by Patrick Little.
archived from Song For Me website.
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.
- “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’
- “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.
– 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.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.
– 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.
- “Burlesque” – Album track. See BANDSTAND.
- “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.
- “My Friend the Sun” – Album track. See BANDSTAND.
- “Glove” – Album track. See BANDSTAND.
- “Boom Bang” – Album track. See IT’S ONLY A MOVIE.
- “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.
- “Sweet Desiree” – Album track. See IT’S ONLY A MOVIE.
- “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
- ” 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:
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:
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.
- “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.
- “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.