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Gravy Train

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Gravy Train (A Ballad Of) A Peaceful Man album cover
3.55 | 94 ratings | 12 reviews | 29% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Alone in Georgia (4:35)
2. (A Ballad of) A Peaceful Man (7:06)
3. Jule's Delight (6:58)
4. Messenger (5:58)
5. Can anybody hear me (2:59)
6. Old Tin Box (4:45)
7. Won't talk about it (3:00)
8. Home again (3:25)

Total Time: 38:46

Bonus track on 2006 reissue:
9. Alone In Georgia (Single edit) (3:59)

Line-up / Musicians

- Norman Barratt / guitar, lead vocals
- J. D. Hughes / flutes, sax, keyboards, vocals
- Lester Williams / bass, backing vocals
- Barry Davenport / drums, percussion

- Nick Harrison / orchestral arrangements

Releases information

Artwork: Robert Lee & Robert Lambert (photo)

LP Vertigo - 6360 051 (1971, UK)
LP Repertoire Records - RR 2122-TT (1990, Germany)

CD Repertoire Records - RR 4122-WP (1990, Germany)
CD Repertoire Records - REP 5060 (2006, Germany) With a bonus track

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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GRAVY TRAIN (A Ballad Of) A Peaceful Man ratings distribution

(94 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(29%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (32%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

GRAVY TRAIN (A Ballad Of) A Peaceful Man reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by loserboy
4 stars GRAVY TRAIN's ("A Ballad of...") is a magnificient work of art and may represent one of the 70's most impressive albums. Combining delicate prog (aka JADE WARRIOR and CRIMSON's "In The Court" ) with well timed and thought out harsher explosive moments and extended jams. "A Ballad Of A Peaceful Man" is filled with heavy "Psychy" guitar, loads of delicious analog keyboard parts and a lot of amazing flute playing. One word of caution is that lead vocalist Norman Barrett has a very distinctive heavy sound which I love but may not appeal to everybody out there. I actually think that my love affair with GRAVY TRAIN's music rests somewhere in the cleverness and beauty of the musical contrast these guys deliver. Essential music for your ears...!
Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!

Second release on the great Vertigo label but their last one also, as they will move to their cross-town rival label Dawn for their next two albums. This one has more chance to please the fellow readers of this site. Much more into the progressive subject that we are looking for in an album featured here, it still sounds a lot like their psychedelic debut. They are however careful to develop climaxes and ambiances that I thought were absent on their first try by being more concise.

The awesome title track, Julie's Delight (and its string section), Messenger and Home Again are clearly the highlights of this album. Unlike the debut album, the presence of KB is more noticeable, but no matter what, Gravy Train will retain a Psych sound until their last album, mostly due to Barrett's fuzz guitar. Again Barrett's voice is an acquired taste, but it should not be too hard to get into the groove.

Not that much more groundbreaking or essential, this album still is recommended to early 70's buffs, but still not essential, IMHO.

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars ' Ballad...' was the most amenable album from GT for their small fan base. It kind of entered into a more structured melodic style with shorter songs. Most of them well delivered and the flute from JD Hughes on this album probably his best out of all their albums. It's when you play this quality type album from 33 odd years previiously you realize what a creative force GT were. The title track is stirring with flute interwoven with subtle vocals. ' Alone in georgia' the opening number equally memorable.' Jule's Delight' and ' Mesenger' perhaps the other best tracks. I think this album struck a chord with the educated listener of those times and will always stand testimony to that wonderful era where prog rock truly was in the NOW. Don't pass this album by,
Review by Muzikman
4 stars GRAVY TRAIN was an above average rock band that had enough talent to make a successful foray into the territory of progressive rock.

On their 1970 release "(A Ballad of) A Peaceful Man", the use of flute (J.D. Hughes) was similar to how JETHRO TULL utilized the instrument in a rock setting. Their sound was decidedly progressive, leaning more towards a harder rock sound (for the time) with some sharp guitar playing (Norman Barrett), although the vocal side of the house was a little weak in comparison to their overall musical adeptness. If those two factors could have been equal, perhaps this band would have enjoyed more success. Like everything else, timing and marketing will make you or break you; in this case, they were a very good band but their gravy train never came in.

