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Rare Bird - As Your Mind Flies By CD (album) cover

AS YOUR MIND FLIES BY

Rare Bird

 

Crossover Prog

4.03 | 124 ratings

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Joolz
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Their finest hour

In 1970, Rare Bird were a 4-piece band peddling a unique brand of bluesy heavy rock which, thanks to a twin keyboard attack, was brewing nicely into what might have been a major player in the Prog world had circumstances been more favourable. Both Graham Field and David Kaffinetti were multi-tasking keyboard players, but each had a speciality - Field's was organ while Kaffinetti's was electric piano. Their spirited interplay, combined with typically busy drumming and muscular vocal style, define As Your Mind Flies By. Any lack of overt virtuosity is countered by good compositions and strong arrangements, though a number of outside references suggest originality is something of a problem.

Flight

A near 20 minute organ-fest, popular wisdom perceives Flight to be Rare Bird's Prog 'epic', abundant with mood contrasts, key changes and inventive instrumental interplay. According to the CD booklet Flight is in 4 parts though the bulk is concentrated in the first [almost 10 mins] and last [6 mins] sections. None of these sections has any apparent thematic connection with the others, though they do flow seemlessly.

Neither does there appear to be any conceptual links. While I suspect this is probably due to my lack of insight, I fail to understand how the free-floating mind soaring to the heavens in As Your Mind Flies By ends up in Central Park as an "evil little man with a gun in his hand". Unless someone can enlighten me [please do], my nearest guess is ..... drugs! I surmise that we begin tripping to the stars [ la Timothy Leary] as a "..... craggy mountainside / wondering watching as your mind flies by" [cf. Moody Blues "thinking is the best way to travel"]. We are urged to "sail into the sun", but like Icarus in the famous Greek myth, the experience is initially sublime but ultimately becomes a bad trip. We fall to earth as the habit needs feeding, to familiar back streets of New York [or any large city really] as we descend into its seedy drug culture and a date with destiny, and a gun, in Central Park.

More than half of Flight is taken up by the opening As Your Mind Flies By, a song not unlike Greenslade with a light but insistent rhythm ably supporting vocal [including choir voices] and instrumental parts with tempo and mood changes throughout. An extended coda [the good trip?] switches to a spacier psychedelic jam session, swelling and falling with each keys-man taking it in turns to execute 8 bar solos. Vacuum [the bad trip?] is a surreal ambient section, starting with weird evil-squelchy keyboard effects and includes what sounds like an amplified Leslie whirling away. This builds to a painful cacophony of distorted sound before dying away.

New Yorker, introduced by a 2-chord keyboard riff [later copied by Echo And The Bunneymen], proceeds to a short spacey-rock band work-out with a echo/reverb drenched gratuitously heavy metal vocal. A slower 4-chord riff soon takes over as we enter Tarkus territory with Central Park, an ELP-like stomp before inexplicably excerpting and improvising around Ravel's Bolero. The vocals follow, still sung in a metal-ish manner, but the tone of the piece is more Purple-heavy, dark and brooding. The vocals fade to a false ending before the main riff returns for a final blast. Perhaps this riff is a little too ponderous to be the climax, but overall Flight is a masterful piece of Prog, even if the subject matter isn't clear.

Summary

The remaining tracks are fine without being as spectacular. What You Want To Know is a straightforward slow blues-rock song with an interesting ascending scale riff in the coda. Down On The Floor is a slow short song accompanied simply by harpsichord, pretty enough but not my cup-of-tea. With a weird synth intro, synth-flutes in a middle break section and an atmospheric ambient coda, Hammerhead is a cracking hard-rocker with a driving bass/keys riff. I'm Thinking begins with duelling organs on a lengthy instrumental intro, though the song itself is a little generic [I'm thinking Joe Cocker!]. Good arrangement though, and a good Prog song.

An excellent album, highly recommended to lovers of melodic Prog, though I cannot help but feel this was a leader to what would have been a brilliant next offering had this quartet stayed together. Sadly Field left, thus ending the twin keyboard layout and taking with him some of the more interesting Prog ideas. Flight on its own would be worth 5 stars, but overall it is short of a classic album. 4 Stars then.

Joolz | 4/5 |

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