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Help Yourself

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3 stars More of the same for Help Yourself on their second album, for the most part. Bassist Ken Whaley had taken his leave, replaced by former band roadie Ernie Graham on guitars and vocals (although Whaley would return a couple years later with the band naming their fourth album in his honor). Graham penned the only non-Malcolm Morley track on the first two albums, the strumming and west coast-flavored “Movie Star”.

Otherwise most of these tracks are quite similar to the debut, at least most of them. The band would put together their first full- length psych jam here with the ten minute rambling “Excerpts from the ‘All Electric Fur Trapper’”, which would only be topped during their career by the even longer and more improvisational “Reaffirmation” on the ‘Beware the Shadow’ release.

The instrumentation is the same: a couple of guitars, piano, bass and drums. Pub band fare for the most part, but Help Yourself had a knack for coming off as just vaguely enough like several ‘A’ list bands to sound like they were a bit more accomplished than what they probably were. The title track for example has a jaunty piano intro and lumbering tempo that bears a striking resemblance to a fair amount of Joe Walsh’s solo stuff; even the theme, something about a classy chick picking up a bum in a bar, sounds like something Walsh would have penned.

“Brown Lady” leans quite heavily into Ambrosia or Firefall territory with its strumming acoustic guitar, almost invisible bass line, and disjointed amorous lyrics. The Graham track “Movie Star” fits quite well in between the Morley tunes, but with harmonizing vocals that recall Buffalo Springfield or even CSN; while “Deanna Call and Scotty” has a Morley vocal track and piano accompaniment that could easily have been inspired by any number of tracks from ‘Abbey Road’, or maybe even some of the early seventies albums from the Beatles Lite (ELO).

The band moves back into pub rock with “Heaven Row”, even to the extent of including female harmonizing vocal backing. And the closing “Many Ways of Meeting” has a real “Let it Be” feel to it but without any kind of heavy lyrical undercurrent of meaning.

But the stand out track is the aforementioned “Excerpts from the ‘All Electric Fur Trapper’”, a lightly psychedelic and slow- developing instrumental that weaves in acoustic picking, electric strumming, fuzz, and some odd keyboard effects with a couple minutes of undisciplined jamming that sounds awfully acid-inspired. The result is one of those space-out songs that is best listened to in early dusk while lying on the hood of your car in a park somewhere. Peaceful, easy stuff, and probably brought the lighters out when it was played live at festivals back then (assuming it was played live at festivals, which I’m sure it was).

The next couple albums would be a bit heavier than this one, which is a bit heavier than the debut. But in reality these guys can be easily lumped with Man, pre-Laurie Wisefield Wishbone Ash, or Home. In other words British pub rock that aspires to be a bit more, and is inexplicably very west coast leaning in its execution. Decent stuff, probably not progressive, but worth a listen unless you are a prog purist. Three stars.


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Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2007 | Review Permalink

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