Review by Carl floyd fan
4 stars 3.75 stars. The vocals hurt what otherwise, would be a classic. the beauty of the flute playing on this album can be compared to jethro tull and their are some nice extended jams that enter hard rock territory. The first song "alone in georgia" is the weakest song but once you get past that the rest of the album seems to flow nicely.
Review by Ricochet
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It is 1971 and the second album from bluesy-rock-prog band Gravy Train was produced rather fast and rather in a satisfaction full of the usual creativity (that's vital, but interpretable also), the usual madness (needed to improvise or improve) or the consequent features of music and melody (among different ideas melting below the surface of what we hear).

The band's the same: Nick Barrett (Barratt?!), vocalist and guitarist by a full nature, Lester Williams as bassist and back-need vocalist, J.D. Hugues on wind and brass, plus some keyboards without obvious taste, and Barry Davenport on drums and all the percussion (interesting, what/whose credit goes to some orchestral strings?). Even the label, Vertigo, supports their album, more keen on their hard rock or late blues value (yet it is the last album to be signed up over here). But the mood changes, interpretation is more robust but radically switched, the entire illusion of old-fashioned rock distinguishes differently and, finally, the album is fuller of art, broader of stunning effects, deeper than the rock usual sky-limit...however it isn't truly amazing, only perfectly achieved and very sensibly arranged.

The style evokes only a bit from what the debut satisfied and, bombastically, shown as art and time's special music: blues rock, by the cheap rhythm or the relentless groove, hard rock, deep in atmosphere and experiment (though, just like over that album's review, I repeat that it's strange to call experiment the wild and the exhaustive flair and flames sprinkled or totally sprayed over there), a bit of Tull-ish pale folk (and, hey, a bit of Floyd artificial smoke-rock as well); lots of artistic freedom, aggressive beauty, creaking talent - and so. (A Ballad of) A Peaceful Man is the album above its standard, but still hangs on to deep expressions. Like the more progressive blend of symphonic, art rock, folksy drops and melody rock. Like the blues washing away towards a kind of soft rock. Like the hard choice being monumentally over-turn towards spices and mealier moments of rock and suspense. Like the music beauty (coming from arrangement and interpretation) being the only thing better than expected, by full impressions of reasonably expansive tastes. Gravy Train spots well its plentiful originality, but artists like Tull, Audience or a bit of relative and atmospheric Focus also does a nice. Until a sudden point, the album seems conceptual - or at least, one music moment follows another, spreading a diverse, concise, heart-warming and taste-storming entire effect of music...and progressive rock.

Out of the mix of lovely and amassing pieces, those rather weaker and less sensational should be mentioned first: starting with the very first piece, Alone In Georgia, very light in vocals and melodiousness - mainly very unusual for Gravy Train, but also too convincing for the album's entire soft art. Can Anybody Hear Me is a bit of Purple high rock, nothing is artistic, nothing, except the drum-flute-bass subtle observation reaches a short-time nice dandle. Furthermore, the last two pieces are very artistic, but not overwhelming. Reaching the better side of the view, the title is lovely and sensual for emotion, heart-breaking but otherwise rapid in its instrumental passion and its entire vocal art. Julie's Delight follows with folk, blues and a bit of the never forgotten strong rock. Messenger may have some problems with the opening folk theme, which is definitely too close to another famous line of another progressive rock band (can't remember if it's Tull, Focus or Nektar), or with another good mood of open vocals; but the guitar finale is sublime. Old Tin Box is jazzy and folksy, abstract-atmospheric and beautiful in easy character. The album is strong, pleasant, artistic.

