by Patrick Little.
archived from Song For Me website.
Family’s live reputation, along with their new solid sound, led to the release of concert recordings on this, their fourth album. I read somewhere that it was to be a double album: one live LP and one studio LP. In any case it ended up as one side of each; the concert tracks were recorded at Fairfield Halls, London. Both the power and delicacy of the new Family sound is evident with each tune. It’s too bad that the only complete live release came from the expensive Windsong label, although it’s worth it in my opinion. Supposedly Family was quick to replace their “live staples”, and they might not carry a popular tune over to the next tour. Were the live tunes meant for studio release at some point, or had they been passed up? “Strange Band” was a single, and “Good News…” was a live feature until the end. Anyway… a strange album…
- “Good News – Bad News” – This one is a very dynamic tune, alternating passages of gentle vibes with the onslaught of power chords. This being a live track, I don’t see how their soundman did his job. How can you go from that soft to that loud without feedback? Chapman’s goat-impression only gets better with amplification. Cool middle pounding riff, followed by cowbells underneath a dark vibes solo with distortion. Back to the clicking opening riff, and then a hard rock return with guitar solo. Some strange editing… clearly some quick dropouts. It must have been interesting studio time to see this chaotic recording being molded into a somewhat symmetrical album cut. I wonder if recordings took place on different nights, or if overdubs were involved. Chapman’s screams at the finale are legendary.
- “Willow Tree” – Good track for unwinding after the last song… sort of. It begins like a gentle ballad: piano, violin and bass (must’ve been Whitney on bass?). Heavy percussion kicks in after the first verses, with droning violin and a little Chapman vibrato. I’m always impressed with Poli’s piano. He seems most comfortable there.
- “Holding the Compass” – Nice down-home feeling with doubled guitars, Palmer on tambourine, and Townsend’s light percussion. Almost jugband, but in a heavy electric style. Weider adds very nice six-string riffs on top. This is the only track from this side to survive repeated playing, mostly because it fit well into their style that would follow, and the harmony vocals of future member John Wetton. And Jim Cregan would do well on it too!
- “Strange Band” – The song I like to call “Peace of Mind II”. And speaking of live tracks, “Peace of Mind” was a standard in concert for Family, so maybe this was a continuation; at least they could reproduce the instrumentation. Droning violin, with chords that bash then mute away. Wah electric piano and vibes, and tense lyrics from Chapman. If you have a clue as to what Poli is doing around 1:41, please tell me! Craziness… Like the studio version, it’s a little repetitive riff-wisel; but as volatile as it is, it’s nice and short. See “Lives and Ladies” to learn about the cowriter “Williamson”. And thus concludes live-Family.
- “Part of the Load” – This is another song to hook the uninitiated. Bass intro, with syncopated drums following, those eerie vibe chords, then the song jumps keys and takes off. Piano phrasing, handclaps, and a laid-back guitar solo. Dig the multitracked “Uhhh-huhhh’s” by Chappo. That is power. Possibly my favorite Family song, just really slinky and mean. The best “Band on the Road” tune ever, yes?
- “Anyway” – At Olympic Studios the band found miscellaneous instruments intended for soundtrack music, and were able to borrow bits and pieces for experiments. This track features tuned drums called boobams. From the straight-up syncopation of the last song, this is a big contrast. Strange effects with strumming guitar on one side and the tuned percussion on the other; like it is all going through a Leslie rotating speaker. The solo consists of phased drum patterns. Chapman sings gently over the top of it all. Nice studio experimentation, but I wouldn’t call it a winner. This ends and drones into…
- “Normans” – Cowritten by Poli, Weider and Charlie, this is a bizarre little instrumental led by violin. It’s partly chaotic, partly somber, but a little upbeat with the countrified piano licks. The violin is not the most melodic thing I’ve ever heard, and it kinda sets the whole song on edge. Nice little drum licks from Townsend that are sort of hidden. Oh, there’s some flute and organ too, and Chappo hums a little. It is somewhat reminiscient of the Song For Me tunes. Drone, and a dramatic lead into…
- “Lives and Ladies” – Charlie Whitney has called this one of his favorite Family tunes. That upbeat piano carries on into this song, which is a bit of an epic. The salesman mentioned in the tune is an old Leicester buddy, the same “Williamson” that cowrote “Strange Band”. This “war” song is a good seven minutes long, and has some alternating sections which mix it up a bit. Some preaching lyrics with quiet backing, then guitar jam with banging piano and strumming acoustic underneath, and the thick chords which brings it back to the verses. Halfway through, the theme changes to final melody that will finish the song, and features a very thick fuzz guitar line. Some great echo on Chapman’s “Uhhh-Ohhhhh”‘s. I wish they had put more in! This would have been good in a live and loud setting. Gradual fade with rockin’ piano and handclaps. Jörg Gehrke feels that this song is in some ways much like King Crimson’s “Falling Angel”, while Roger Houdaille sees a connection to the Kinks album Arthur , “in particular the song ‘Yes Sir No Sir’, even the riffs are similar….”