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Brian Auger - Befour (with the Trinity) CD (album) cover


Brian Auger

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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4 stars After the stunning vocalist Julie Driscoll abruptly left the group while touring the states, Brian Auger & the Trinity returned to England, replaced "Jools" with guitarist Gary Winston Boyle and went back into the studio to continue laying the groundwork for the still-in-its-infancy jazz rock/fusion movement. By covering relatively unknown American jazz artists/composers, the group introduced millions of rock fans to the magical concoctions of underground modern jazz at a time when rock & roll and Motown were dominating the airwaves. The whole jazz rock/fusion world owes a big debt to these guys for having the cajones to carry a banner that didn't exactly translate into huge record sales. "Befour," while slightly uneven in places, is still a pivotal album that must be duly recognized in progressive music history. Plus, it's an absolute blast!

Lest you sneer at their bar-band rendition of Sly & the Family Stone's "I Wanna Take You Higher," it's important to acknowledge the timeline it was recorded in. As the liner notes inform us, drummer Clive Thacker brought back that band's landmark album "Stand" (released in May '69) from the US and that groundbreaking song "blew their minds" so much that they eagerly laid down their own version in July '69. (Bear in mind that this was before Woodstock made it a huge hit worldwide.) What I'm trying to convey is that considerable slack is appropriate to give here since their homogenized (and Anglicized) version pales in comparison to the incredibly funky original. Their enthusiasm got the best of their judgment in this case. Whatever misgivings the listener might have after that are quickly dispelled by their amazing arrangement of Gabriel Faure's "Pavane" that follows. It's a very cool mix of jazz and classical music that flows like a river. The tight, concise rhythm track and the subtle backing orchestration make this cut a treasure. Next comes their beautiful take on Traffic's atmospheric "No Time to Live." While no singer stands a chance of matching Steve Winwood's vocal chops, Boyle ain't too shabby here and does this moody, haunting tune justice. In another bold move the band takes on Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" and makes it their own. Its unorthodox chord progression and tricky melody pose a little problem for the guitarist here but Auger's organ solo is exquisitely tasteful.

Their exuberant excursion into Eddie Harris' "Listen Here" is one of the most exciting tracks you'll ever hear. Recorded in one raw take, this "experiment with four drummers" has its blemishes, to be sure, but the unadulterated joy that springs from this instrumental tune's irrepressible melody and spirit cannot be denied. To join Thacker they recruited percussionists Mickey Waller, Barry Reeves, and Colin Allen to meld with bassists Dave Ambrose and Roger Sutton to create the world's most powerful rhythm section and the result is a monstrous groove that just won't quit. I absolutely adore this cut! After Gary valiantly tries to keep up with the thundering momentum on guitar the whole thing drops down into a mellower Ramsey Lewis-style aura with Brian delivering a great piano break. The drum solo section has to be heard to believe. While it's all a tiny bit loose (understandably), their shared energy is obvious and when they perform their unison lead-in fill to Auger's fierce organ ride they elevate the tune to a whole new level. And if you love Katy-bar-the-door Hammond extravaganzas you'll be beside yourself during Brian's mind- numbing lead. It's awesome. This is the kind of song that can give your day a jump-start. Try it sometime.

In another courageous undertaking, their symphonic prog attempt at performing Albinoni's "Adagio Per Archi E Organo" (you'll recognize it when you hear it), is quite admirable though far from being an easy accomplishment to pull off. As "Auge" notes on the cover, "the thing we learned while trying to get it together was why orchestras have conductors." Still, it provides a necessary change of pace following the boisterous track that preceded it. The only original song on the album, Brian's "Just You Just Me," provides a glimpse of the direction his next project would take in that it truly incorporates the best qualities of jazz and contemporary rock into one tune. It has a hypnotic, "walking" feel that strides underneath from beginning to end with Boyle's intricate guitar and Auger's atmospheric organ solos creating a captivating mood. Nicely done.

This was to be the Trinity's last hurrah as this album failed to make a dent in the record charts and they disbanded in mid 1970. Auger went on to form his Oblivion Express in order to further the cause of the new jazz rock/fusion revolution (and achieved considerably more success with that endeavor) but a lot of the genre's foundation was laid by this band. "Befour" is a slightly flawed gem in my eyes that will forever hold a special place in my heart because I played this LP till the needle wore out. It may be a little "all over the place" for some but therein lies its unique charm. This is not a recording to be dissected necessarily, but simply enjoyed for what it is. 4 stars.

Report this review (#150126)
Posted Sunday, November 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!!

Third and (fittingly) last album for Trinity, Befour often gets poor reviews, but it is very much undeserved. Yes so Julie is gone, but that's no reason to shoot it, because this album has a bunch of pearls and the quartet (a rather definitive Thacker-Ambrose-Boyle-Auger attack) shines on quite a few places. Engineered by Eddie Offord (Yes's CTTE), the album got an uninventive flowery artwork, but it came with minimum three covers, depending on the country of release.

