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Capability Brown - Voice CD (album) cover


Capability Brown


Crossover Prog

3.92 | 42 ratings

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3 stars This is quite an interesting album in a couple of respects. First, I’m just a tad bit surprised the cover wasn’t subjected to any more scrutiny or disapproval than it was, considering the growing prudish backlash toward rock music in conservative circles during this post- Woodstock era. And second, the record is a rather rare example of what’s basically a pop rock band attempting to leverage progressive music to enhance their legitimacy and appeal. In other words – this isn’t a progressive rock band; instead they are a mostly competent group of rock musicians who emulate prog at times combined with heavy doses of cover tunes to create a brief and decent discography, but one that survives mostly because of occasional interest in the band’s cover tunes.

Guitarist Tony Ferguson and bassist Kenny Rowe hailed from the late sixties pop-psych group Harmony Grass and guitarist Grahame White had recently left Fuzzy Duck. Harmony Grass were known for their male vocal harmonies and Fuzzy Duck for driving ‘heavy prog’ and Hammond organ; traces of both groups can be found in Capability Brown’s sound. The thing that bothers me a bit about this band is that for a group of guys who were such good musicians, they certainly didn’t seem to have a knack for strong songwriting. A third of the tracks they recorded on their two studio albums were covers, and even the one song that garnered them the ‘prog’ label in some circles (“Circumstances”) is clearly very, very heavily influenced by Yes circa ‘Close to the Edge’. I seriously doubt the band would have even been able to write that song had Yes not recorded “And You and I” a year prior.

As for the covers they’re decent but not exceptional. In particular Steely Dan’s “Midnight Cruiser” does not benefit from this group’s treatment. I’ve read reviews from folks who feel Capability Brown doesn’t do justice to the song and I think that’s a bit harsh and unfair, but by the same token they also don’t bring anything new to their interpretation. The offering is pretty much what you’d expect from a decent, professional touring band, but one that you’d also generally expect to be an opening act and not the main course.

The other cover here is a bit more obscure with Affinity’s “I Am and So Are You”, another band that was known as much for their cover tunes as for their original material. That one was of course originally sung by a female (Linda Hoyle), so at least with this cover Capability offer a different perspective. Affinity were more of a jazz-influenced band as well, and this rendition is decidedly more rocking with keyboards and guitars replacing the brass sections of the original. Of the two covers on the album I prefer this one, but frankly that’s sort of like saying I prefer bologna given a choice of that or Spam. I nice filet would always be preferable.

The main course here is the 20-minute “Circumstances”, a faux prog number that has all the requisite tempo shifts, indulgent solos and extended keyboard passages prog fans had come to demand of their music by 1973. The problem is that I’m not convinced at all. Like I said earlier, there’s a strong sense that these guys listened to a few Yes and ELP albums and figured they’d better get some of that into their music if they wanted to sell a few records. Keeping in mind this was 1973 I suppose that was still a pretty astute strategy, although in retrospect the grandiose and overblown pomp of the style of prog those bands played was already in decline, and Capability Brown would fold just a few months after recording this themselves due to waning interest in the band, lack of promotion and a paucity of concert engagements.

Drummer Roger Willis, Ferguson and White formed Krazy Kat following Ferguson and Willis’s stint on a South American tour backing a Jeff Christie-led group that ended up including some Capability material in their repertoire. I’m not sure what happened to keyboardist Dave Nevin, percussionist Joe Williams or Rowe.

This is an okay album but not anything great or even memorable. Technically I suppose it should be considered for collectors only, but I can’t quite bring myself to go there simply because these are decent musicians and their multipart vocal harmonies are quite good on this as well as their debut album. So I’ll say this is a three star record, but will also point out you aren’t going to here anything groundbreaking or awe-inspiring here; just pretty good music that well fits the time period in which it was recorded.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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