FEARLESS review from Creem magazine (Vol. 3, No. 11; April, 1972)
“I never liked Family. I got their Reprise albums, played them a couple of times and took ’em down to the used book store. They were completely incomprehensible, and Roger Chapman sang like an electric goat. Then about a year ago, I somehow got a copy of an album called Anyway on British Reprise. It was beautifully packaged, in a vinyl pouch that had a flap at the top, out of which you could pull the record in its sleeve and a folded-over piece of cardboard with a reproduction of a Leonardo da Vinci print on it. Just because the packaging fascinated me I put it on. The first side was live, and it made my hair stand right on end. The second side wasn’t bad, either. But Reprise over here in the States announced that they’d dropped Family because they only sold a couple hundred copies of their albums, and it didn’t matter how big a following they had in England, it was plain that they didn’t have one over here.
“So Anyway didn’t get released over here, and I thought we’d heard the end of Family until United Artists signed them and announced that they would release it, albeit with modified packaging, soon. And now, their first album since they left Reprise is out, and it’s called Fearless. UA assures us that they still intend to release the other one, but meanwhile, here’s a stopgap. Well, it’s not quite as good as Anyway, but it’s still a good, strong album, loaded with some of the most intense, high-energy British rock and roll being made these days. The filler cuts pass quickly enough, the few of them that there are (“Spanish Tide” and “Children”), and what’s left is fine indeed.
“What makes Family such an exciting band is primarily their lead singer, Roger Chapman, who insists on choosing material that is just ever so slightly too high for his singing range. When he reaches for those upper notes, screaming as he does, it is a scary thing to hear. Beyond this, though, the band provides a backing of finely-wrought, semi-dissonant excitement. It is not difficult, when listening to Family, to imagine why they are rural England’s favorite band. Even to somebody who’s never been there they manage to evoke the moors and rocky wastes of legend, and Chapman’s quavery voice could belong to an 80-year-old sheep farmer as well as to a rock singer.
“The most notable cuts on Fearless are the full-tilt, loud, high-energy ones, since that’s what the band does best. My favorite is “Blind”, with Chapman’s upper register climb, a bagpipe-like violin, and some truly ethereal keyboard (?) noises at the beginning. “Sat’d’y Barfly” could be a Rod Stewart outtake, and in fact it has me wondering who’s borrowing from whom. No matter, though – it’s good. “Larf and Sing” has a nice acappella chorus on it, and “Between Blue and Me”, a fine song that just builds and builds, features a killer lead guitar duet.
“Yeah, I’ve come to like Family, and I’ll go on record as saying that Fearless more than fills the gap. By the way, the cover is a computer graphic, with pictures being added to one another, culminating in the sum picture under the word Family in the upper right-hand corner. It’s as good a cover as the one on Anyway, and just wait’ll they release that.
Reviewer: Ed Ward