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Bead Game - Welcome CD (album) cover

WELCOME

Bead Game

 

Crossover Prog

3.22 | 7 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars 'Welcome' is the mildly interesting 1970 debut of an obscure New England funk-rock band whose progressive tendencies are evident from the opening strands of "Punchin Judy" through the extended tempo-shifting closing track "Slipping". The band would disappear shortly after recording an aborted second album, but the songs here are quite good for the time period in which they were recorded and all the members of this fledgling group went on to moderately successful music careers.

Bead Game (named I assume for the odd Herman Hesse novel 'The Glass Bead Game') was formed by a quite young John Sheldon, an aspiring kid from the Boston area who was among other things a childhood friend of the great American folk singer James Taylor. Sheldon in fact purchased his first electric guitar from Taylor. Sheldon had toured the East Coast as a member of Van Morrison's band while in high school, and scored a record deal while still a teenager. This album was the result of that deal.

The band also featured a young Jim Hodder on drums. Hodder would go on to form Steely Dan with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker and appears on that band's first three albums including providing the lead vocals for the smooth jazz hit single "Midnight Cruiser". Interestingly enough keyboardist Bobby Gass's organ work on this album sound a bit like Fagen's light jazzy style that would so endear fans to that band in their early days, particularly on "Wax Circus" and the rambling "Slipping".

In addition to a noticeable New England jazz-funk pop sound on the first few tracks, the band seems to have dabbled a bit in the country-rock sound that was somewhat popular in the United States at the time with the trio of tunes "Natural Song", "Country Girls" and "Amos & Andy". These come in the middle of the record and are decidedly more earthy and languid than the guitar/organ heavy front side of the album.

For a closing number the band shows strong progressive leaning in their song construction with the wandering, eight-minute plus and heavily instrumental "Slipping" which features some excellent guitar breaks from Sheldon and complex drum work courtesy of Hodder. This particular song is quite distinctive from the rest of the album.

The Fallout label CD reissue includes three bonus tracks that feature flute and what sounds like a spinet. These are more instrumental and folksy than the original album, all decent but none exceptional except the closing instrumental "My Life in Review" which provides an inspiring and emotive ending to the record.

Although the band did tour some in the New England area following this release, the group and their album found little success and disbanded after laying down tracks for a second album. That record wouldn't be released until 1996, more than two decades after the members of the band had all moved on to other pursuits. The five members also released another record in 1970 under the band the Freedom Express, along with an obscure funk single fronted by Buddy Miles.

Sheldon would later tour with Linda Ronstadt and take on sporadic session work and songwriting after returning to Boston to study music theory. He also released at least three albums with Blue Streak, another band he founded, and has recorded several solo albums (Bead Game guitarist/lead vocalist Ken Haag appears on some of these recordings). Hodder would depart Steely Dan in 1974 for a career doing session work including sessions with Sammy Hagar's band before drowning in 1990. Bassist Lassie Sachs became a studio engineer.

This is an obscure album and certainly not a lost classic, but the music here is quite good and professionally delivered. I'll say it is at least a three (out of five) star effort, but not quite four. Well recommended to fans of early seventies American music.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |

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