Bandstand

by Patrick Little.
archved from Song For Me website.

Bandstand

After Fearless, Family had again settled into a comfortable line-up. Wetton added strong second guitar, and nice supportive vocals. It seems that his voice is less in the mix for this album, either alone or as backup. Was he being squeezed out as a presence in the group? He probably felt limited within the band, knowing he could flex his songwriting and vocal talents elsewhere. Whether he found actual freedom in Fripp’s Crimson is hard to tell, but at least he was front man.
Jim Cregan replaced Wetton for the tour of the U.S., and Poli Palmer also left after this. I’m sure they were both a bit frustrated with their failure to get over the top of the stardom wall. It’s too bad, because the other three (Chapman, Whitney and Townsend – who had all been there since the beginning) wanted to stick with it, for now at least

Bandstand, like the previous album, mixed the heavy with the light. Family had again added softer touches, some purely acoustic numbers, and some songs that were more subtle than earlier tunes. From the scene-painting of “Burlesque” to the grandeur of “Glove” to the lulling “My Friend the Sun” to the straight-ahead “Ready To Go”, these songs displayed quality AND variety. I wonder if they lost fans who thought Family had sold out, or if they gained fans who recognized solid songwriting. At this point Family’s music wasn’t as grating or shocking as the early works. It had settled into a comfortable niche, but the quality of the music gained from this in my opinion. I guess this is why they no longer felt challenged, and decided to hang it up with the next album.

  1. “Burlesque” – A raunchy little tune, like this song so much, I find that I haven’t really concentrated on the rest of the album. Slunky bass line, synth effects, double guitar lines and some funky growling from Chapman all make for a really syncopated tune. Wetton is still audible on backing vocals. Nice heavy chorus makes this song stand out. This song kicks off the BBC In Concert CD, and is a really rocking version. It was probably a great opener.

  2. “Bolero Babe” – An atmospheric intro with military drum rolls under synth lines with reverse and echo added. Solid bass line, strumming guitar and a big string accompaniment after a couple of verses. All these elements along with Chapman’s relatively straight-forward voice build to make it a thick song by the end.

  3. “Coronation” – Simple electric pianos kicks off a nightclub-ish tune with some unusual chord changes. Chapman’s lower register emulates some gospel styles, and the singalong chorus builds up proudly. More synth effects for the solo; they really loved these early patches (probably ARP or Moog). Basic violin adds to the mix, also. Ian McGrath adds: “Simply gorgeous mixing of the two voices on this tune.”

  4. “Dark Eyes” – Gentle piano and acoustic picking begin the melodic theme before some even harmonies come in. A melancholy feel with some flutes, and the song ends quickly. In view of the next song, this title makes me think of “black eyes”, but it’s a plaintative love song.

  5. “Broken Nose” – After a couple of mid-tempos, we return to the heavy. Some electric 12-string takes the chords, with banging piano and bass. Chapman’s rage isn’t as self-destructive as it used to be, but it’s still effective in its controlled delivery. The song takes on an interesting quality here as female singers back up the chorus. More squiggly synth dates the solo section a bit. The singing really cuts loose here, and it fades with some of the best gospel/rhythm ‘n’ blues feeling that you wouldn’t expect from this band.

  6. “My Friend the Sun” – One of the prettiest Family tunes, too bad the single didn’t do anything. A good gentle acoustic number with two or three guitars, and some yearning lyrics that really can bring tears to the eyes. Sounds like some accordion or strings in the back, too. A duet solo from violin and harmonica, and gentle vocal harmonies. Wetton doesn’t come in till the last verse or so. Like most double guitar songs, Whitney would play the strumming 12-string while the other guitarist would take the single guitar lines.

  7. “Glove” – This has now become my favorite tune from the album, because of its growth from simple beginnings to a towering ending. Another tear-jerker, but a heavy one. A single bass line, some quiet bluesy wailing from Chapman, and some jazzy piano licks make for a steady intro. Then electric guitar, drums and organ give a taste of the power to come. The chorus has strings that give both a lifting and a draining effect with the use of major and minor chord progressions. An austere guitar solo takes it over the top. Growling Chapman goes against the grain of the slow climbing and descending melodies. The lead guitar in front of weeping strings with elegant multi-vocals just brings me to my knees. Stop the music, where’re the tissues…

  8. “Ready to Go” – Probably what seems to be the most basic of songs from the album. But underneath the R&B facade lies some solo violin and vibes, some shifting time changes, and as always the shimmer and vibrato of some classic Chapman. Straight-up guitar solo with electric piano, more synths (used with more subtlety), and Townsend’s steady drums up front. Wetton’s in there somewhere… This song served an open reply to their critics.

  9. “Top of the Hill” – Another atmospheric start, like the recording began as they jammed quietly with touches of harmonics and light percussion. The sound builds along with the drums, and the guitars riff it up. Some strings add class to this burly rocker. A mid-tempo tune that is nice, but just lacks the eclectic feel that this line-up had on the last album. Better executed in a live setting. Some marimba and punchy strings are heard on the final measures.

Leave a Reply