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Brainchild - Healing Of The Lunatic Owl CD (album) cover



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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Among the rare and unknown 70's group, one of the most obscure must be Brainchild, who recorded a sole album as the decade just unfolded. The intriguingly-titled Healing Of The Lunatic Owl was record in Western London and produced by Lenny Wright and it contains some brilliant progressive brass-rock, developed by the septet, which had three wind instrument players n its line-up. Graced with a striking owl artwork (the back cover with a handbrainpigeon illustration is not too shabby either), the album came out on the A&M label with the catalogue number AMLS 979. Songwriting-wise, the credits are more or less evenly spread between singer/guitarist Edwards, bassist/singer Coles and saxman/flauter Wilshaw.

Starting on Autobiography, a track that rises from a fade-in coming from hell, the group rides a quick wave, before the middle section gives a slower Spanish-style trumpet solo, gradually picking up peed as other wind instrument step in, leading to a wild guitar solo, underlined by brass throes and Wilshaw's sax leading the wild brassy fade-out outro. The title track starts very slowly on a flute and vocals, before it kicks in and offers an already-heard-before melody on the chorus (most likely strongly derived from BS&T, but not quite as cheesy), but the track is not among their best, anyway. The slow menacing bass line of the 7-mins Hide From Dawn, soon joined by brass and slow sinister drum rolls provide a great climate and constant groove throughout the track, over which Jennings' organ can stroll upon, accompanying Edwards' vocals, and when not busy singing, he plays a few remarkable guitar fills, but the show is really for the brass section. A rapid groove shakes you from your torpor and She's Learning has a real enthralling hot memorable hook, mostly driven by the organ. The tracks suddenly stops halfway to allow for a short bass solo, before resuming the original groove, but slowly morphing into a dissonant mutant form.

The album's flipside opens on the album's centrepiece, the 9-mins A Time A Place which has few problems installing itself as the album's best highlight. The rest of the albums glides on effortlessly with the funny Two Bad Days (and its descending riffs), the slow, enchanting and haunting flute-laden Sadness Of A Moment (another highlight) and the closing To B, also starting slowly, but ending in complete dissonant chaos.

Truly one of those minor unearthed gem, Brainchild's only albums stands as one of brass rock's best albums ever, out-ranking many better-known acts. In terms of obscure brass rock, they stand on the podium with Galliard (two albums) and Warm Dust (three albums). Obviously very rare as a vinyl and having never seen a legit reissue, this group is unfortunately bound to remain for a while, one of the least known UK treasures.

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Posted Wednesday, February 06, 2008 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Healing of the Lunatic Owl' - Brainchild (74/100)

I don't believe I had ever heard the term 'brass rock' before reading reviews of Brainchild's first (and only) LP, Healing of the Lunatic Owl. Sure, I've had some run-ins with Chicago, but I was yet-unaware there was an entire scene of this sort of music at one point. Brass rock as a proverbial sub-sect of jazz rock and fusion virtually disappeared towards the second half of the 1970s, and especially now the blend of psychedelic fuzz, British R&B and peppy trumpets sounds fairly dated. In spite of that retrospect, I'm quite surprised this jazz-rock sextet never received more attention than they did.

Although Brainchild's relative instrumental novelty is arguably enough to give them relevance with the jazz family tree, the composition and energy on Healing of the Lunatic Owl is almost entirely rock-based. The songwriting- regardless of quality- is fairly straightforward, and were it not for the glaring use of trumpets, there would be nothing in the music to betray a potential connection to jazz. Rather, Brainchild strikes me as a fuzzy, sometimes Krautrock-ish reflection of the wake of late '60s psychedelic trends in Britain. The turn of the decade met with a stark change in the sound of rock music; between the two decades, Brainchild certainly sounds rooted moreso in the former. Bill Edwards' lead vocals are fairly typical for their time, trying to find a balance between poppy hooks and left-field theatricality- I personally think he succeeded, even if his voice lacks distinctiveness.

Brainchild are clearly skilled musicians across the board, but their greatest strength on Healing of the Lunatic Owl is this ability of theirs to balance out instrumental sophistication and hooks. Whether you want to call this progressive rock, jazz or something else entirely, that golden ratio is a rare find- too often, the artists you'll see trying to make this blend sound bland or scattered. While the uncharacteristically melancholic "Sadness of the Moment" is the only tune here that manages to hit me on a directly emotional level, every song on Healing of the Lunatic Owl is distinct. If there's anything I can think of that implies the makings of a potential classic album, it's that feeling of every song having value. The music generally isn't compelling enough for me to rank it among the 'greats' of its era, but there are quite a few folks out there who acknowledge the album as an obscure masterpiece, and for that, I am thankful.

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Posted Wednesday, July 09, 2014 | Review Permalink

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