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FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT

Family

 

Eclectic Prog

3.51 | 70 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Summer of 4.5

(You'll have to excuse me if I attempt to delve into the philosophical motives behind some of the instrumentation on some of the songs. Other bands have chroniclers to explain WHY they did what they did when they did it, I somehow doubt Family has anyone like that. Guess that's me.)

It seems that while Ian Anderson was still singin' the blooz (not that he's ever stopped), Roger Chapman and his ragged gang of mobsters had already written Thick as a Brick! Alright, probably not true, but I swear that between "The Weaver's Answer" and "Processions," you have the whole of Gerald Bostock's life's philosophy.

This album is a kind of letdown after Music in a Doll's House. I mean, in several ways, it's an improvement. The songs are a little more, uh, "Family oriented," and the musicians all play tighter and more naturally. Plus, the quality is cleaner here, Doll's House sometimes sounded a little muddy. Oh, and, the cover's way cooler. They're spoofing the Doors' "Strange Days," am I right?

However, the near immaculate consistency of Doll's House is gone on Family Entertainment. The songs still flow naturally, but sometimes without much connection. And there's filler! I swear it, there weren't no filler on that last one. However, in reality, it's not much of a drop; what Entertainment lacks in consistency, it makes up in pure song power.

Simply put: you cannot hate an album that opens with a number like "The Weaver's Answer." Okay, wait a minute, actually, you probably can. If you hate all things Family; namely, that weird blend of the artsy and the rootsy, multiple instrumentation almost to the point of uselessness, and of course, Roger Chapman on vocals. As for me, I love all that crap! Bring it awn!

"The Weaver's Answer" opens with a little hushed, mystical mantra, but very quickly becomes a driving, somewhat trippy, somewhat acoustic march. Love that rhythm section. Then there's pretty much some soloing, saxophone and cool, watery guitar, and then back to the march again. I LOVE Chappo here; as he continues listing his life's events to the "Weaver," wondering how much impact they've honestly had on the tapestry of the universe, he gets angrier and angrier, spitting out the lines with spine tingling honesty. And all the little flute and electric guitar noises that comes from...wherever? Great. Needless to say, it all collapses in on itself, and we start back at the beginning again. Point is, this song rocks. Hard. It's pretty much brilliant, and I can think of a few "real" progressive bands that would kill for something of its effortless quality. Best song on the album? You better bet.

"Observations From a Hill" is a nice folksy, acoustic number, but I'm less fond of it. Perhaps because Ric Grech is singing the verses? He reminds me of Geddy Lee on that one; you listen to it and tell me otherwise! "Hung Up Down" brings us back to the patented Chappo growl, and the chorus is actually pretty good.

"Summer '67" is a highlight for sure. It's an instrumental, but don't look for any summer of love references here. No, this is a bouncy folk chorus traded off with a decidedly Eastern themed verse, and I DON'T mean sitars and crap, I mean real Middle Eastern violin. Who was doing that at the time? "Kashmir" wouldn't come out for another half a decade. "How-Hi-the-Li" is just nutso. Which is a good thing. It's a sort of trippy groove (and listen to the first verse, gotta love the lyrics).

"Second Generation Woman" is probably the least attractive tune on the album, a difficulty we really didn't have to encounter on the first record. It's a rough rocker, but it's also melodyless. Pity, the soloing is probably the best on the album. "From Past Archives" is one of the weirdest numbers, in a way. I mean, the rootsy harmonica and the medieval harpsichord? And then the jazzy sax soloing? It's a cute number, don't get me wrong, but when the violin comes in it seems a little overstuffed. Great vocals though.

Now "Dim" is a truly catchy harmonica and banjo driven rocker about the dangers of...uh, loving with the lights off? Or maybe the dangers of loving with the lights ON. Point is, it's fun. Nice soloing, and I love the descending riff. And "Processions" is the last great number on the album, a truly gorgeous tune. It's the downbeat little tale of a kid on the beach. Tender vocals and sax, and that piano that comes in for the second verse represents water (change?), doubtlessly, but just dig those classy little arpeggios! And the brief coda? Once again, gorgeous.

The final two numbers are...I dunno, unnecessary? "Face in the Cloud" if a pure filler tune, seemingly designed around that damn sitar! What, were you obligated to have a sitar tune in '69 or something? Regardless of sitars, the tune itself is fairly lifeless. There's nothing wrong with "Emotions," but it's also a little...lifeless. It's a nice enough song from a technical point of view, the little ascensions played with the rhythm and blues melody, and is that a steel drum in the background? Still, it feels a little...fake somehow, don't you think it would have been better to close with "Dim" or something?

So you see what I mean this being a letdown from Doll's House? One thing that might not be so obvious is the variety; since this album is more smoothed out, it also means that Family have stopped running in all directions trying to find something to grab onto. Of course, Family are a naturally varietous band, so eclecticism lovers need not worry that much.

But more pressing is that Doll's house didn't have any filler like "Emotions" or "From Past Archives" on it, nor anything just plain bad, like "Second Generation Woman." Of course and on the other hand, it didn't have anything gorgeous like "Processions" or anything...well, ANYTHING like "The Weaver's Answer" on it neither. In fact, I'm having some trouble thinking of a lot of other records that have something like "Weaver" on 'em too.

In the long run, what am I talking about anyway? For one thing, Doll's House was so near to perfection it would have taken a Thick as a Brick to improve upon it anyway, and besides, Entertainment is still as good as some bands are ever capable of doing. And I think that everyone needs to hear "Weaver's Answer" at least once in their life.

The Whistler | 4/5 |

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