A Song For Me

by Patrick Little.
archived from Song For Me website.

This was the first Family album I got, so it kinda sticks with me. I was initially impressed with the way the band mixed acoustic guitars and really heavy songs. This is a harder album than the two previous, due in part to the loss of textures provided by Jim King (sax, flute, and harmonica). Poli Palmer kept some flute work in the band, but he wasn’t as adept. His strength lied in the vibraphone, as displayed on this album. In fact some of these songs were written with Jim King’s woodwinds in mind, so the effects-flute comes off sounding a bit strange. Also, John Weider’s violin and second guitar add to the ensemble. Not as pieced together, instrumentally, as the previous; more like a good touring outfit, and this line-up proved to be a live success.
An interesting note about the two lines on the album cover reverse… “Song For You” turned up later in “Children” from 1971’s Fearless. No idea what happened to “Will’s Blues” by Weider.

  1. “Drowned in Wine” – Graceful intro on the 12-string acoustic. Then comes a patented bleating from Chapman. When I first heard this, it blew me away. I thought “What does this guy think he’s doing?!” The answer: rock ‘n’ roll! A great technique in this song is how they alternate bashing and swinging… a perfect mix of light with heavy. Some STRANGE flute playing by Palmer (amplified?). This was a good concert piece to really cut loose. Here we can see that Family’s sound is a little less “studio” and more jam-oriented.
  2. “Some Poor Soul” – An entirely seperate texture is presented here, with mellow 7th chords and harmonics. The guitars are more out front than on previous recordings. I believe it was usually Weider who soloed while Whitney played the 12-string accompaniment. Nice soulful voice by Chapman, and more flute by Palmer.
  3. “Love is a Sleeper” – Rockabilly kicks in, with acoustic and electric riffs. This could be the first Family vibes tune… either this or “Good Friend of Mine”; and they seem right in place. Poli’s main instrument makes for a really strong ensemble. Drums consist of hi-hat keeping the rhythm with some nice pummelling thrown in. Chapman rips towards the final verses of the tune, while organ helps build the final repeating riff. Look out… everyone’s soloing! The organ in this song is credited to George Bruno, and I think this is the “Zoot Money” of Eric Burdon and the Animals fame.
  4. “Stop for the Traffic – Throught the Heart of Me” – The style of this seems to look back to the Family tunes of the previous album. It sounds like single-material for some reason. An upbeat strumming tune with vocals with primitive panning and echo effects, reversed guitar solos.
  5. “Wheels” – Slightly dark beginnings, with shimmering vibrato from Chapman, and delicate acoustic work. Flute and organ lead into the chorus, followed by some heavy acoustic guitar and vibes too. This is an interesting structured song that they develop into an eccentric arrangement; but the solo guitar parts sound a little too improvised. A chilling scream from Chapman thrown in to seperate the solos. Uh-oh, I think he cursed! He’s really hitting his signature stride with the vocal sounds on this song. I’ve been told that as opposed to other shredders in rock music, he has said that he found techniques that were not detrimental to his throat. In that way, Chapman has been able to carry his unique sound over many years.
  6. “Song for Sinking Lovers” – Nice banjo starts the song off, another floating-down-the-river song. Gentle musings by Chapman, followed by a heavy shuffle with violin by Weider. Love the changing tempos: double-time, single-time, drumless…
  7. “Hey – Let It Rock” – The vibes from Palmer add a jazz feel, and they could pass for a night club act here. Some harpsichord, piano, and flute is thrown in against the cool bass line. Cuts directly into…
  8. “The Cat and the Rat” – This is 12-bar rocker with a hard country twang. It really stood out on my first listen of the album. Take that, Alvin Lee! Townsend’s drums are just SO anchoring, they’re perfect. I hear three soloing guitars, plus the backup 12-string, bass and piano. “You can shake it!….”
  9. “93’s O.K. J” – No, I don’t know what it means either. Strange instrumental, with interweaving guitar lines with vibes underneath. Some bass and string lines also. The drums come in midway, with an old Fleetwood Macish bongos and tambourine sound; then back to the weaving pattern. This song sounds like it could be melodic outtakes from the rest of the album, possibly a jam/filler. It was cowritten by Weider.
  10. “A Song For Me” – Grand finale for the album. An epic that is a far-cry from the original jam version that can be heard on the Strange Band bootleg. I’ve turned on a couple of friends by playing this without saying who it was. Quiet organ intro (kinda like the first Gentle Giant album)… tension builds… heavy guitar riff… pounding piano and bass… vocal shredding by you-know-who… and NINE MINUTES LONG… all good ingredients for a tasty treat. Again, Townsend’s drums are ever-steady and really upfront, and the bass guitar really sounds its best of the whole album. Organ solo with guitar on the opposite channel, continued wailing from Chapman, and violin pokes its head out. This last element continues as the tune dies down a bit, and echoed violin takes center stage (kinda like Gentle Giant… apologies for my redundancy). Tempo and the riffs gradually increase to double speed, and Chapman comes back for a short spell. One final echoed widdly-widdly, and the epic ends. A tune which demonstrates superior confidence in the playing. Family had found their niche and hit their stride.

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