Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Classic Albums Of The 70s-Pretty Things Savage Eye

One of the longest lasting bands of the British Invasion but never quite reached the highest highs of The Rolling Stones or Beatles, The Pretty Things, named after a Bo Diddley song and having Dick Taylor on bass, who played on the earliest version of the Stones, managed to play some dirty R N B rock and roll in the Bo Diddley beat but perhaps they were too dirty for the American buying public who basically ignored them.  Shout Factory did a fairly good job of capturing the early years and of course the critics choices of the late 60s and early 70s on Come See Me.  Snapper's 2 CD Get The Picture focuses on the early years and of course a heaping helping of Bo Diddley music done The Pretty Things way.  Polygram issued Get A Buzz, which is the Fontana years and worth finding. Coming in March, Snapper Classics in the UK goes all out and will be issuing a big box set of just about everything The Pretty Things committed to vinyl or CD in their five decades of togetherness. We're talking 16 CDs baby!

Somehow The Pretty Things managed to find themselves on Rare Earth for Parachute and S F Sorrow, which the former managed to make the original Rolling Stones best 100 albums of all time which is debatable. I never did catch on what made them popular.  Then again critics choices tend to disappoint if you expect too much.  In the mid 70s, begin a much more harder rock sound with Freeway Madness, issued on Warner Brothers and somehow The Medicine Label, an offshoot of Giant Records reissued it and I come to find it to be a better listen than Parachute or SF Sorrow, a matter of taste I guess.  Madness didn't sell but then Jimmy Page and Peter Grant came calling and signed The Pretty Things up on the Swan Song label for a couple of albums.  Working with Norman "hurricane" Smith on both of them, Silk Torpedo was the first and despite of a couple rocking tracks. Singapore Silk Torpedo and Dream/Joey I didn't think much of it.  Slightly less enjoyable than Freeway Madness, next.

Savage Eye came out in 1975 and to these ears it was their best record of the 70s, beginning with the Under The Volcano which sounds a lot like Led Zeppelin with the Page like riff at the middle and end of the song. The new guy Jack Green helps the mellow but sad "Sad Eye" before they turn the amps up to ten and get the Led out on Remember That Boy.  Special mention to Skip Alan who does sound a bit like John Bonham.  Except for the so so My Song, the first side really does hold up.

Side 2 begins with the T Rex/Slade, glam slam  of It Isn't Rock And Roll and I'm Keeping (Bad Company) which may have been a shout out to the other band on Swan Song.  Phil may wails on It's Been So Long and perhaps the weakest track Drowned Man is still worth a listen before things wind down with Song For Michelle.  Snapper Music adds three bonus tracks from later sessions after Phil May left and the band tried to carry on before pulling the plug after running afoul of Peter Grant.  While the liner notes detail about the final recordings and messy breakup, the original Swan Song album has the lyrics.  Which is disappointing leaving the words off on the CD, there is a reference to Maggie Bell who signed on with Swan Song after a album on Atlantic that garnered good reviews.    However, Phil May revived the band in 1980 and The Pretty Things returned to Warner Brothers for the lousy Cross Talk album.  The less said the better.  But May and the Things have been recording new albums in the past 35 years all of varying degree.

Reviews have been mixed, Richie Umberger called it the least memorable in an All Music Review. Certainly Savage Eye was geared toward FM radio and it did get airplay here in the Midwest.  And although it only made it to 163 on the charts, it became one of only 2 of their albums to ever break into the top 200.  If Umberger may have been turned off by the Zeppelin type of sound and would rather hear Parachute  instead. He wasn't alone, other critics complained it to be too 70s and too polished although I tend to disagree on that.   What Savage Eye was really the first time I was introduced to The Pretty Things via FM radio and Under The Volcano and Remember That Boy, I love those songs.  And Jack Green does provide a vocal counterpoint to May's attempt to try to be in Robert Plant's league.  Which doesn't happen, sometimes May's high pitched vocals do remind the listener that he's no Plant.  Overlook My Song and Savage Eye is a enjoyable mini classic.  To which afterwards, when the Pretty Things returned in 1980 they gave up the hard rock that started with Freeway Madness and ended with Savage Eye.  But while the rest of the world will remember them for the hard nitty gritty of the 60s or the rock opera attempts of Parachute and SF Sorrow, I'll be happy to remember them for Savage Eye, even though I may be in the minority. 

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