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RARE BIRD

Rare Bird

Crossover Prog


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Rare Bird Rare Bird album cover
3.72 | 77 ratings | 12 reviews | 17% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 1969

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Beautiful scarlet (5:23)
2. Sympathy (2:30)
3. Nature's fruit (2:32)
4. Bird on a wing (4:13)
5. God of war (5:08)
6. Iceberg (6:46)
7. Times (3:19)
8. You went away (4:17)
9. Melanie (3:27)

Total Time: 37:35

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Mike Ashton / drums, lead & backing vocals
- Graham Field / Hammond organ
- Steve Gould / guitar, bass, vocals
- Dave Kaffinetti / electric piano, synthesizers

Releases information

LP Command/Probe 4514 / LP Charisma CAS 1005 / LP Philips 6369 900 / CD Red Fox (1998)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
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Import · Remastered
Esoteric 2007
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RARE BIRD Rare Bird ratings distribution


3.72
(77 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(17%)
17%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(50%)
50%
Good, but non-essential (30%)
30%
Collectors/fans only (3%)
3%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

RARE BIRD Rare Bird reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Proghead
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Great, underrated debut by this British band that featured two keyboardists, a bassist (who also handles the vocals), a drummer, but no guitarist! Instead we get two guys handling the keyboards, Graham Field on organ, and David Kaffinetti on electric piano. The rest of the band was rounded by Steve Gould on vocals and bass, and Mark Ashton on drums.

This is a historic album, for it marks the very first album to ever be released on the Charisma label. The band was said to have formed in October 1969, and to have this album released at the beginning of December 1969. Anyway, the album is best known for the song "Sympathy", which became a hit for them on mainland Europe. But you'll also find the band exploring some great prog rock such as "Beautiful Scarlet", "Iceberg", and "God of War". In between are shorter songs like "You Went Away", "Nature's Fruit", "Bird on a Wing", etc. There's a couple of songs I can live without, such as "Times" which sounds like really bad '50s music, but with the organ replacing the piano (Steve Gould tries so hard to be Little Richard here, it's not even funny, that style of music just isn't Rare Bird), and "Melanie", with lyrics a little too mushy for my liking. But the rest is a demonstration of what was great in the earliest days of prog rock. (4 1/2 stars)

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Review by loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars RARE BIRD were a fantastic early British prog rock band who uniquely sported dual keyboardists (David Kaffinetti on electric piano and Graham Field on organ). Their music was powerful and creative and apparently also somewhat catchy as this album circa 1969 actually posted to the European billboard charts thanks to the hit "SYMPATHY". MARILLION fans will note that this track was re-done by them in their "Holiday In Eden" days. The surprisingly thing here is that there is no guitarist on the album with bass and lead vocals being handled by Steve Gould and drumming by Mark Ashton. The album has some fantastic numbers like "Beautiful Scarlet", "Iceberg", and the haunting "God of War". Their self titled debut album is clearly an impressive display of keyboard dominated jazz-like playing and in many ways actually reminds me of the work of CARAVAN with the darkness of ELP. Steve Gould's vocals may take a bit to get used to but I love his almost raw sound and think it fits the music stylistically.

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Review by mystic fred
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Back in 1970, whilst browsing in my favorite used record store, i came across this album. Despite the ghastly sleeve art (not the cover pictured above), i turned it over and noticed "Sympathy" included in the track listings, a song i had heard many times on the radio in the office but had never really taken much notice of, despite it being a huge hit single. The photo of the band clinched it - in those days any strange album i found depicting "four hippies in a field / park / wood" was worth investigating as part of my "scene". Charisma was a label i'd not seen before, this could have been one of their first releases. After all these years this amazing album is like an old friend i dig out to play regularly, a Rare Bird indeed! I recently bought this album again on a Rare Bird four-album double CD, an Italian label VH-VHRCD001018H/B.

Though some may think a few tracks on Rare Bird's debut album sound rather poppy, there are some beautiful songs and great musicianship on this early album, the sleeve notes by Tony Stratton Smith state "Graham Field and the boys walked in off the street and laid a demo tape on me. It happens all the time. Only this time it was good, very good", quite something for the owner of a fledgling record company, a time of stiff competition, everything was a risk, especially a group with no lead guitarist -just keyboards, drums (timpani???) and bass!

"Iceberg" sets the scene - a pacy intro, an icy beach, a haunting keyboard flurry, a ragged little husky - great song! "Times" is one of those poppy ones, followed by the extremely beautifully haunting "You Went Away" - long forgotten memories of lost love come flooding back. "Melanie" brightens things up, a whimsical little song about a frustrating girl we all knew!

