Angel Air 2017
Unconventional and pure in intent: rare concert recording from British band who lost it all.
When this quintet trod the boards of Trent Polytechnic, there was no looking back for the musicians whose hat-trick of albums didn’t result in noticeable chart action. In fact, there wasn’t much looking forward either, as nothing was planned past the tour so, once it ended, Micky Moody left to find fame, if not fortune, with David Coverdale, and Clem Clempson refused to strike a resonant chord with singer Bobby Harrison, which spelled the end for the ensemble. No such premonition marred their on-stage performances, though, the Nottingham tapes evoking a spirited play on the group’s first ever live release, and presenting them in slightly different light than studio LPs did.
It may come as a surprise to hear how, in front of the audience, the band’s bluesy slant is drawn towards jazz or how fantasy-informed flurries of notes shaped their last shows. Of course, there’s funk to the fore, as bass throb of the then-fresh “Don’t Keep Me Wondering” gets peppered with a jive from electric piano and further spiced up with samba drums before Harrison’s vocals roll poised elegance towards wild roar. Yet while Tim Hinkley’s ivories shine on improvisational field, Moody’s six strings take up the ensemble’s deliberate slack on a groovy “Long Gone” from the collective’s self-titled debut and rock this cut hard, tightening and loosening its ebb and flow.
Freestyle blues and call-and-response are added to the heady mix for “Big Legged Woman” which the group never took to the studio to expand on the piece’s fusion in a more disciplined way, leaving this version the testament to their ability to throw caution to the wind and cruise around the tune, but the cover of “Every Little Bit Hurts” is as soulful as it gets, without embellishments except for a filigree guitar figure on a solo. Little less convincing, the infectious, translucent flutter of “Unsettled Dust” would attain more details later on, when Harrison resurrected it for a NOBODY’S BUSINESS’ album, albeit that congregation couldn’t give “Highway” the flair it had in SNAFU’s performance – this brisk country-rock vibe gaining frivolous speed along the way – as documented here to compensate for the absence of the "Situation Normal" material.
Rounding off the listening experience, in inferior sound quality, are four cuts from 1977 by Bobby’s next band, the short-lived NIAGRA: a much more polished proposition, filled with vocal harmonies on “Crossfire” and smearing AOR all over the punchy “Cold Eyes” whose surface is punctured with a sharp riff. Far from SNAFU’s rawness, these numbers only stress how special that quintet was – great while it lasted and coming alive now.