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Blonde on Blonde - Rebirth CD (album) cover

REBIRTH

Blonde on Blonde

Psychedelic/Space Rock


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Easy Livin
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars The times they are a-changing

During their brief existence from 1967 to 1971, Blonde on Blonde recorded just three albums. The first of these, "Contrasts" took the best part of two years to be released, but this album followed relatively quickly just over a year later. In between the first and second albums, lead vocalist and guitarist (and de facto band leader) Ralph Denyer left the band, to be replaced by David Thomas. (see the entry for Aquila on this site for details of Denyer's subsequent activity.) Given the major setback of Denyer's departure, and the difficulty the band had in coming up with material for "Rebirth", the omens were not good for the second album. It is therefore pleasing to report that this release is generally acknowledged to be the band's finest album.

Given that this album dates from almost 40 years ago, it may seem odd to talk about it as sounding "dated". The fact is though that even in 1970, there was a retro feel to the music here. The sound is that of the period around the summer of love in 1967, replete with psychedelic lyrics and colours. Take for example the opening "Castles in the sky", a song which was released as a single. The high pitched vocals of David Thomas and the harmonised ah-ah backing vocals might have achieved instant success had they been recorded just three years earlier, but to paraphrase another Dylan title, "The times they (were) a-changing".

Of the eight tracks in total here, five follow the relatively simple psychedelic pattern of "Castles in the sky". They are certainly enjoyable, and sound like genuine proto-prog, the only problem being that by late 1970, prog had enjoyed its own birth. That is not to say there is not some good stuff to be found there. "Heart without a home" is a great 5½ minute romp, with superb use of stereo (a sadly forgotten skill) and some really dirty lead guitar. "Time is passing" is a great piece of retro-pop, reminiscent of the style of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap.

That leaves us with three tracks which actually constitute well over 50% of the album. The first of these, "Circles", continues the psychedelic atmosphere but in a far more complex and acidic way. There are nuances of the longer tracks of the Doors here, the track weaving through constant changes in tempo and melody. Once again, the lead guitar work is superb, even when it is shunted off into a single channel leaving just the drums in the other! While it all feels a bit disjointed, there is a definite appeal in the way the constituent parts make up the whole.

The longest track on the album is the 12 minute "Colour questions". This monster sets off at lightning speed, sounding like an alternate take of Love Sculpture's interpretation of "Sabre dance". Thomas soon steps in to bring some sort of order in the vocals, but even these are less structured than on the short tracks. The verses alternate with wild guitar segments which once again challenge the stereo separation to the full, while good old mellotron drifts in and out.

The final track is actually a combination of two shorter tracks to form an 8 minute piece. "You'll never know me/Release" is a more orthodox number, but features some exquisite piano.

In all, an album which will appeal to those who enjoy the psychedelic music of the late 1960's more than those who seek the pioneering prog of the early 70's. While there are a few twists and turns here, including a couple of fine long tracks, this is essentially the sound of proto-prog recorded after the event.

Report this review (#171953)
Posted Thursday, May 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
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Prog Folk
2 stars Probably one of the first group willing to openly yell their influences by naming themselves after an artiste's album, in this case Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde, you won't find much open and flat out Dylan splattered out on the course of this album or their other two. This Welsh psych-rock quartet formed in 68 and still has a very much 60's sound. Although their debut album was released on the legendary Pye label, and appeared on the first Wight Festival, and the band became a regular fixture on some TV show, but al of this failed to produce much fame and sales. Having found a new record deal, but losing Ralph Denyer and Richard Hopkins, BOB didn't managed to finish their second album on time, even though David Thomas and Richard John came in as replacement. So Rebirth, the band's second album was finally released in November 70 (18 months after the debut) and the album's sound was quite dated by then. With a slightly/vaguely "prog" artwork, BOB mostly revolved around the drummer/guitarist duo of Hicks and Johnsion, but newcomer Thomas had more than his space to write music and his voice is sometimes close to Cressida's Angus Cullen.

Indeed it was either gutsy or quite clumsy to release a typical late 60's psych-rock sound when the whole industry was renewing its standards almost every month. BOB's psych hovers between Byrds, Moody Blues, tripped-out Rolling Stones (the lengthy sitar-laden Circles) and more of typically 60's sounds. I must say that I don't find much on BOB's three albums to call particularly progressive, finding many group more precocious being a lot more inventive: even the fuzz guitars sounded clumsy, the sometimes interesting interplay being blues-derived (the 12-mins Colour Questions, where they're slightly more actual-sounding ala Steamhammer or Cressida). The album-closing Release might jusrt be my preferred peace.

As if BOB's career had not been held back enough it appears that the group took another break and changed again their line-up (but keeping D Thomas) before finally releasing (late 71) their third (and final) album Reflections On A Life, which found itself directionless, musically outdated and the group wouldn't survive this new failure, with most members abandoning the music business forever. Some would call Rebirth the group's best moments, and I won't dispute it, but let's be honest: even their best moments simply didn't cut it.

Report this review (#173066)
Posted Thursday, June 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
Rivertree
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PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
2 stars 'Rebirth' appeared in 1970 as a somewhat belated proto-prog album according to (my) prog standards. Provided with early psychedelia moments sounding like a mid 60's output sometimes. Anyhow - the musicianship is on a high standard. Great remarkable bass work like on November for example. Singer David Thomas holds an expressive voice.

The grooving Heart Without A Home contains some nice and even weird guitar attendance and is one of the best songs here. And then I have to recall the long track Colour Questions which sees them excellently jamming. On the other hand some songs like Castles in the Sky and Time Is Passing are sinking into the pop territory with retro references to the beat music.

This is not a bad album, although it does not really appeal to me. Good listenable songs with a folksy touch in parts - 2.5 stars.

Report this review (#207943)
Posted Saturday, March 21, 2009 | Review Permalink

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