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IF

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United Kingdom


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If biography
IF was a seminal jazz-rock band formed in 1969 as Britain's answer to the pioneering US bands Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chicago. The main difference was that IF did not have a trumpet or trombone player and featured two saxes instead. Essentially a live band, true to its strong jazz influences IF was probably the only jazz-rock group, both then and now, to feature solos by all the band members, not just by the lead instruments.

They toured extensively in Europe and the States during the early Seventies, performing at most of the major venues and festivals of the day (Newport, Reading, Fillmores East & West, Whiskey A-Go-Go, The Marquee, etc.) and shared billings with, amongst others, Miles Davis, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Leon Russell as well as many of the classic rock bands of the day, such as Cream, Traffic, Yes, Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad, Ten Years After, KISS, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Like the early Chicago, they were difficult to classify with any of their contemporaries; they seemed out of place wherever they played, and were considered too jazzy when billed with groups with a more rock orientation and too bluesy or loud when billed with more jazz-oriented bands.

IF thus became one of the most highly-acclaimed groups of the Seventies to never quite make the big time, despite good record sales and full venues. The band was managed and its albums produced by Lew Futterman, who had previously produced US jazz/soul stars Brother Jack McDuff and J.J. Jackson, amongst others. Signed on by Chris Blackwell, an enthusiastic early fan, to Island Records in the UK and to Capitol Records in the US, their first album, IF (1970), entered the charts in both the States (Billboard) and the UK, as well as winning a design award for its cover, and was followed that same year by IF 2, also released on Island and Capitol.

The albums IF 3 (1971) and IF 4 aka "Waterfall" (1972) were accompanied by heavy touring schedules in the States and Europe, especially in Britain and Germany, where the band appeared on TV (BBC's Top of the Pops/Old Grey Whistle Test in the UK and one of their tracks was used as a signature tune for the news in Germany). Finally, in the summer of 1972, the band had to come off the road in the middle of a US tour when Dick Morrissey was admitted to hospital for major surgery. As a result of the break-up, the band members went off to work on other projects.


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If 5If 5
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IF discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

IF top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.77 | 64 ratings
If
1970
3.84 | 48 ratings
If 2
1970
3.86 | 31 ratings
If 3
1971
3.43 | 22 ratings
If 4
1972
3.94 | 32 ratings
Waterfall
1972
3.18 | 13 ratings
Double Diamond
1973
3.92 | 16 ratings
Tea Break Is Over....
1974
3.39 | 10 ratings
Not Just Another Bunch Of Pretty Faces
1975
2.00 | 1 ratings
If 5
2016

IF Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.83 | 6 ratings
If 4 on Tour in Germany, April '72
1972
3.56 | 17 ratings
Europe 1972
1997
4.00 | 1 ratings
Fibonacci's Number: More Live
2010

IF Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

IF Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
This Is If
1973
0.00 | 0 ratings
Gold Rock
1974
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Classic British Rock Scene
1975
0.00 | 0 ratings
Forgotten Roads - The Best Of IF
1995
0.00 | 0 ratings
Not Just Another Bunch Of Pretty Faces / Tea Break Is Over-Back On Your 'Eads
2005
4.50 | 2 ratings
Anthology 1970-72 (What Did I Say About The Box Jack?)
2008

IF Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Raise the Level of Your Conscious Mind
1970
0.00 | 0 ratings
Forgotten Roads
1971
0.00 | 0 ratings
Far Beyond
1971
0.00 | 0 ratings
You in Your Small Corner
1972
0.00 | 0 ratings
Waterfall (Promo Single)
1972
0.00 | 0 ratings
I Believe In Rock And Roll
1974

IF Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 If 2 by IF album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.84 | 48 ratings

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If 2
If Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars I am such an ass! Going through 45 years without hearing something as marvelous as British jazz-rock legends IF is a crying shame. If I only knew IF! LOL. So what did it take to get me up to speed after such a long period of inertia? A stupendous review by my Aussie music mate Michael reminded me that I had been missing out on something quite delicious in view of my profound adoration of Nucleus, Soft Machine, Isotope, Traffic, Sunbirds, Wigwam and even Tasavallan Presidentti! I was perhaps misguided in hearing comments about similarities with Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears , both of which are not exactly in my range of goodies.