Starting on the exciting Sly Stone track, I Want To Take You Higher, Trinity indeed does just that, it enchants us, even if Afro-Americans would claim a "whitification" of the track, but they'd have to applaud drummer Thacker's brilliant performance. Pavane is a Gabriel Faure rework, which you'd never guess it's from Faure, because the arrangements make the track barely recognizable, but what an achievement for Brian and the boys. Just as enchanting is the Traffic cover of No Place To Live, which is absolutely flawlessly interpreted, with Gary Boyle not trying to Winwood-ify his singing and our Ogre soaring like an eagle aboard his Hammond flying saucer.

Opening up the flipside is another beauty is the Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage cover, where all four members go beyond their roles and allow other drummers (five in total) and bassists (2 in total) to groove to this 9-mins+ corker. An absolute delight, recorded in one shot, this is a pure performance. Albinoni's Adagio piece is one of the most recorded and covered classic piece, but Brian and the boys almost get away with it, without being too cheesy, which in that dimension alone is already a success. The closing Just Me is the only Trinity original and it compares favourably with all of the covers, no matter how prestigious they are. Brian obviously was quite inspired when he wrote this one for his own glory, and it works wonders.

Befour comes with two bonus tracks, one of which is an alternate take on Pavane, to which Brian added mellotron strings in 83 (neither useful nor glaringly noticeable) and the other is a peculiar flute thing recorded live mid-70 in Germany. No matter how impressive the playing might be, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

An amazing album where Brian's troupe show excellent prog aptitude at rearranging all types of music and manage to come out on top every time. In some ways, this might be Ogre's most prog album in his entire discography, Oblivion Express included.

Report this review (#160832)
Posted Tuesday, February 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After absolutely excellent "Streetnoise"with Julie Driscoll on vocals, I was affraid to find boring keyboard music on this album. It looked, that after Julie left the band, all other musicians will leave as just back-up musicians.Happily it didn't happen.

Album presents perfect example of early jazz-rock fusion ,based on great and powerfull Auger Hammond sound. And if previous album was much more experimental, with strong avantgarde feeling, "Befour" is more classic fusion album just is introducing this music to European ground. There are some nice covers,including great Herbie Hancock composition "Maiden Voyage". Whenever the vocal line is absent this time, musicians left just fill the space with more drive and more complex music. But they do it successfully.

After listening of that album, all my fears disappeared. It's really pity, that there are no one more album with great Driscoll , but in fact it's just another music and another band. And just because of perfect Auger organ sound and common fusion feel this album is one of really great period's work.

Report this review (#245184)
Posted Monday, October 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Befour seems to be the forgotten runt of Brian Auger's litter, coming after break-up of the Trinity with Julie Driscoll and prior to the increasingly jazz-fusion style he pursued with Oblivion Express, but it's actually my favourite Auger album.

Recorded at Advision in 1970 with Eddie (ELP and Yes) Offord producing, something of the Spirit of Prog appears to infuse Mr Auger, even to the extent of doing a couple of nifty classical interpretations of Faure's Pavane and Albinoni's Adagio in his signature groovy jazz-rock style.

Befour is largely made up of non-original covers, which might be taken by some as a lack of inspiration, but what amazing covers several of them are. The two real standouts are a version of No Time To Live that trumps Traffic's original for existential angst with wonderful vocals from guitarist Gary Boyle and brilliant Hammond work from Auger. It is matched by Maiden Voyage, where the transition from the jazz piano and horns of Herbie Hancock's original to organ and guitar works wonderfully well. Mr Auger once again just totally rocks the Hammond on this track, and really was on top form when this album was made. The one group original, Just You Just Me, has a cool groove and excellent vocals from Auger.

Try to get the infinitely superior cover art with the group reflected in rainwater, which far better reflects the mood of the album than the more common flowers and group pics version. Befour reminds me of a rainy autumn day in London - I quite like rainy autumn days in London and I love this album. Four and a half stars rounded up to five.

Report this review (#1009732)
Posted Friday, August 2, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Recorded after their split with Julie Driscoll, Befour found the Trinity steering away from wide-eyed psychedelic pop to get down and dirty with some jazz fusion material. This might have alienated fans of their prior work, but it did at least position Auger as one of the more interesting of the early prog keyboardists, even if his work isn't as widely celebrated as the likes of Keith Emerson, Dave Greenslade, Tony Banks, Rick Wakeman or Hugh Banton in retrospect. Punchy without being obnoxious, clever without being pretentious, and technically complex without being dull, it's as confident a transition from psychedelia to progressive rock as ever I've seen in stylistic terms.

It's just a shame that the material here isn't that hot. The vast majority of the material consists of cover versions which add nothing to the source material and, instead, largely take away from it. I Wanna Take You Higher isn't improved by just ditching the backing singers from the original Sly and the Family Stone version, Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage didn't need all this organ warbling over it - in general, Auger and the Trinity seem to be engaged in a covers band-oriented approach which had worked somewhat better earlier in the 1960s but by this point in time was wearing thin.

Report this review (#1164152)
Posted Tuesday, April 22, 2014 | Review Permalink

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