Various Artists: Beyond The Pale Horizon
3CD | DL
Released 28 May 2021
Subtitled “The British Progressive Pop Sounds Of 1972” this new 3CD set contains some big hits from the likes of Roxy Music, Hawkwind and Thin Lizzy, along with more obscure offerings from Hard Stuff, Rusty and Cold Turkey….Ian Canty’s mind goes back to his infant school days and is told to drink up his milk or there will be no story for the entire class…
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By the time 1972 arrived, the hangover from the sixties before was finally beginning to lift in the UK, with the first new music trend glam already making a mark. Beyond The Pale Horizon seeks to reflect these changing times. Even so, The Beatles still cast a big shadow and psychedelia, which was a part of a lot of these bands’ recent past, also played a part in the development of music made in the new decade.
As can be gleaned from the other sets in this series (you can read a review to 1971’s set here), pop and progressive rock weren’t quite as strange a set of bedfellows that they might have appeared at first glance. If prog bands wanted to stay well clear of the commercialism of the charts, why did they release singles from their albums? Looking at it the other way, why shouldn’t the same artists want their tunes to be coming out of the radio and be on Top Of The Pops? Not all the outfits featured here are prog, as hard rockers, glam hopefuls and singer-songwriters all get in on the act, something which helps to portray a more well-rounded picture of pop in Britain in 1972.
Disc one starts with Van Der Graaf Generator, nobody’s idea of a boy band, with a racing instrumental piece Theme One. Next comes Roxy Music’s Virginia Plain, which may not be really either pop or prog, but is utterly marvellous and one of the best debut singles ever released. For me The Strawbs are seldom heard better than on the intoxicating groove of Here It Comes, a fine amalgam of Bo Diddley beat and Magic Bus with added warm organ sounds and crashing guitar breaks. It seems a crime that The Very First Clown, by Shape Of The Rain, never saw release at the time. Band leader Keith Riley put together this demo for the band’s projected second album, which unfortunately never saw the light of day.
Do Ya was on the flipside of The Move’s final hit California Man and is mighty hard-rockin’ and catchy. All things considered, what a fine way to go out on. It is pretty redundant to call The Moody Blues’ Isn’t Life Strange overblown, as the “everything as well as the kitchen sink” arrangement is a fair deal of the true joy of the piece. Surrey band Rusty’s Once Upon A Dream is a stomping and melodic slice of pop/rock and Nazareth’s country-folk hoedown Fool About You is atypical of them, but a refreshing change too. This is where Beyond The Pale Horizon really scores – giving the listener a different perspective on many of the artists present.
The very talented Stackridge weigh in with their proto-animal rights classic Keep On Clucking. Some people infer such wilful eccentricity held them back from real pop success, but I say that their imagination and invention should be prized as an asset, not maligned. Rupert Hine can easily be identified as the voice behind Quantum Leap’s Lone Ranger hit of later in the 70s on his song Hamburgers, a pleasantly daft number that benefits from some cool keyboards. After a couple of typically high-quality offerings from Slade and Mott The Hoople in Wonderin’ Y and a demo of Honaloochie Boogie respectively, we get to some genuine heavyweight proggers at the tail end of this first disc.
Caravan came out of the famed late 1960’s Canterbury scene and their Aristocracy is the kind of agreeable and energetic pop wonder that they occasionally turned their hands to. The stripped-back cool of Nirvana’s I Need Your Love Tonight and lastly a contribution from Yes bring this disc to its conclusion. The latter outfit’s America, a trimmed-down version of a lengthy showstopper from the band’s live set, was a minor hit in that country and pulses along nicely with soaring vocals and real purpose.
Moving onto the second section of Beyond The Pale Horizon, ELO kick things off with 10538 Overture, sounding a little edgier and more psychedelic than their later material might lead you to believe. Free were of course a staple of 70s hard rock and they’re on high energy top form on the pleasingly raw-edged Little Bit Of Love. Family give us the typically fine Burlesque and Cold Turkey’s version of the Ray Davies composition Nobody’s Fool, also the theme from the TV series Budgie, screams the early 70s in its downbeat cool.
