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Tully - Loving is Hard CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.07 | 5 ratings

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3 stars Tully had already broken up by the time Loving Is Hard was recorded, the various members having already moved on to other bands or projects. The album was recorded to fulfill their contractual obligations, and the band's approach to the album was for each songwriter to exercise control over their own work, the other members serving as session musicians. The best elements of Tully can all be heard at various times: Shayna Stewart's lovely clear voice, Michael Carlos' stately piano and exciting Hammond, Richard Lockwood's gorgeous flute parts. Unlike the preceding Sea of Joy album, this album presents complete-sounding compositions. However, in comparison to it's two predecessors, this is a disappointing album. The first Tully album was musically diverse, but had an overall sense of unity; Sea of Joy even more so, despite (or perhaps due to) the fragmentary nature of it's compositions. Loving Is Hard lacks this sense of unity.

Richard Lockwood's opener is a simple tune, largely a self-accompanied (on piano) solo performance, with some light bass/drum accompaniment, lifted by his flute and clarinet parts, but suffering from the lack of input from Carlos or Stewart.

The title track is a Procol Harum-like ballad, Carlos double-tracking organ and piano, Keith Barber guesting in the band's long-vacant drum stool, and Stewart beautifully singing the simple melody. It comes the closest in sound to the Tully of the first album - but Lockwood's absence is notable.

Stewart again takes the vocal spotlight for "Song For Shayna", penned by Campbell, and more in the style of the Extradition album, with a brief Tull-like digression by Lockwood and Carlos at about the 2/3 mark

Firth's "The Real You" is a jarring moment - drums, double-tracked electric guitar, one of those repetitive two-note blues guitar riffs, and a general 70s soft rock vibe. Tully albums are not supposed to sound like this. Carlos, Stewart & Lockwood are all absent. Firth followed this direction in his later 70s work with bands like the Ferrets.

Carlos' instrumental "Poco A Poco" - finally, an exciting Michael Carlos organ solo! Some impressive piano as well. But virtually no input from any other member of the band.

"Ice" is the centerpiece of the album. One of Campbell's songs previously recorded by Extradition, Carlos takes over the arranging duties, adding ominous string quartet led by cellist Nathan Waks, insistent piano and acoustic guitar, and Stewart's clear vocals. It doesn't hit you over the head like Extradition's original (which had Graham Lowndes' more agitated voice and Stewart's wall of sound organ), but is far more powerful in it's impact for this. It shows the direction Carlos would take later in the 70s, in his outstanding collaborations with Jeannie Lewis. Treasure this track, because it is the last time you will hear Carlos on this album.

"Best Beloved" is a solo piece for Lockwood, just voice and piano, impressive in it's chromaticism (the voice-leading is always logical, but the underlying harmony goes in unexpected directions). Nice as this piece is, Lockwood is no Carlos when it comes to piano playing, and no Stewart or Terry Wilson as a singer.

Campbell's beautiful acoustic ballad "Sunshine Blues Again" follows, with Stewart's most beautiful vocal performance of the album, supported by Campbell's acoustic guitar, and one of Lockwood's beautiful flute solos - until this point, Lockwood's flute has been absent since the opening track. This is the best of Tully mk II/Extradition's folk side.

Lockwood's "This Tree" opens with several seconds of shrill free-jazz sax blasting of the kind that Lockwood was famous for in the early days of the band. It probably serves as a reminder of the kind of life Lockwood considered that he'd left behind, the song that follows outlining his subsequent spiritual journey. Lockwood again accompanies himself on surprisingly jaunty piano, as well as his own well-arranged flute and clarinet, supported again by Firth's bass and Keith Barber guesting on drums. (Keith Barber and Russell Dunlop between them play drums on six of the nine tracks, always appropriately and never intrusively, which makes one wonder why the band ever thought they were better off without a drummer.) Again, Campbell, Stewart and Carlos are nowhere to be heard, although Lockwood does a better job of covering for their absence this time around.

There are some wonderful moments on this album. I feel guilty giving it only three stars, but it is not up to the standard of the first album, nor does it possess the evocative mood of Sea of Joy.

The album has recently been re-released on CD by Chapter Music. This version includes as bonus tracks both sides of the 1971 single "Krishna Came"/"Lord Baba". Recorded around the time of the Sea of Joy album, they are much more in the mood of that album. With no drums, and with all members contributing, it's probably the closest we'll get to hearing what they actually sounded like on stage at this point. "Lord Baba" is a lengthy meditation on the name of their guru, propelled by a repetitive acoustic guitar riff, but kept interesting by their various extemporisations. "Krishna Came", also dedicated to Baba, is more straightforwardly anthemic, and probably the closest they got to a commercial track in those days (if they'd put some drums on it, it might have been a viable single. Might...)

sl75 | 3/5 |


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