Very close to a doubtless/flawless grand (too sad some tunes aren't bright enough), this is an album to remember, both the hard and the melodic provoking a pleasure worthy of progressive genuine high stuff, both the improvised and the utterly relaxed kind of music and jam does the effect of art beyond craft, mind and sense. I enjoyed deeply the debut, with its heavier and more strongly hazed freedom of rock/prog/folk/blues/psych expressions, and find that one my favorite. And, a bit, the best Gravy Train ever spotted. 3.5 stars for this lovely music, mainly brought to a good life thanks to the lovely band of Gravy Train.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A band fuelled by good musicianship and enthusiasm, Gravy Train really reached their pinnacle with their eponymous debut album: none of their subsequent efforts could touch it. Still, "(A Ballad of) A Peaceful Man" happens to be a very good album, easily enjoyable for any rock lover who loves something beyond the usual standards of mainstream. The opener 'Alone in Georgia' finds Gravy Train developing a serene melodic sense, mostly based on Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel with a touch of typical late 60s British style (mainly due to the string arrangements). There is a ceremonious set of string layers that segue into the namesake song, which initially portrays a prominently pastoral mood with an extra dose of sophistication. When the interlude arrives, the lead guitar assumes the leading role, the whole ensemble goes rocky and the flute stops being soft and turns aggressive in an Anderson-esque manner. The interlude set up the overall scheme for the sung section, whose slow tempo makes the song preserve a nostalgic mode. It is a pity that the interlude wasn't longer, since it would have helped the track to augment its potential splendor - it remains, all in all, underdeveloped. 'Jule's Delight' returns to a sonic terrain related to American folk-pop. The orchestral arrangements set an attractive amalgam with the flute lines. The album's second half starts with 'Messenger', a song that includes a jazz-flavored bucolic up- tempo section that makes Gravy Train seem an Italian band (the Delirium type, for instance), plus an exciting outro a-la Jethro Tull. Next are three rockers: the straightforward 'Can Anybody Hear Me?'; the R'n'B-inspired 'Old Time Box', which features Hughes' sole sax intervention in the album and a percussive interlude; 'Won't Talk About It', which sounds to me like Traffic-meets-Uriah Heep. All three songs are catchy enough as to deliver a reasonable dose of excitement, but unfortunately they don't receive enough expansive treatments. The closer 'Home Again' brings a mid-tempo excursion of soft rock with an ethnic twist (shades of early Jade Warrior can be referred here). So this is a good album, full of nice ideas that go flowing well, yet devoid of the special mixture of psychedelic hard rock and jazz-rock that had made the "Gravy Train" album so relevant for the maturation of avant-garde rock in the early 70s. "(A Ballad of) A Peaceful Man" is the ballad of a band that gave up on their musical power too soon - good but not great, not excellent but nice.
Review by b_olariu
3 stars Gravy Train is and was always considered a band that for some resons never hit big time in prog scene, they were in shadow of the bands that emerges in late '60's to early '70's, and I'm talking about the big names of that period, Floyd, Yes, Genesis, Tull. While their music is more heavy prog in places with a good dose of folk here and there with excellent flute arrangements, Gravy Train has a special emotional atmosphere on almost every piece , mainly because of Norman Barrett voice. The music besides heavy prog with folk touches has that psychedelic feel of late '60's british music, very well combined with more rougher ones, the guitar of Norman Barrett does the main work here. A peaceful man is their second album from 1971 , from totaly of 4 albums released between 1970-1975, when disbanded and gone almost unnoticed in prog circles. This album is a little better then predecor in my ears, is more solid, more better composed, and has a special atmosphere of that early '70's progressive music. All the pieces are good, not a weak moment here, the guitar, keys where are more in front, the voice, and the flute done a wonderful job, living the listner with no regrets that he was able to listen to them. Even the album was released in the golden era of prog, and specially when progressive music was taking wings, this second album is considered also a classic or a lost little gem in prog music. As a whole A peaceful man is no masterpiece or close, but is enjoyble and has some very good moments. They remind me in places , maybe because of the flute with Jethro Tull early years, but aswell some comparation with french Triode is obvious. Best track are to me:Jule's Delight with nice string arrangements and superb chorus, Old tin box, a heavy prog piece withe some great sax interplay with the rest of the instruments, Home again another worthy track with great flute play, the rest are ok. Something worth mentioning is that the whole album is mid tempo with here and there some laid back moents, but very good combined to each other. The pieces flow very nice one to other living the listner satisfied about this second Gravy Train release. I will give 3 stars, a good album all the way, not a weak moment, maybe Alone in Georgia is lesser good with a country feel, but the rest are all good and even great in places. A little underrated band from early years of prog with their own contribution to the unmatch world of progressive music.
Review by stefro
2 stars Made in the same vein as it's self-titled predecessor, Gravy Train's second album ('A Ballad Of) A Peaceful Man' features the same guitar-and-flute heavy mix and screeching vocals as before, just this time the group's leader Norman Barrett has split the album into two sections, the first of which features ballad's and songs of a slower tempo, whilst the second is made up of the group's heavier and rockier numbers. Again, there is nothing wrong with the group's actual playing, it's just the material is pretty un-inspiring. The syrupy album opener 'Alone In Georgia' is possibly the worst thing this band has recorded, but luckily it's a one-off abberation. The rest of ('A Ballad Of) A Peaceful Man' is made up of competent, guitar-heavy prog that could well appeal to fans of Jethro Tull, Black Widow and Uriah Heep, but probably won't win any prizes for originality. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. GRAVY TRAIN's second album is less experimental and the jamming has been stopped, so yes this sounds quite different in style when compared to the debut. I like this better surprisingly enough.This album offers up a collection of good songs with Norman's expressive vocals and the ever present flute standing out. I must admit i'm surprised at how quickly I warmed up to this record but there's an emotional element at work that just draws me in. Unfortunately there are a couple of tracks I just don't like at all.