Side two kicks of with "Beautiful Scarlet", this song really encapsulates the Rare Bird sound, a fast intro then drifts off into a dreamy, romantic world, the lyrics on this are really beautiful, about another lost love, who you "were just happy following around..". "Sympathy" is next, the one hit single they had, about world peace - nothing's changed, there is still not enough love to go round. Incidentally the flip side of this single, "Devil's High Concern" is a fantastic heavy number which is sadly missing on my CD, i bought a copy of"Sympathy" and preferred this song on the B side!

"Nature's Fruit" is a whimsical song about hawks, mice and flirting with your secretary - could that hawk be you? "Bird on a Wing" swings in next, it's like two songs in one, swaying nicely along, then speeds up into a boogie style groove, still observing that bird theme! One of my favourite songs on the album, it floats along nicely. The last track "Gods of War" is a in totally different mood - dark, threatening (the timpani comes in here), God-like whispered chants, a shepherd boy comes into sight - meets his fate! The track heads into a frenzied fast improvised jam before closing with the opening theme - epic stuff!

I really enjoy listening to this album and can highly recommend it as a stunning debut for Rare Bird - an early Prog masterpiece and absolutely essential listening!

"Rare Bird are a rare find, innovative, original, deeply musical. They're on their own. TONY STRATTON SMITH."

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Review by hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Rare Bird's debut which had been released by the group only 1 month (!) after their formation and had been obviously the very first album ever released on Charisma was in fact a very remarkable one and quite a fine example of organ-driven proto-Prog. Closest comparison coming to one's mind if listening to this album (which might admittedly sound a bit dated to some modern ears) is certainly Procol Harum due to its domination by keyboards and in fact there wasn't any real guitar player at all though Steve Gould obviously contributed as well some apart from bass and his brilliant vocals. The music on here though being in a rather easily accessible and even catchy vein had been certainly considered quite progressive those days and might still meet the standards of any admiror of early Prog nowadays and in fact there aren't any real flaws. Instead some of the songs are very good Prog pieces like "Beautiful Scarlet", "Iceberg", and "God of War" being for sure the three highlights of this album. "Times" is a slightly odd but as well interesting one since it starts like a rock'n'roll song from the 50's moving more into Prog territory in its second half. Then there's of course their No. 1 staple hit "Sympathy" almost everybody will have heard at least once in his life I guess. The rest of the songs are shorter and more simplified ones without being any bad and quite a pleasant listen in fact. So finally I can say listening to this ancient testimony from the very first days of Prog once again after many years has been quite a nice experience for me and I think one could easily consider it a worthy addition for any collector interested in early 70's Prog.

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Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars How many times did I listen to Sympathy ? Countless, I guess. It was one of the singles I purchased in 1970. And I still like it an awful lot.

But Rare Bird produced some other very pleasant and melodic music in those times. Keyboards are predominant in their early work which is fine, even if the absence of lead guitars might be disturbing. Still, the opener "Beautiful Scarlet" is rather a good song.

Of course, when you compare it with Sympathy, it is completely overshadowed by this succulent ballad. Incredible melody, sweet keyboards play, powerful vocals for one of the best slow available (as Writer Shade Of Pale, Nights In White Satin, I'm Not In Love etc.). The top of the genre, for sure.

I have never been too enthusiastic about Steve Gould's vocals. He has a warm and rasping voice which fits better soul than prog music. But compositions are pleasant and Natures Fruit is another good moment from this album. Very few to no tracks are bad on this debut album. Even some masterpieces will be featured. And when not reaching this status, there are some good numbers like Bird On A Wing for instance.

Another very good number is the fully psychedelic God Of War. Very Floyd oriented (Piper and ASOS). Remember, this album has been released in 1969. The psyche mania is not yet over. Another highlight.

Same very pleasant music is displayed during Iceberg. If ever you like ELP, you would be delighted to listen to this track. Very powerful bass play, gorgeous and heavy keys : a damned good track, really. Nothing shy to the best ELP songs (excepting Tarkus and Karn Evil). Another highlight which contrasts with one of the weakest one of this album. The rocking Times does not fit very well into their repertoire. Still, I can't consider this one as poor. Good bass work, again.

The last two songs are weaker as well. A pity because otherwise, I would have rated this album with four stars.

Rare Bird is not an influent band nor a first league one. But fans of keyboards-oriented music should really pay attention to it (maybe in the form of a compilation work). This album deserves seven out of ten. Three stars.

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Review by ProgShine
COLLABORATOR Errors & Omissions Team
3 stars 01. Beautiful Scarlet Drums and keyboards totally ahead. Riff those paused and a voice that PQP, which primed good voice! Melodies absurdly sensational. Then a calmer melody for the two keyboards do the 'dirty work'. Several tonnes of soil and several of keyboards and good melodies. It's amazing how the voice is flexible, and vocalizations marry perfectly. One of the strongest opening tracks I've ever heard!

