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AHEAD RINGS OUT

Blodwyn Pig

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4 stars I regard it as a tragedy for Jethro Tull as well as Mick that he had to leave the band, for they were never the same force again creatively. The recording craft improved - anything involving Ian Anderson would be beaten into submission sooner rather than later, but the live performances, though grandoise and great fun, never carried that same authenticity as it did when Mick was around.

A genuine original, Mick vents his spleen here to good effect, showing what a great guitarist he is, and some great vocals too. It's the writing that suffers, it's not really his forte, his eccentricities shine through too much to make sense to the rest of us more than fleetingly, but it's all great fun. Never could understand the name though. Another weird Mick-take.

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Send comments to giselle (BETA) | Report this review (#428390)
Posted Wednesday, April 06, 2011 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Thickening out the sound

Blodwyn Pig will probably forever be considered an offshoot of Jethro Tull, as the band was put together by Mick Abrahams. Abrahams was a co-founder of Tull, but his desire to retain the direction that band took on their début album "This was" was at odds with that of Ian Anderson. Anderson prevailed, Abrahams left after just one album, and as far as Tull are concerned the rest is history.

Abrahams did not sit on his hands though, and quickly put together a band to take his vision forward, and indeed initially to rival Jethro Tull in terms of success. We should not though consider this Abrahams plus backing, the rest of the line up is strong including Andy Pyle ex of the Kinks and a future member of Wishbone Ash. The multi-talented Saxophonist Jack Lancaster brings to the band the opportunity for a diversity of sounds, Lancaster going on to become an accomplished session musician.

This, Blodwyn Pig's first album, consists of 9 tracks primarily written by Abrahams and/or Lancaster, with the other band members (including drummer Ron Berg) receiving co- writing credits on a couple of tracks. The music is firmly rooted in the blues which Abrahams had grown to love, the opening "Its only love" being an upbeat blues rocker with a big band style sound. Abrahams recalls that at the time of recording, he exploited the recent availability of 8 track recording to "thicken out the sound".

If the first track is unashamedly commercial, the second "Dear Jill" is a delightful downbeat blues with sleepy sax and atmospheric slide guitar. Abrahams vocals here are among the best he has performed. "Sing Me a Song That I Know" is relatively prosaic, and very much of its time (over 40 years ago!).

Without even checking the credits, it is apparent that "The Modern Alchemist" is the first of the Jack Lancaster compositions, the track being a jazz based instrumental with sax and guitar leads. It is hardly original, even for back then, but the frantic pace does allow the band to let their hair down. "Up and Coming" is the first of the songs to be credited to all the band members. Here they revert to the atmospheric blues of "Dear Jill", the track being similar to Uriah Heep's "Lucy blues" recorded around the same time.

"Leave It With Me" is the second of the Lancaster written instrumentals; once again the track is a semi-improvised workout for the band, Lancaster's tracks being noticeably different from the main blues pull of Abrahams. "The Change Song" opens with some undecipherable cockney chatter before settling down to a folk tinged acoustic ditty. The USA version of the album differed from the UK release through the inclusion of "See my way", a song which would appear on the band's second album in the UK. The track certainly has a bit of an American feel, being a driving blues rock number. Abrahams is in good voice on the track, which benefits from an adventurous arrangement, including what Abrahams refers to as a "Bolero" section.

The album closes with the 6 minute "Ain't Ya Coming' Home, Babe?", where Lancaster's jazz drive meets Abrahams blues thrust head on. The result is an oddly progressive melting pot of sounds which works in the main, but can sound a bit messy.

Overall, an impressive début from a band who failed to achieve all they were capable of. One of the highlights of the album is the stereo separation of the main instruments, which makes for a wonderfully clean, uncluttered sound overall. Not necessarily an album for Jethro Tull fans, but those with a bent towards blues, perhaps through bands such as the Groundhogs, should find much to enjoy here.

The CD remaster has a fine supply of bonus tracks. As most of these are written by Mick Abrahams, they inevitably lean towards the blues side of the band, but most would have made for worthy additions to the original album. "Walk on the Water" shines particularity well, although the sudden fade implies a work in progress.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#461376)
Posted Tuesday, June 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 'Ahead Rings Out' - Blodwyn Pig (54/100)

Though they're far removed from the sounds of progressive rock (or progressive anything-else), you can't go into a late-60s exploration of the genre without Blodwyn Pig being mentioned. Sure, the surge of British bands fusing blues rock and psych with jazz could be seen as a precursor to the prog movement, but listening to Ahead Rings Out, a modern listener would much sooner liken them to Cream than King Crimson. Instead, Blodwyn Pig is most relevant to the contemporary progressive rock listener as a sign of what Jethro Tull may have turned out like. It's all in the lineup; Murray Abrahams started Tull with Ian Anderson a short time before. Ultimately, the two had stark disagreements concerning the musical direction they wanted to take. More famously, Ian Anderson kept Jethro Tull rolling into a folkishly progressive hard rock direction- the rest is history. In contrast, Abrahams was more interested in playing a sort of psych-tinged blues rock, far more in keeping with the time. Especially compared to Jethro Tull's distinctive grasp of style, Blodwyn Pig seems to blur into a mess of British bands that had their own sights set on this exact same sound. For the style and period, Ahead Rings Out is a fairly above-average submission, with bluesy licks aplenty and the occasional jazz segment to keep it fresh. All the same, Blodwyn Pig aren't impressive enough to separate them from their hordes of stylistic neighbours.

I was actually thinking a few days ago that an entire book could be written on the British heavy blues explosion of 1969-70. Led Zeppelin is easily the most visible from that scene to current eyes. Many more, however, seems to have disappeared from the public's attention. Blues rock has never had the same sort of pull since, though blues rock fans are bound to be at least aware of Blodwyn Pig. Unlike the 12-bar throwaway would-be blusters, I am pretty sure that Blodwyn Pig had the potential to become bigger than they were. Listening to the album's jazziest moments in "The Modern Alchemist" and "Leave It With Me", the band pulls off some tight interplay. Even the omnipresent blues licks enjoy the soulful punch that only sincerity can provide. Murray Abrahams' vocals are probably more typical, less inviting than the instrumentation, but the potential for great things was still there.

If there's anything that seems to hold back Blodwyn Pig from said potential, it's the band's fixation with blues tropes. Granted, the blues style has a very specific mood and set of tools in its favour, but when Ahead Rings Out suggests alternatives to this (such as their sax-infused jazz rock), I'm left thinking the music would have benefited from some more diversification. The pentatonic scale worship comes in droves. And, of course, Abrahams is here singing his heart about his familiar troubles with a two-timing woman. Especially since the British blues zeitgeist has long since ended, these tropes are more difficult to see as quaint blues staples than as a distinct lack of personality and original contribution.

On the other hand, Blodwyn Pig's greatest successes on Ahead Rings Out come forth in the form of their blues-jazz fusion. While their heart's still clearly in the blues camp, the unexpected merge of styles works surprisingly well, with a sound not unlike some of the 'brass rock' bands that shared the same period. In the case of Blodwyn Pig, it's not that I don't appreciate their love of blues so much as I feel like the way they've approached this genre has precluded their ability to have a strong identity. The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Led Zeppelin each carved out a sound for themselves with many of the same ingredients, but in the case of Blodwyn Pig, they lacked the forward-thinking nature to take their sound out of a now-dated late 60s timestamp, and turn it into something immortal. It is worthy to note, however, that Blodwyn would emphasize their jazzy half by the time of Getting to This, their second LP.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#1286570)
Posted Wednesday, October 01, 2014 | Review Permalink

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