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4 stars With the release of this album, "Fearless" perhaps their finest line-up was the first of two studio albums to feature ex-MOGUL TRASH phenom bassist/vocalist John Wetton, and the efforts here exceeded expectations. The music here is not as experimental as prior efforts, but yet the overall power of WETTON's bass seemed to revive the band, and finally showed the band's exuding the harshness of their live setting in studio.

On "Fearless" is shows the perfect compliment of the Family formula, the power riff laden tracks shows the brilliance of the highly underatted "Charlie" Whitney on guitar stunning solos. Multi-instumentalist "Poli" Palmer showing his worth to the band with his dexterity complimenting the band with his synthesizers, reeds, Vibes, giving the band a different look such as on the off-beat instrumental "Crinkly Grin".

Other highlights also include cool tracks like the rag-time "Sat'dy Barfly", the brilliant "Spanish Tide" the blistering power driven funkiness of "Take Your Partners", "Larf and Sing" which features a lovely accapela sung break (that obviously had a big influence on Peter Gabriel on his debut solo album) and the album's closer "Burning Bridges" which is just astounding.

The British Art-rockers Family might have turned off die-hards with each release since their Psychedelic opus "Music From A Doll's House", but the band seemed to be searching for a way to show the balance of the creativity of their studio work but also the power the band was known for on stage, and on "Fearless" the band finally showed that promise on this release, and would finally break them in (albeit minor) success in United States.


Four 1/2 stars

Report this review (#62031)
Posted Wednesday, December 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars For their fifth album, out goes Weider with his (sometimes irritating) violin and in comes John Wetton (from Mogul Thrash, a Colosseum offshoot) while the rest of the line-up stays put. Of all of the Family albums, this is the one I would recommend (along with their debut) for the uninitiated fan, not least because of Wetton's presence, but also because of Palmer's outstanding performances. The vinyl had a very expensive multi-layered cover revealing the successive suppositions of portraits of members and is now rather sought after among collectors.

What strikes most with this album (their most prog one IMHO) is the frequent use of keyboards - although Family never had a KB player, there was some use of keys in previous album, but not quite like in Fearless or the following Bandstand - but the use will not be systematic either. From the opening Between Blue And Me (between a superb Traffic and a manic Lennon-sung Beatles track), the ragtime-piano dominated Barfly, and passing through the GG-inspired Larf And Sing and the slightly Spaniard feel Spanish Tide (both stunning and my faves from Family along with How- Hi-The-Li), the first side of this vinyl is stupendous and almost flawless ending with Save Some For Thee (still outstanding with its big band horn section).

Starting with the mainly instrumental but funky-grooved Wetton-induced bass line Take Your Partners, the second side is of to just as good a start as its forerunner. A slightly weaker and almost sing-along Children, the vibes-lead (unfortunately underused on this album) Crinkley Grin all-too-short interlude, Blind with its bagpipe outro, and the astounding Burning Bridges (coming to some of the most tragic Traffic magic, rounds up another tour de force.

With such an excellent track-listing as this one, finding worthy bonus tracks would prove almost an impossible task and sadly so, the rough In My Own Time and the country-esque Seasons (both worthy Family tracks) do not live up to the album's high caliber and I wished so much that they be added to another album. A live rendition of the opening track and a JB Lenoir blues-folk-boogie track are the last bonuses.

Easily their best album along with their debut album, this warmly recommended to all progheads and will be an excellent introduction for beginners although please remember that Chapman's voice is an acquired taste.

Report this review (#63642)
Posted Saturday, January 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars John Wetton joins the Family

Way back in the 1970's, I used to play this album a lot. It is essentially a collection of pop rock songs, which are not really very progressive, but the album has a quality which I found, and still find, endearing. The arrival of John Wetton in place of John Weider meant the end of the violin interludes, but it is probably no coincidence that things appeared to be tightened up considerably.

My cassette version has the tracks in a different order to that shown here, presumably to even out the side lengths. We still open with the moody, rather heavy "Between blue and me", but this is followed by the improvisational and almost entirely instrumental "Take your partners", complete with brass section accompaniment.

"Children" is a soft Crosby Stills and Nash ("Teach your children"?) like acoustic number. "Larf and sing" sets off like a Pentangle number, the falsetto vocal sounding distinctly female. This contrasts effectively with the a-cappella harmonies of the chorus. Side one closes with the more orthodox Family number "Save some for me", one of the comparatively few songs on the album to feature Roger Chapman's traditional style of delivery.