"Alone In Georgia" opens with flute,strummed guitar and strings as the vocals come in.Too commercial sounding to my ears, I just can't get into it. "(A Ballad) Of A Peaceful Man" is better especially when it picks up before 2 minutes with guitar and some attitude. It settles back as contrasts continue. "Jule's Delight" opens with flute as reserved vocals and other sounds help out in this mellow soundscape.The vocals do get passionate at times though. Good song. "Messenger" is the only track with mellotron on it. I like when it settles into a very CAMEL- like mode.That changes when the vocals arrive 1 1/2 minutes in. Flute then leads before 4 minutes followed by guitar. Nice. Excellent track.

"Can Anybody Heal Me" like the first track is one I can't get into.This one is heavy with flute and aggressive vocals. A soaring chorus too. It just doesn't work for me. "Old Tin Box" is good with that steady beat and sax. Catchy. Vocals before 2 minutes. A calm with percussion before 3 1/2 minutes then it kicks back in with vocals. "Won't Talk About It" features relentless guitar as the flute plays over top.Vocals join in. A brief guitar solo comes in at 1 1/2 minutes. Good song. "Home Again" is one of the best tracks on here. A native-like beat as the flute and guitar join in. Soft vocals also join in along with backing vocals. I like the atmosphere here.

Like the album cover for the debut the cover art here leaves me scratching my head. Oh well the music is good and that's the important thing.

Latest members reviews

5 stars GRAVY TRAIN were an English melodic prog band, established in St. Helens, Lancashire in 1969. The band never quite managed to make it onto the gravy train of success with their four studio albums. Their eponymous debut album "Gravy Train" (1970) had a heavier sound than the album reviewed here. ... (read more)

Report this review (#2302686) | Posted by Psychedelic Paul | Tuesday, December 31, 2019 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The second work released in 1971 "A Ballad of A Peaceful Man". The work of peaceful atmosphere queues up like the suite around the orchestra in the first half of the album. It is a dramatic complete work. On the other hand, the latter half is heavy rock connected with the former work. An origi ... (read more)

Report this review (#61711) | Posted by braindamage | Sunday, December 25, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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