Verdant 2004 / Gonzo 2013
Jazzy blues giants open up their treasure chest to trace an alternative path through their past.
To be a beloved band of non-conformist Mick Farren’s and have a song covered by traditionalist Joey Ramone is no mean feat. But then, this was not your regular progressive ensemble as guitarist Mick Abrahams left JETHRO TULL after “This Was” to find another way to the rock roots and tangle them in a different fashion. Such an agenda lies behind the demo of “See My Way” off the group’s second album, 1970’s “Getting To This,” the piece picked by Ramone and a breezy, harmonic, fairly exotic opener of “Pigthology” that collects a dozen of rarities, some from the studio, like a countrified instrumental “Sly Bones,” and some from the stage.
The concert tracks are a special attraction here, showing the collective’s wide stylistic span in their initial flight, from the airy “The Change Song” which was laid down at “The Marquee” in 1969, at the time of PIG’s debut, “Ahead Rings Out,” to the sophisticated, scat-embroidered jazz of “Cosmogrification” from 1973 when PIG briefly reunited. It’s there that the full blast is exerted by the pairing of Abrahams’ bluesy axe with Jack Lancaster‘s blaring sax, although, as “Same Old Story” or “Baby Girl” – recorded for John Peel and never released on LP – show, playing for a small audience couldn’t limit the band’s effusive boogie sway, as roaring as the “Stormy Monday” closing salvo. Yet to see the quartet confined to a single genre would be a mistake, as the slow dance of Lancaster’s violin around the leader’s acoustic slide guitar and smooth croon in “Dear Jill” takes the drift into the fusion future, as does “Monkinit” with Jack on piano and Monk quotes are underscored by a sensual rhythm courtesy of bassist Andy Pyle and drummer Ron Berg. Sadly, their magic was short-lived.
A vital addition to a collector’s trove all these years later (although it lacks “Hound Dog” listed on the cover), “Pigthology” forms a vigorous album on its own, a reminder of the times when tradition was breeding non-conformism and pigs could fly to the endless possibilities.