"Sat'd'y barfly" has the feel of a Rod Stewart and the Faces number, with some dry comedy and a drunken story line. The sound is softened by the muffled brass in the background. "Spanish tide" is one of the highlights, featuring pedal steel, Spanish guitar, and the harmonised vocals of Wetton and Chapman. Wetton also gets the opportunity to sing solo on part of the verses.

"Crinkly grin" is a brief but strange instrumental interlude of under a minute, which fades just as it is getting interesting. "Blind" is probably the most progressive piece on the album, with a swirling mix of instrumentation backing a frantic Chapman vocal. The album closes with what for me is the best track, "Burning bridges". This is not the Status Quo song of the same name, but is primarily a soft, melodic, almost folk song, with medieval stringed instruments along the lines of the Strawbs "Cannon Dale".

In all, an enjoyable collection of great diversity. If I have a criticism, it is that many of the songs are not developed to their full potential. There are several songs which could have equalled "The weaver's answer" in stature, had they been fully exploited. Nevertheless, this is a fine album.

Report this review (#131592)
Posted Friday, August 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Family has never been a truly prog band IMO. They were quite different and exceptional in the proper sense of the wording. Which means out of the normal: an exception.

Even if none of their albums could claim for the masterpiece status, each of them had this so typical British flavour mostly thanks to their great front man. There are few examples of such a good band which was so much in the shadow of their leader: Roger Chapman.

For some obvious reasons (if you have read some other reviews of mine), my favourite song of this album is Spanish Tide. Indeed a very much Spanish feeling thanks to the acoustic guitar. The fantastic second part holds an incredible beat which features superb keyboards (not very common for Family to say the least).

Some songs are rocking alright and I surely include Take Your Partners as one of the best songs from Fearless. The band is showing a great ability to perform, a great cohesion and offer a fine moment of music. This feeling is totally destroyed by Children which is just a colourless tune with no texture at all. Press next, really.

Most of the surprising moments are all gone. There are little to none surprises with this album. Actually, it is an average effort: no outstanding numbers to tell the truth. This might well be a legendary band, but this is no legendary album and it features no legendary tracks.

Two stars.

Report this review (#188263)
Posted Friday, November 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars While half of Mogul Thrash would reform as the Average White Band in the early seventies, John Wetton took a different route out of that group with a stint as yet another multi- instrumentalist for Family by replacing John Weider, who left to form Stud with Jim Cregan (Cregan would end up in Family himself by the time they recorded their final album). Otherwise the lineup is unchanged from their late 1970 release 'Anyway'.

This is arguably the band's 'bluesiest 'record, but also the most interesting album for the them since 'Music in a Doll's House' in 1968. That said, I'm not sure it's all that progressive but it still manages to expand at least a little on the instrumental experimentation and complex rhythmic arrangements that characterized some of their earliest and finest work. The guitar playing from Whitney and Wetton (and Chapman at times) is nearly all blues-based. But there are occasional funky riffs to break things up on songs like "Spanish Tide", which has just a bit of a Yes feel to it at times except without the exotic keyboards of Rick Wakeman or Anderson's voice (so maybe not as much like Yes as I thought when I started this sentence). Both Roger Chapman and Wetton sing, sometimes in unison, but the majority of vocal duties still fall to Chapman. His voice is a bit more restrained than on prior albums, but still quite distinctive and really helps to give the band its signature sound.

Like 'Anyway' and even more so 'It's Only a Movie', the album has its fair share of pedestrian filler as well, "Save Some for Thee" and the laconic "Children" being chief among those. And the band can't seem to avoid throwing in an unmanaged jam session as with so many of their other albums, "Take Your Partners" in this case.

Their fusion tendencies emerge from time to time, but sadly mostly on the shorter tunes like the instrumental "Crinkly Grin" and "Larf and Sing" with a bit of scat 'n chant singing along with a grooving riff from Whitney.

As with the other CD reissues this one has some bonus material, only one of which is very interesting. "In My Own Time" showcases the best days of Chapman's gruff vocals and gained the band a singles hit in 1971, while the B-side "Seasons" was appropriately relegated to the backside of that single.

This is a better album than anything that would follow, and honestly I'm not sure what happened to trigger the downward slide after this released. The band would tour the U.S. with Elton John a year later (with a much retooled lineup), but the end was already in sight and after another pair of lackluster studio releases the band called it quits.

This is a high three (out of five) star album, not quite four but I may rethink that at some point. It's definitely worth seeking out for Family fans, as well as for anyone curious about whatever it was that King Crimson heard in Wetton that appealed to them. For anyone else this is another faded and forgotten relic of the early seventies.


Report this review (#286767)
Posted Wednesday, June 16, 2010 | Review Permalink

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