This disc also includes one of my favourite singles ever. By 1972 The Troggs’ magical run through the charts in 1966 may have been but a distant memory, but somehow they managed to conjure up Feels Like A Woman, a truly ferocious fuzzed-up skull crusher of a tune that was punk as hell while Johnny Rotten was still a teenage Hawkwind fan (more of them later). Unsurprisingly the following Birds Must Learn To Fly by the oddly named Rocky Cabbage is a more sedate affair, though the chilled fuzz of the outro is quite brilliant.
The Bonzos score with a comic 50s pastiche The King Of Scurf and the mysterious lyrics and cool psych effects of Dark’s Maypole are good too. There’s a big organ sound on White Plains’ Beachcomber and Bombadil’s When The City Sleeps is a bittersweet touch of class. This disc ends with Second Hand’s Funeral, with strings, screams and guitars all in the mix of a swinging melody.
Finally arriving at the last disc of Beyond The Pale Horizon, we’re welcomed by Thin Lizzy and the folk music cover that put them in the top ten of the UK charts, Whiskey In The Jar. It has been played to death over the years, but the outlaw chic of the song suited the band down to the ground and the lovely guitar intro, which is usually obscured by dumb DJs burbling inanely over, can at least be heard in all its glory.
Then come Status Quo, by this time firmly ensconced in boogie mode, on Paper Plane and the tough bluesy rock of Hello’s The Wench was far more in the band’s DNA in truth than the glam that got them in the charts. Hawkwind’s unstoppable and peerless Silver Machine comes up soon, but any lingering fears that this was developing into “I Love The 70s” supermarket fodder is dispelled the further along we go, with the big hits mostly being over early on and rarer birds then start to dominate.
Sterling advice is offered by Summer Wine, a group containing Tony Rivers of 60s band Harmony Grass, on the entertainingly daft sunny pop jewel Take A Load Off Your Feet. The unusually named Grobbert & Duff impress with the mod pop-influenced goodie I Am…I Think and Atlantis, a name covering the refined talents of Liverpudlians Jimmy Campbell and Billy Kinsey, offer up the neat blues rocker Teddy Boyd’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Show. Curved Air again prove what a great outfit they were/are, with keys and voices providing a genuine surge of energy on the cool, addictive Sarah’s Concern and Hard Stuff, who included John Cann and Paul Hammond from Atomic Rooster, give us some fine, riff-laden proto-metal in Taken Alive.
The bouncy down-home blues of maverick Kevin Coyne on God Bless The Bride beguile and Jake, actually a pseudonym for ex-Spencer Davis Group trio Ray Fenwick, Eddie Hardin and Peter York, furnish us with some snappy soul-pop embellished with a flowing flute solo on And In the Morning. Rock & Roll journeyman Jimmy Edwards, who would crop up later in the decade as part of 1977 punk band Masterswitch, fronts Guest & Edwards on All Alone, a touching rock ballad and the ill-fated Graham Bond and Pete Brown team up to good effect on Mass Debate, a masterpiece in a late psych character study style. It’s left for the usually brilliant Patto to brings things to a close with a jokey and rather unsettling acapella throwaway Mummy.
Though there are a few underwhelming efforts on Beyond The Pale Horizon, they are far outweighed by unheard gems and well-known bands hitting top form. Disc one is consistently enjoyable and though the other two have occasional dips in quality, they both also contain a wealth of more impressive numbers that make them worthwhile. 1972 was a year with plenty happening in the UK pop scene and Grapefruit have scooped up a large amount of rare and great tunes on this collection, as well as popping in a couple more familiar hits. Though these boxsets have their detractors, there is more than enough good stuff present to enjoy and make me for one look forward to how things bear up if 1973 is covered next.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here