Harvest 1976 / Think Like A Key 2023
Taking country roads to the home counties, British dreamers dance towards eternity.
Here’s a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees – or, in this instance, the fields for a single tree. Even though “Too Many Crooks” was produced – as its predecessor "Blue Pine Trees" had been, two years earlier – by David Gilmour, who seemed impressed enough by UNICORN’s music to not only steer them in the studio but also record their classic “No Way Out Of Here” for his solo debut, that would be unfair to the ensemble to focus only on the Floydian’s involvement. Picking up where their compatriots BRONCO and COCHISE left off in terms of English country rock, they perfectly captured the spirit of prairies on what would be the band’s penultimate album, their masterpiece which keeps on giving off unique sweet aroma of flawed innocence.
There’s preciously little rustic elements in this sonic landscape, though: the second half of the ’70s dictated a different approach to the group’s chosen genre. So, despite the seductive presence of pedal steel and bluegrass filigree, such cuts as the groovy opener “Weekend” and, especially, the gently orchestrated “Disco Dancer” offer a pop sheen for the listener to bask in, while the saloon ditty “He’s Got Pride” with its barrelhouse piano and “Keep On Going” where boogie riffs flow Into infectious funky licks fully inhabit the collective’s imaginary western. As drummer Pete Perryer and guitarist-songwriter Ken Baker take lead and backing vocals on various tracks, with bassist Pat Martin joining in the honeyed harmonies, the keening melodies and upbeat refrains of “Bullseye Bill” and “Ferry Boat” – on which Kevin Smith’s six strings shine should melt the hardest of hearts – are emotionally balanced with the lush, yet translucent, titular ballad that bears a Gilmour vibe.
But if “Easy” bares its muscular bottom-end ripple running under acoustically laced tune, the aforementioned “No Way Out Of Here” is as celestially soft and electrically charged as a hymn – as opposed to the robust finale of “In The Mood” that bounces off the organ-ollied, bluesy ground to slither and soar until the folk-informed bonus “So Far Away” brings this flight down, to a close. Not triumphant yet deeply satisfying, here’s quiet catharsis to the album’s end – and to album per se.