Cotillion 1970 / Esoteric 2013
Screaming Earl of Harrow’s belated debut rebuts its title as the worst album of all time. With a half of ZEP onboard, greatly gonzoid it ain’t either.
His was the name many heard, connected particularly with political activities, which can’t be said of his music. It’s always been that way. David Sutch’s illustrious career that saw him delivered on-stage in a coffin, painting his face and produced by Joe Meek, started in the early ’70s, but it wasn’t before the end of the decade that the good Lord came up with an LP. Not as impressive in the studio as in front of the public, Sutch’s talent in choosing the best accompanists still feels impeccable: at various point his band THE SAVAGES included future DEEP PURPLE members Ritchie Blackmore and Nick Simper as well as PROCOL HARUM organist Matthew Fisher and Jimmy Page. The first album of the latter’s own group proved Page a producer as well as instrumentalist, Lord asked Jimmy to help him cook a vinyl, too.
Whether Sutch clearly stated that this record would be released as such, remains unknown, yet when everyone involved in its making – save for Lord, of course – saw their names on the “Heavy Friends” front cover, friendly ties vanished, and it was doomed. Still, it didn’t deserve such a fate. Heavy indeed, with another ex-Savage Carlo Little and Page’s new sidekick John Bonham providing the thunder, these dozen of cuts might sound dated now – and, perhaps, seemed a tad obsolete even then – perfectly capture the singer’s adventures on both sides of Atlantic. Action-packed “L-O-N-D-O-N” that’s punctured with Noel Redding’s bass, and “Union Jack Car” offer a catchy groove, and the funk of “Flashing Lights” is delightful enough, yet its vibe doesn’t fully unfold to match the urgent urbanity of “Jack The Ripper” which made Sutch a star.
More so the concept arc of “Thumping Beat” and “Wailing Sounds” wraps a pretty much hollow fervency, if slightly familiar, around Lord’s ragged vocals roaring “with Jimmy Page you can’t go wrong” to turn it upside down sonic-wise. The producer failed to elevate “Smoke And Fire” to the modern era’s demands, and although his axe wah-wah’s nicely throughout most of the songs, most sharply in the riffage of “‘Cause I Love You” with its tasty stereo, it’s Jeff Beck who whacks a tight twang into the harmonies of “Gutty Guitar” before Nicky Hopkins’ piano picks up the sway to ebb away once the wildness looms large. The two former Yardbirds join forces on “Brightest Light” where backing voices and flute highlight Lord’s often overlooked soft underbelly, yet “Baby, Come Back” swings him in the comfortably screaming area.
The least reserved it gets the better it bites, and the whole album of belters would have served the artist’s reputation well. A curio this record may be but today it fares more lively than many of its contemporaries.