I opted for the deluxe DVD/CD package of the IF "2" release, a beauty that has a live DVD recording as well as the studio effort, all nicely put together with an amazing booklet, artwork etc?I was already familiar with keyboard whiz John Mealing (who later graduated to Passport and the Strawbs) as well as accomplished drummer Dennis Elliott who of course became a famous Foreigner. Dick Morrisey is a sax legend, so I knew enough to be at least conscious of their existence but the big surprise for me was guitarist Terry Smith, a wicked stylist with amazing technique a la Steve Cropper (blues and a distinct RnB country feel), a rock solid bass player in Jim Richardson and a real cool vocalist in J.W. Hodgkinson. I had never heard of these three, so I was in for a thrill. Though this is late 60s music , it stills smokes quite brightly and is a joy ride from beginning to end, it got me thinking that we would need some upbeat stuff like this in our currently apathetic/doom-laden culture. (Sorry Pharell but "Happy" is not quite enough to heal the world).

Things begin in radiant fashion with a sprightly "Your City is Falling", Hodgkinson grabbing the mike stand and showing who is the boss, while the lads pummel mightily in the background. The mood is balmy, warm and inviting, a really faultless opening salvo that sets the tone perfectly.

An extended platform for improvisation is the 8 minute+ "Sunday Sad", a Spanish guitar motif finds itself escorted by a flute caress which then quickly merges into a slick rambler that fumes, smokes, smolders and rages with torrid passion, fueled by the loaded double brass assault of Quincy and Morrissey on saxophones and another fine vocal performance by J.W. Bassist Richardson carves some manic grooves while Terry Smith does a splendid job on his axe, a gritty and sulphurous affair that is just awe-inspiring. Mealing's grumpy organ is shoved along by Elliott's sturdy drumming and lo and behold, this is such exhilarating music!

The Brits love their weird song titles (hello Canterbury lads) and "Tarmac T and the Lonesome Nymphomaniac" (what year? 1969, hmmm, pretty racy, wot?) certainly qualifies, a bluesy trippy ditty with a manic vocal that has a definite Traffic/BST feel, spread-eagled by a sick sax flirting overtly with the fuzzy wuzzy organ (that is innuendo-laden wordplay for you), sensual and sexual jazz-rock with some serious soul.

Driving your vintage MG or Triumph Spitfire, propelled by a bass-mad "I Couldn't Write and Tell You", gives the music a down to earth meaning, surprising the listener with inimitable genius, a flute from nowhere, a consistently believable vocal delivery , a solid beat and some glittering solos all within its 8 minute sinews. Terry Smith glitters on his axe, a blistering technique that nears supersonic speeds, frenzied and acidic. Wow! Has anyone noticed where my jaw landed? Yeah, baby!

Smooth? You want some velvety class , well it does not get creamier than the suave breeze heard on "Shadows and Echoes", sounding like some jazz toone from the 50s movies, a cool cat skinning his brushes, upright bass bopping along while the crisp and clear guitar does some marauding. A wide mouthed vocal again does the trick, versatile and groovy.

Hey, you wanna another oddball song title, look no further than the quirky "A Song For Elsa, Three Days Before her 23rd Birthday", I mean, C'mon! Doggone it when Brits can out soul the Yanks, and that's including the 'brothers'! At least in musical terms, British blues and jazz bands of the 60s and 70s certainly played a part in emancipating white crowds into getting off on black music (Hey, Jimi, How ya doin'?). Here Quincy and Morrissey play majestically, a pure joy and total marvel to witness and revel in.

What a great record and I can bury my ignorance now by pursuing the entire catalogue!

Merci, Michael!

4.5 Rudyard Kiplings

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 If 2 by IF album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.84 | 48 ratings

BUY
If 2
If Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

5 stars Released in the same year as their first album in 1970, `If 2' saw English jazz/fusion/rock band If deliver a follow-up album that was just as good, if just a little more instantly approachable than the debut. One of the things that makes this album such a winner is that, in addition to the obviously top-notch musical displays and improvisational skills of the musicians, the band have crafted those elements to a selection of accessible and melodic tunes, without really being any more overly commercial. Soul, psych, funk, jazz and heavy R&B styles are all blended seamlessly with a hard rocking sound, with thrilling instrumental runs carefully executed between strong vocal passages. Oh, and it also happens to groove like a mutha-effer the whole time!!