02. Sympathy Pretty! Full of beautiful vocal and moderate pace. Keyboards always very well represented. This time, bass and drums are just as marking it.

03. Nature's Fruit The battery begins one of the 'pops' most beautiful and the style of Jefferson Airplane, with Hammond doing the marking, the band playing all perfectly! Soil very different, very low base of legal, and the best, one of the coolest tunes.

04. Bird On A Wing Bird On A Wing sensational keyboards have both well placed in the song. Until the melody changes, becoming more 'hard' and full of force. A thousand keyboards making a crazy sound of very good taste. Always very well supported by beautiful melodies.

05. God Of War Initially epic but a psicodelia that had not been shown on the disc, voice whisper, I recalled the very beginning of Pink Floyd. Full of sensational weather, I go to say the highlight of the disc, the song takes almost life itself, has a melodic weight without equal.

06. Iceberg Battery almost like a volley of shots, keyboards and melodies typical of Italian bands in the same season as PFM and Le Orme. The central idea here is something well ahead of its time, difficult to say that were not as well known. It is usually never say that the pioneers are not rewarded for their merits? This track is very progressive, and I can not say if it is before or after something, because I know only the year of the disk, not the month.

07. Times That would be a strange country? I think so (laughter), great emphasis on the bottom row of Steve Gould. The initial melody of the keyboard and then also, I am not surprised, but not enough to copy. The keyboards around and bent the law by all sides of the track. And for the first time a guitar is almost lost at the end of the track.

08. You Went Away Beautiful song! From sweet and simple melody, Full of climates. And once again the vocals are the highlight, when there is need of strength, of beauty, there is. Awesome! Basically a sad ballad, which benefits from the keyboards. The hit Mike Ashton drop everything in order.

09. Melanie I think that is the hit singing the main vocal and is not ugly at all. The voice of him and is also very melodic tune. The song is a mixture of sounds, and a strange time of signing. There through several breaches of pace. A great song.

www.progshine.com

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Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
3 stars With its double keyboard attack, I always linked RB to Procol Harum, and their big hit Sympathy to Whiter Shade Of Pale, finding that Gould's vocals were often close to Brooker's. Of course the groups were from a different generation and Bird was guitar-less etc?. but nevertheless, the similarities stuck and when not, they sounded ELP or The Nice to me. With an exotic bird as the front artwork and another superb painted bird illustration on the inner gatefold, this was among the first Charisma release, and does it ever sound like it, as it is probably the only Charisma label album from 69.

Opening on the semi-lengthy Iceberg and a slow Hammond intro, crescendoing and exploring some wild time sigs and good interplay, the album starts well enough. But the next few tracks are too 60-ish sounding like Procol or Nice when they were out to play acid-rock, and while some tracks are good, others are appalling: Melanie (an answer to he Nice's early psych tracks, where Gould manages to sing as bad as Lee Jackson) or Nature's Fruit or Birds On A Wing. There are some real flaws that cannot be ignored. Among the better tracks are You Went Away (though it's very perfectible) or Beautiful Scarlet and the closing God Of War

But two thirds of the way into this album, you get sick of Field's Hammond dragging along lifelessly. When speaking of Hammond-driven prog rock, I never think of RB, simply because Field is not driving, pulling, steering or pushing anything - listen to his bad saturated organ solo on Bird On A Wing to understand. His listless play is miles from Lord, Emerson, Crane, Fisher and many more. The Esoteric label just released the band's studio whole discography adding photos, history, artifacts, and here even bonus tracks: both sides of the accompanying single with the non-album track Devil's High Concern, which brings some good added value to the album (although Field's organ is again questionable. Just not striking many good cords with me

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Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars Iceberg starts with (how to define it), not so strong organ solo, while evolving slowly into faster pace. Some tracks actually reminds me "Greenslade", what about Melanie, of course, that's not only similarity, the biggest one are two, sometimes duelling, sometimes one supporting another keyboards. You either love them, or they will make listening this music unbearable. My case is first choice, I like their sound, reminding me past, almost ancient times of rock music. And even in this year it could easily sound old. Vocals are good, sometimes, can be pleasant for someone, while terrible for other. Some songs could be sung better though, but that's matter of personal taste. As normal guitars are missing, bass sound is prominent (when you know what to look for and where). It's weird combination, but it works, somehow.

4(-), so, organ solos instead of guitar ones, that's not usual thing. But we should differ old from old. Old sound is good, but old flaws are not. Times, blues organ song ?

