Berkshire campers’ early excursions to outer reaches via radio waves.
The Summer of Love signaled a period of wild creativity for this quartet, and it didn’t take them long to come up with a slew of material which would be released on the band’s debut LP at the end of 1967, although most of it was ready to go before the fall – and the group went on the air with it in September when they first performed for the Beeb and, on-stage, for Swedish radio. Those transmissions are here, with a smattering of December recordings thrown in to expand the listener’s perception of the ensemble who could easily progress – especially in front of the audience – beyond such innocuous songs as “Smiling Phases” or “Paper Sun” to embrace the gloomy soulfulness on “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and then let their jazz hair down with “Giving To You” that brings the foursome’s awesome concert interplay to the fore.
With Dave Mason shining as vocalist and bassist on the almost obscure “Hope I Never Find Me There” and “A House For Everyone” – where Chris Wood’s organ and flute engage in a short, if impassioned, wigout – and as flamenco guitarist on “Dealer” that, despite it being in mono, sounds brighter than on album, there’s a lot to enjoy, while Steve Winwood’s classical leanings ans gossamer voice in “No Face, No Name, No Number” are truly arresting. Free from studio constraints and psychedelic ideas, the sitar on “Hole In My Shoe” reigns supreme and even “Coloured Rain” turns into a blistering slice of rhythm-and-blues, yet a live-only “Feelin’ Good” – driven by Jim Capaldi’s muscular beat and embossed in stereo – adds a shamanic jive to the band’s method. A little later, the ensemble would become too exquisite and sophisticated; here, they’re captured still fresh-faced and vigorous, making “Where The Poppies Grow” a small revelation.