`Your City is Falling' opens the album in gutsy and up-tempo fashion. A catchy tune sung with bellowing conviction by lead singer J.W Hodgkinson is powered by Dennis Elliott's snappy drumming, John Mealing's nimble Hammond organ ripples and relentless dual saxophone attacks from Dave Quincy and Dick Morrissey. The scathing lyric seem to be condemning watching the city you love change around you, the line "Half religious mockeries that robbed the man who died" is especially vivid, and the repeated exasperated mention of "All the restaurants?" just drives the message home perfectly. The gently melancholic `Sunday Sad' is psychedelic and drowsy, with lovely dreamy flute giving way to Terry Smith's Spanish-style slow-burn guitar solo in the middle that bubbles under and eventually erupts with lusty splintering fire, Jim Richardson's chasing bass stalking the whole time. `Tarmac T. Pirate' (check out the full nonsense title!) is a compact shorter vocal rocker dominated by Hodkinson, but the whole band offering quick little instrumental fills around him throughout.

`I couldn't Write and Tell You' opens the second side, with relentless bass, confident sax blaring and nimble jazzy guitar licks that turn into a psychedelic storm, but a sympathetic heartfelt restrained vocal in the middle over wistful flute is a nice break. `Shadows and Echoes' is a smooth soul ballad, showing that the band was equally convincing on slower, thoughtful numbers as the high energy ones. Reflective flute, lovely harmonies, a warm croon from Hodgkinson and Terry's unexpected nimble-fingered fretboard run in the center is the highlight. `I believe this girl's about to fly...' declares J.W on closer `A Song For Elsa', and fly it damn well does! It's a honking R&B stomper with a roaring vocal, furious propulsive instrumental jamming that alternates with smoky bluesy sax ruminations.

Especially worthwhile is the recent Repertoire Records CD/DVD reissue. Not only is the main album sounding absolutely wonderful, but a short bonus DVD of live vintage footage from 1971 is included. While visually it's fairly average quality, the energy of the live performance from the band is intoxicating, and, not surprising to discover, singer J.W Hodgkinson is a stocky mountain of a man, performing with power and finesse. Several of the tracks from `If 2' are performed, and it's interesting to note just how tightly written they are, as they're not all that different from the studio versions, just with a little added urgency the live environment brings.

Running just over 35 minutes, there's not enough time for any filler material to emerge, as `If 2' races through a range of fusion styles and sounds, expertly played by a bunch of top- notch musicians. It's one of the damn coolest albums in my collection, and just as special to me as If-offshoot Zzebra's second album `Panic', and it never fails to lift my mood. It's been in my collection for some years now, and after dozens upon dozens of listens, it still sounds like sheer musical perfection to my ears!

Five stars.

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 If 3 by IF album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.86 | 31 ratings

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If 3
If Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Anon-E-Mouse

5 stars With the abundance of new Prog releases it's easy to forget about groundbreaking works of Jazz-Rock pioneers from the early 70's. Especially when a younger generation were not even born at that time. This piece is intended to bring attention to this generally excellent work of this band from the UK.

The band started out strongly - for that era - before reaching their peak here on "If 3" that was maintained on follow up works, then changes in line-up and a nod towards more commercial approaches saw them - rightly - fade away. (Shortly after, their partial reincarnation as Zzebra had some better moments, but never reached their former best.)

The music on "If 3" is a team effort by very capable musicians who are masters of their respective instruments. This is no one-man band with hired hands helping out. No. here everyone is not only permitted, but compelled to shine - and they all do.

Very tight, well crafted compositions from beginning to end represent a fine blend of vocals alternating with great solos. Not surprisingly, band leader Dick Morrissey's excellent sax and flute stands out, but not at the expense of others, more like an element that bonds things together. And Terry Smith on guitar must be heard to be believed. To date (43 years later) few could be compared with his fluid delivery that's bordering on orgasmic. But really, the whole band are collectively great.

Tight, rhythmic and sometimes melodic tunes delivered in a dynamic and compact way, speckled with great solos. Not a single second of filler material here. The band could be likened to Colosseum (not Colosseum II) at their best and fans of that group would find this album very pleasing. Highly recommended.

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 If 2 by IF album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.84 | 48 ratings

BUY
If 2
If Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars If were trully creative during their brief stint in the 70's and shortly after the release of their debut, who had entered the charts worldwide and even won a prize for its front cover artwork, a second album saw the light in 1970.''If 2'' was now recorded both at the Hit Factory in New York and the Island Studios in London with Lew Futterman as a producer.The album was released, of course, on Island in UK and on Capitol in the US.

