is the sole album recorded by Brian Davison and the group he assembled after being cast aside by Keith Emerson as the latter strove to find musical egos as big as his in his quest for world dominance. I was going to speculate as to whether Davison felt at all bitter, watching as his musical partner since 1965 and co-founder of The Nice went on to pastures richer. Now I’ve read the original PR blurb from the time, which is reproduced in the CD booklet, I think my question has been answered, and then some!
“The trouble with supergroups is that they’re so damned super. Few psyches can survive that open return on the great ego trip. Thus it has become the unfortunate modus operandi of so many superstars to fall back and regroup with as super an assemblage of confederates as possible. Each superego is nursed back to health – or is it wealth?” Needless to say, “Every Which Way isn’t a supergroup”. And that’s only a snippet!
Well, that leaves us in no doubt, and you can but sympathise with the discarded drummer. Davison based his new project around singer-songwriter Graham Bell, and other musicians all of whom he had met several times criss-crossing the UK with The Nice. The resultant band is more Graham Bell’s than Davison’s as he sings and writes most of the songs on this fairly laid back shuffle through blues and R&B-based introspection. Here, the album is released as a 50the Anniversary remaster by that fine musical museum, Esoteric Recordings, who continue to unearth forgotten relics with the love and care of the true archaeologist.
There is an air of perhaps understandable melancholy hanging over the first two tracks, and you can imagine this record getting a lot of play in smoke-filled student bedsits all over this land in the early seventies. The first nine-and-a-half minute languorous excursion, Bed Ain’t What It Used To Be, and its following number, the even more laid back Castle Sand, set this scene perfectly. Graham Bell, as well as being an expressive but never overbearing vocalist, is also a decent pianist and rhythm guitarist, and with bassist Alan Cartwright and Davison form a solid and dependable backline for the two leads, reeds man Geoffrey Peach, and lead guitarist John Hedley, who has to wait until the fourth track All In Time before he can show us what he’s capable of.
A smidgeon of optimism allows itself expression in Go Placidly, “It’s still a beautiful world” sings Bell as the song unfolds in classic early ’70s singer-songwriter style. Let’s be certain, no musical trees are being uprooted on this record, you get the impression Davison is happy to have left the growing bombast well behind him. The last two tracks are heavier, in a jazz rock vein, with an occasionally angry but mostly world-weary undercurrent and a hopefully deliberate scuzzy vibe. The final track The Light is probably the best, being the most complete musical statement on the album, with the whole band getting right into its dirty groove.
The band died on the vine due to punter and promoter apathy, and only lasted four months or so from September 1970 when the album was released to the split in January 1971, due in part to the inevitable “musical differences”, and the fact that bassist Alan Cartwright was made an offer he couldn’t refuse by Procol Harum. An interesting curio, Brian Davison’s Every Which Way was probably not distinctive enough to make an impression in an age when the highways and byways of the UK were nose-to-tail with battered Transits full of hairies trying to scrape a living on the road.
Davison went on to form the rather fine Refugee with Patrick Moraz and his old Nice colleague Lee Jackson, so he still had some prog in him! Graham Bell made the “famous if you’re a record collector” Bell + Arc album, a staple of cut out bins in the mid-’70s, a fate it hardly deserved in my opinion.
One for the Students of Rock.
01. Bed Ain’t What It Used To Be (9:29)
02. Castle Sand (6:47)
03. Go Placidly (3:50)
04. All In Time (8:52)
05. What You Like (3:41)
06. The Light (6:16)
Total Time – 38:59
Brian Davison – Drums, Percussion
Graham Bell – Electric Piano, Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vocals
Geoffrey Peach – Reeds, Flute, Backing Vocals
Alan Cartwright – Bass Guitar
John Hedley – Lead Guitar
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 31st January 2020 (Originally released in 1970)