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Review by stefro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Signed to the famous old Charisma label along with the likes of Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator, Rare Bird were one of the earliest purveyors of symphonic prog, utilising a double- keyboard approach, thick bass-lines, yearning vocals and galloping drums. The band excelled in creating tricksy, ever-shifting tunes and melodies with complex, inter-changing time signatures and for a brief while Rare Bird were the equal of both their label-mates Genesis and proto-proggers Procul Harum. Their eponymously-titled debut features a wonderfully dense, classic progressive rock sound, with exciting rockers interspersed with gentler, more pastoral numbers and classically-themed pieces that showcase the talented skills of organist Graham Field and synth-player Dave Kaffinetti. Highlights include the up-tempo 'Beautiful Scarlet', which kicks things off nicely with some wonderful organ-drums-bass interplay, the jazz-tinged symphonic rock of 'Iceberg' and, last but by no means least, the seminal ballad 'Sympathy', a huge-selling single(two million copies, no less) which, for a brief while, made Rare Bird a household name at the beginning of the 1970's. Those with a penchant for old- school prog, crisply-played hammond organs and soulful vocals should feel right at home. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010

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Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars NOTE: The version of the album I am familiar with has Iceberg, Times, You Went Away and Melanie at the start the other songs towards the end. Perhaps my CD has the LP sides in the wrong order, or perhaps the progarchives entry is wrong. (Either way, I think the running order placing Iceberg at the start and God of War at the end is superior, since it means the album is bookended by its two best and most progressive tracks.)

With two keyboardists and no lead guitar, Rare Bird's debut album takes them into territory much like that occupied by early Procol Harum (if you take the talented Mr Trower out of the picture). But it's evident from the first track on this album, Iceberg, that they're a somewhat different proposition. As dark and mysterious as Procol themselves could get, the track also brings to play a higher level of complexity and at points starts to sound similar to early Van der Graaf Generator.

If the whole album were up to this standard, the band would have a real treat on their hand, but there are a few numbers that are simpler, more commercial, and (if I'm being brutally honest) just plain less good. Times is, to be frank, kind of lousy to start off with, but the second half of the song improves once the singing stops and the keyboard soloing kicks in in earnest. You Went Away and Melanie are similarly conflicted; the love song parts are a bit less simplistic and clumsy, but then again the improvisation parts are briefer and more tightly contained, so on the whole they're both clunkers. (Melanie, in particular, is let down by an unconvincing vocal performance that lacks the impressive intonations of the more dramatic tracks on the album.)

The second side puts things back on track as it opens with Beautiful Scarlet, that recaptures the dynamism and drama and foreboding of Iceberg. But the side lets itself down with Sympathy, apparently a hit for the band - which I can't understand, considering that it's a plodding, sappy mess of a song. I guess the "half the world hates the other half" message seemed more relevant during the Cold War. But actually, as a whole the second side holds up much better than the first: Nature's Fruit, the other short song on this side, is actually a bit more peppy and more musical interesting to boot, and I'm also personally quite fond of the pastorally-themed Bird On a Wing. And the side closer, God of War, is the first hint of the dark and Van der Graaf-haunted territory they would explore on their superior second album.

Rare Bird's debut is an extremely promising album with some dynamite tracks in the form of Iceberg and God of War, but it's badly let down by the filler material that seems to have been cooked up in a rush to get the thing finished - particularly on the first side. (After all, the band had barely formed when Tony Stratton-Smith signed them up and hustled them into the studio to lay this one down.) It's also suffered from a fairly cheap production job - perhaps not surprising considering that this was one of the very first albums Charisma put out - and, on at least the CD copy I have, a rather poor-quality transfer which sounds like it was taken directly from a vinyl copy rather than the master tapes. (That said, I've not heard the latest reissue from Esoteric so that might have superior sound quality - they've done a wonderful job on other reissues so I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't spruce this old Bird up a bit.) Still, when the band is up to scratch, they are a true delight for any proto-prog fan.

Three stars, but very, very close to being dragged down to two stars by that production job and those filler tracks.

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4 stars A beautiful tail is about to be born... Rare Bird appears at the late 60's with a lot promising self-titled debut. Their music consists to Rock compositions that go from Crossover, to Progressive and Symphonic. Considering that era, when a lot of Prog Monsters were about to be born, Rare Bird p ... (read more)

Report this review (#236609) | Posted by FatalV | Thursday, September 03, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I had been a big fan of British Prog-rock & Canterbury Scene for years. Rare Bird is a loving band for me. This is their 1st album that I heard & in a country like India, this is a rare band. But, from the very 1st track Beautiful scarlet, they are on ! 2 keyboards are in tandem & vocals, bass ... (read more)

Report this review (#30449) | Posted by | Tuesday, November 02, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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