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IF

If

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.75 | 50 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars They "moved the (rock) world just one step on"

Formed in 1969, If had already seen a change of line up (on the drum stool) by the time they came to record their début album released in 1970. Conveniently pigeon-holed as Britain's answer to the jazz rock of Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears, there are in fact noteable differences between If and those bands. The twin saxophones in an otherwise standard rock line up give obvious hints of the band's leanings, but If were perhaps less concerned with catchy hooks and hit singles than their peers from across the pond. That said, there are echoes of David Clayton-Thomas in the fine vocals of J.W. Hodkinson.

The opening "I'm reaching out on all sides" (a track I first came across many years ago on the superb "Bumpers" sampler) actually features the lead guitar of Terry Smith more, the saxes being used to provide colours rather than as a lead instrument. The song makes for a superb introduction to the band. John Mealing, who would later go on to join the Strawbs, lays down a solid Hammond organ base for the instrumental "What Did I Say About the Box, Jack", the longest track on the album. The track offers Dick Morrissey (subsequently Average White band) the chance to display his skills on flute as part of what is a largely jazz workout.

"What Can a Friend Say" reminds me a bit of the Ides of March song "Vehicle". The rock side of the band returns, driven on by some fine gravel vocals, the centre piece of the song being a lengthy sax workout.

The second side of the original LP has four tracks to the first side's three. As might be implied, this means that the songs on this side are generally slightly tighter, although very much in the same vein. "Woman Can You See (What This Big Thing Is All About)" is an upbeat affair, with frantic vocals driven on by a pounding rhythm section and punchy saxes. There are suggestions here of songs such as Chicago's superb "25 or 6 to 4".

The three minute "Raise The Level of Your Conscious Mind" is by far the most accessible song on the album, and might have made a successful single. The track boasts a Guess Who type sing-a-long chorus and a wall of sound backing. "Dockland" slows things down somewhat, the track offering a Traffic like folk/fusion take on painting a picture of a "Dockland scene". The track offers Hodkinson the opportunity to really emphasise his vocal prowess.

The album closes with "The promised land", a track which does lean heavily on Blood Sweat and Tears for its inspiration. Mealing gets a final opportunity to add to fine keyboards to another pulsating jazz rock number.

In all, a fine début from a band who made some excellent music. In some ways, If were unlucky to be around when so many other great bands were trying to make their mark. It is perhaps time now for a reassessment of their excellent music, it deserves far more recognition that it gets.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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