A’s & B’s

by Patrick Little.
archived from Song For Me website.

A's & B's

A collection of the singles released by Family between 1969 and 1973, this CD is an interesting release. I would call it essential for the completest, but by no means a good sampler of Family’s work.
Singles-wise Family was a completely different band, and I must say I prefer their album cuts. After a few listenings this CD came off as a lighter side of the band. The acoustic styles play a big role on the first few cuts, and that’s kind of strange compared to the eclectic music that was on their albums at the time. Then again, this is the Family that was packaged to sell, not the songs in which the band really cut loose.

NOTE: The German Line CD’s add many of these tunes as bonus tracks. The only songs not found on German Line CD’s are “Song For Lots”, “Stop This Car”, and “Drink To You”.


The singles before these recordings included pre-Family “Scene Through the Eye of a Lens” (which has surfaced on the Strange Band bootleg), “Me My Friend/Hey Mr. Policeman”, and “Second Generation Woman/Hometown” (“Hometown” is found on the Line CD IT’S ONLY A MOVIE and the 1993 CD Best of Family). As for the others, they were tunes released to advertise the albums.
After the band had come into their own (and quickly, I might add), they could join the many bands of the early 70’s which straddled the fence of album releases and single-only releases. They would return to the album-cuts-as-singles strategy towards the end of their career, probably in an effort to again push the albums.

  1. “No Mule’s Fool”
    – First Family single with a picture sleeve. An acoustic number with a
    really good production sound. Chapman gives a really soothing warble.
    Reminds me a bit of Led Zeppelin’s acoustic tunes, but this is much
    more country with very strong drumming. A real pickin’ and grinnin’
    ending, too.
  2. “Good Friend of Mine”
    – According to the liner notes, this track included Jim King and John
    Weider in a transitional line up. This waltz-time tune sounds like a
    basic soul tune until some vibes are added, and Chapman revs up the
    vocals on the second verse. Soprano sax takes a solo, but nothing too
    remarkable about this. I would think that Poli Palmer played the vibes,
    but that is not made clear.
  3. “Today”
    – Creepy slide guitar, in a Floydish style, is a main voice in this
    song. Palmer must be playing the vibes by this time. Very pensive
    singing and light acoustic guitar. It has the “self-contained” sound of
    the A SONG FOR ME line-up, but is much lighter than anything on that album.
  4. “Song for Lots”
    – The beginning has one of my favorite things: a false start. Probably
    Townsend (drums) who yells to bring it back around. Good thumping
    rhythm, and the rock element of Family is finally evident, even if this
    is a little light-hearted. Some “live in the studio” clapping and
    laughing is thrown into the mix. The rhythm really throws me, with the
    striding boogie-woogie piano matching the drums, while the guitar and
    the bass are in half of that time.
  5. “Strange Band” – Let the heaviness begin… Often played live and appearing on ANYWAY,
    this was a treat to hear the original version. Some intricate vibes,
    and the lyrics give a deep sense of being on-edge. For some reason the
    melody is just a bit too grating for me. I thought I’d never say that.
  6. “In My Own Time”
    – Speaking of grating… I LOVE THIS SONG. I squealed with delight when
    I saw that this was on this collection. And this tune is BETTER in the
    studio. The intro just bursts with flavor. It comes out of nowhere, and
    is maximum-Chapman. It’s strange because the song isn’t really as
    overpowering as the intro is. Chorused guitar adds a nice flavor.
    Wetton’s bass is stronger live, but the foot-tapping melody helps you
    forget. I really like the chords before the keyboard solo, too. Very
    transitive, very progressive, but still catchy.
  7. “Seasons”
    – Another country-feel with this tune. Really good flat-picking, too.
    Some abrupt changes in this, as it deals directly with seasonal
    changes: winter is marked by sparse piano chords on the fade out.
  8. “Burlesque” – Album track. See BANDSTAND.
  9. “The Rockin’ R’s”
    – Double-time rock tune with cool electric piano. It’s a very standard
    format but the band plays around with it, throwing in stop-times and
    weird chords and harmonies.
  10. “My Friend the Sun” – Album track. See BANDSTAND.
  11. “Glove” – Album track. See BANDSTAND.
  12. “Boom Bang” – Album track. See IT’S ONLY A MOVIE.
  13. “Stop This Car”
    – Whew, this is bizarre. First it sounds like a scratchy 78 rpm record.
    Chapman narrates/sings this like an old country and western standard
    (Hank Williams? Roy Rogers?). A lot of slide guitar and harmonized
    vocals wrap up this short song.
  14. “Sweet Desiree” – Album track. See IT’S ONLY A MOVIE.
  15. “Drink To You”
    – Probably the only non-album track that could have easily fit on the
    album of the time. The vocals throw me, though. It really does remind
    me of classic Paul McCartney. I imagine it’s probably Jim Cregan,
    backed by a female singer. Like the album there are lots of horns on
    this tune, and the speedy hi-hat pushes it along. Chapman appears no
    where, unless if he plays the harp, but it’s a good way to wrap up this
    uneven collection.
  16. ” Scene Through the Eye of a Lens”
    – The precious “lost” single that was the first release of Family.
    “Scene…” b/w “Gypsy Woman.” The first thing I discovered was the play
    on words: scene vs. seen. How trippy! Charlie’s signature guitar style
    is pegged in this first tune, which opens with a gentle 12-string
    arpeggio. Soprano sax plays a short riff that permeates most of the
    song, and the melody and bent notes take on an Arabic feel. Finger
    cymbals add to this effect, and Chapman’s easy voice comes in. Kinda
    high pitched and unique but you can’t detect the danger that lied
    within! The psychedelic imagery of the lyrics are pretty neat.
    Sign-o-the-times. Violin comes in to thicken up the second verse.

    Then the break: pumping bass and guitar chords, and a chorus of
    effects-laden background voices. Everything drops out so the horn riff
    stands alone, and the drums pound back in. Charlie takes a solo with
    quasi-eastern scales, and the whole wall of sound fades out.

    This is what the Electric Sugarcube Flashback bootleg has to say:

    Family
    was one of England’s first successful progressive groups, coming along
    in 1968 with the same tide that brought Jethro Tull and staying around
    for most of the 70’s. However, few of their fans had any inkling of
    this one-off 1967 single on Liberty, a longtime favorite of ours with
    its druggy Eastern vibe and trippy effects. Alas, they never did
    anything else in this vein.

    From Ask Chappo!, Roger sez:

    From
    what I recall most of Traffic are playing on “Scene Through The Eye Of
    A Lens”, but it’s a long time ago! Steve Winwood I know played
    mellotron & the rest I think played percussion.

  17. “Gypsy Woman”
    – The band cuts loose on this one, in the spirit of a real B-side. With
    no pressure for song structure, they do a standard 12-bar blues. Song
    is counted off with loud drums and it is full of dirty guitar riffs.
    Chapman’s gravelled vocals take full flight here, and he really does
    sound like a tenor-Howlin’ Wolf. Jim King adds the only odd touches in
    this song: his queer falsetto and some heavily-reverbed soprano sax.
  18. “Here Comes the Grin” – Future Family biographer Mick White says…

    “Here Comes The Grin” is a Poli Palmer jazzy instrumental, which was
    never released on record. It originally dated from the Royal Festival
    Hall gig, 15 Sept. 1969, when he was asked by Rob Townsend to help him
    out with a solo piece. Because of helping Townsend out like this, Poli
    was asked to replace Jim King, later in Oct. 1969. The title was off
    the cuff – Family recorded it for a Radio One show (1/Jan/1970) and the
    BBC simply wanted a name for their paperwork.

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