Loose threads from a legendary band’s post-halcyon days that hang together just fine – to redefine the ensemble’s lean years.
Toward the mid-’70s, HP were progressively losing the plot, although the shift from heavy blues to blue-eyed soul seemed all too natural for this lot – seemed to everyone except for themselves. The quality of a few albums laid down in Steve Marriott’s home studio couldn’t compete with the group’s initial stretch of records, and if not for his failure to join the Mick Jagger-fronted bunch and not for Andrew Loog Oldham taking up the reins for what became “Street Rats” in 1975, the quartet’s history would be over. Still, Steve and bassist Greg Ridley, with a limited involvement of guitarist Clem Clempson and drummer Jerry Shirley, persisted in working behind the scenes on some other pieces: a couple of those made it onto the aforementioned LP, whereas the rest remained in vaults for a couple of decades – the time the songs needed to gel into a cohesive entity.
The somewhat slapdash character of the recordings is reflected in this reissue’s artwork, featuring the band’s original line-up, with Peter Frampton, which may further muddle one’s perception of it all. The tracks – the joint effort of their two masterminds – sound raw in places but often bubble with energy to reveal alternative routes the group could have chosen had the players been able to shake off their genre-related shackles. There’s a raga-like done running through a few arrangements – on the languid cover of The Fabs’ “Rain” or the organ-bolstered “This Ol’ World” where Former Small Face and Ridley share silk-and-velvet vocal lines. The call-and-response and powerful riff of “Snakes & Ladders” and the piano-led “Good Thing” that’s heated to a boiling point take the formula beyond the obvious, yet, of course, it’s more traditional fare that stand out.
Whether it’s a brass-splashed, effervescently tight – despite the drum-machine-delivered groove – take on James Brown’s “Think” which bookends the album, or the perky “Charlene” which rocks in a pure Marriott way, almost every number here is enjoyable, increasingly so as the years go passing by. High on spirituality, “A Minute Of Your Time” and “Midnight Of My Life” capture the singers in a gospel jive, while Greg’s voice and four strings unhurriedly drive the funky “Let Me Be Your Lovemaker” to the sweet, sweet spot its lyrics target with much gusto – elevated by Clem’s honeyed licks and, ultimately, this pseudo-album exceeds expectations and has stood the test of time better than many designated records. Not essential, perhaps, but important.