Harvest 1969 / Esoteric 2013
A quantum leap into the future in search of identity resulting in shiny vivacity.
Rarely a band’s first and second albums, recorded within a few months’ span, demonstrate such a divide. Having discarded the “Chicago” part of their name on the debut LP, CBB broke away from the genre frame associated with this city and expanded their stylistic and sonic palette plus, to a certain extent, their modus operandi. Whereas Peter Haycock’s added effects to his axes array, Colin Cooper’s lungs work here more in the context of sax, rather than vocals, making a good portion of the record instrumental.
That’s how it is from the start, once jazzy “Flight” reveals its tremendous wall of sound, whence also a problem arises of the ensemble donning the masks of other collectives – that of COLOSSEUM here and of BLODWYN PIG in the acoustic comedy that is a cover of “Cubano Chant”, where wordless voice complements the reeds and George Newsome’s drums go jungle, as they do, before the drift turns romantic, in the fab bonus single “Like Uncle Charlie”. Not for nothing there’s a mischievous boy on the cover.
If it’s business as usual in “Twenty Past Two/Temptation Rag”, slide roll and bluesy jive, for the most part there’s impressive players’ prowess on display, Richard Jones’ bass walking ’round Arthur Wood’s piano in “Hey Baby, Everything’s Gonna Be Alright! Yeh Yeh Yeh” and mellotron sending “Mum’s The Word” from the famous Strauss quote into outer space. Still, towards the end the old template returns, and “So Many Roads” trods the beaten path, despite its organ shimmer, until guitar gets multiplied and lift the weight, and “Crazy ‘Bout My Baby” puts a new energy onto a familiar paradigm, adding a stereo madness for the album’s vertiginous finale. The previously unreleased gem “Dance Of The Mountain King’s Daughter” takes it all down the world music road… Sadly, the band were reluctant to go further, and “Plays On” remains – arguably – a pinnacle of their adventure.