''If 2'' is again characterized by inventive and tight songwriting, combining the technical aspects of Jazz and Psychedelic Rock with Pop flourishes and Soul melodies.The first side of the LP is quite cool, maybe too much relying in the mix of psych organs, electric guitars and smooth sax melodies in just about the same motive, but the tracks contain good melodies, fine instrumental jamming parts and certainly J. W. Hodkinson's excellent voice.''Sunday day'' is propably the best cut with its dominant 60's influences, the doomy sax lines of Dick Morrissey and the loose guitar work of Terry Smith.The second side opens with the best piece of the whole album and one of If's better compositions, ''I couldn't write and tell you'', which lyrically is rather weak, but the music is more than rewarding.Very rich Jazz Rock with psychedelic grooves and dynamic Hammond organ, that rise as the track unfolds, and great KLAUS DOLDINGER-like wind instrumental parts, while Hodkinson's voice is absolutely great.The remaining two tracks explore the boundaries of smooth or more energetic Jazz Rock with commercial vibes and catchy choruses with less instrumental inventiveness but nevertheless tight performances by the band.

Another nice release by this intelligent British combo.Hardly you is able find a group, that can combine virtuosity and accesibility with such comfort and ''If 2'' is such an album, especially rewarding for fans of late-60's Proto Prog or Jazz Rock.Recommended.

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 If by IF album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.77 | 64 ratings

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If
If Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by presdoug

5 stars British seventies jazz-rock group If are not focused on now, not even as much as their contemporaries like Colosseum and Chicago, partly, i think, because the original band split in 1972 unlike Chicago, and did not enact a high profile reunion, like Colosseum did. It is a shame that time has not been that favorable to interest in this amazing band, because musically, they were of the highest caliber, and this debut album an excellent effort, all the way around.

If-If was released in the days of pioneering jazz-rock, and opened doors for the band- rightly so, as it is a strong and cohesive effort, with no weak songs or weak musicians playing in the lineup. This debut tells of a true band, a collaborative effort, where all musicians and lead singer are equally important to the music being conveyed, with the result that they keep you interested and musically stimulated all the way through every track on this record.

Vocalist J.W. Hodgkinson is quite good, and has a strong delivery without a lot of screaming or shrieking the way some vocalists do. All instrumentalists blossom individually without ever loosing touch with the overall cohesive spirit being conveyed, and the result is music that is exciting and fascinating to follow. There are drums, two sax players, keys, flute, guitar, and bass here and they do some really interesting things that are much more appealing than their colleagues Chicago or B,S and T. Whereas i have grown tired of those two bands, not so with If, who for me, have stood the test of time well. This group are in finest form in the first album here, and also If 3, their greatest oeuvre. The music on If's debut is so stimulating and pleasing to hear, i often find myself forgetting that it is over four decades old!

And like Colosseum, the band had a legendary live appeal that must have been a sight to behold back in the day. Well, this great record is the next best thing to being there. I highly recommend it, and give it five stars.

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 If by IF album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.77 | 64 ratings

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If
If Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Charting the same jazz-rock course as the likes of Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, Satisfaction and Trifle and featuring future Foreigner drummer Dennis Elliot amongst their ranks, Britain's If were a talented seven-piece who produced handful of noteworthy albums during the early part of the 1970s, though overall their style was somewhat poppier than the fusion groups who were re-popularizing the jazz genre at that time, the likes of Nucleus, Soft Machine and John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. The First album, titled simply 'If', is undoubtedly their best, with catchy hooks adorning the softly-played jazz rhythms and a strong focus on structured song-writing as opposed to improvisational jams. However, that's not to say If are a pop band per se, far from it, and tracks such as the lengthy, eight-minute 'What Did I Say About The Box Jack?' and the cool instrumental 'Dockland' are testament to If's melding of styles and tones. Their real ace, though, lies in the shape of frontman J. W. Hodgkinson, whose deep, bassy vocals add a whole new dimension to the jazz-rock formula. Vocals in fusion or jazz-rock are difficult to pull of, hence the poppier nature of this material, yet here the combination works beautifully, adding a rich lyrical layer to proceedings. Subsequent albums would repeat the sonic trick with slightly diminishing returns, though both If2 and If3 are still recommended. A graceful, enjoyable and extremely well-crafted debut, this unique mixture of jazz, rock, pop and orchestral flourishes proves a delightful surprise indeed.

STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012

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 Waterfall by IF album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.94 | 32 ratings

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Waterfall
If Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars The new and improved fourth album

Unlike the band's first three albums, "If 4" was not released in North America, reportedly due to management and contractual issues. Later the same year though (1972), this album appeared in its place in those territories. As can be seen from the track listing, no less than four of the tracks on this album also appeared on "If 4" with two ("You in your small corner" and "Svenska Soma") being replaced by "Paint your pictures" and "Cast no shadows". The track order too is completely different, with "Sector 17", which seems to have been pruned back a bit, losing its headline spot to this album's title song. The two new tracks were recorded by a a slightly different line up with a new rhythm section and without John Mealing.

The re-ordering of the tracks means that the album gets off to a much more satisfactory start, with two in your face slices of jazz rock ("Waterfall" and "The light still shines") providing a tight, brass fuelled, attention grabbing first 10 minutes or so. "Sector 17" retains the extended guitar noodling of "If 4", but the sax excesses are kept in check.

"Paint your pictures" is one of the two tracks unique to this album. The song leans on the blues side of the band, the simple backing rhythm supporting an extended lead guitar break and some fine brass. From the keyboards work, it sound like John Mealing may in fact still have been around for this recording. "Cast No Shadows" has a distinctly The Who feel to it in the Roger Daltrey like vocals. The track otherwise has more in common with Chicago than BS&T, being reminiscent of "Does anybody really know what time it is" (to these ears at least!). The album closes with "Throw Myself to the Wind", a straightforward jazz rock number with a toe-tapping rhythm.

For me, this is a far more satisfactory configuration of "If 4" than the UK release. The bland fusion experiments are kept firmly in check, with the album benefiting from a feel much more in line with If's previous releases.

The 2003 re-release of the album has three bonus tracks. The first two of these are a single A and B side which contained an edited version of "Waterfall" and "You in your small corner", the most commercial track on "If 4". The final track is a superfluous mono version of the radio edit of "Waterfall".

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 If 4 by IF album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.43 | 22 ratings

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If 4
If Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Hope you like our new direction

"If 4" would prove to be the last album recorded by what was by and large the original line up of the band, before they disbanded and a new group using the same name was formed. Unlike the band's first three albums, "If 4" was not released in North America, but please see the entry for the album "Waterfall" for a North American release the same year. The tracks here were recorded live in the studio in front of an audience having been developed by the band at various gigs. The recordings are reportedly devoid of post production overdubs.

As a whole, the album represents the band's jazzier side, the opening 10+ minute "Sector 17" being a hope you like our new direction fusion style jam. There is plenty of energy in the performance, with guitarist Terry Smith and saxophonist Dave Quincy (who wrote the song) both being afforded plenty of space to display their talents. For me through, the track is very ordinary and indeed anonymous. This could be any of a number of bands and artists who resorted to rambling nonsense when the inspiration ran out.

Fortunately, things get back on track with the jazz rock of "The Light Still Shines", a song which reminded me of some of Alan Price's work. Here things are much tighter, J.W. Hodgkinson adding one of his fine vocals. "You in Your Small Corner" is the shortest track on the album and the last of the trio of Quincy compositions. Here we have the album's most accessible song, very much inspired by the anthems of Blood Sweat and Tears and complete with David Clayton Thomas like scat, plus a female backing vocal. I love it!

Side two of the LP sees the late Dick Morressey taking control, the opening "Waterfall" featuring plenty of his flute playing backed by a frantic rhythm and a good vocal refrain. "Throw Myself to the Wind" has a bit of a swing feel to it, the Blood Sweat and Tears similarities once again coming through. The album closes with Svenska Soma, the only song not to include a member of If in the writing credits. I have to admit defeat in my attempts to track down information on the composer (named as "Jonsson-Smith"). The track is another of the instrumental fusion jams, primarily focused on the sax section.

Overall, a bit of an up and down album (Iffy?!) by the band. The two extended jams aside, there is some decent material here. I can only assume that material was in short supply.

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 If 2 by IF album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.84 | 48 ratings

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If 2
If Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Tarmac T. Pirate's not as bad as he sounds

In an age when band seem to take several years between albums, it may seem strange that If should have released this their second album in the same year as their first. Back in 1970 though, such an event was far from unusual, many bands working on a six month cycle of touring and recording. We should of course remember that back then around 40 minutes was the norm for an album, but even so, the workload on a band was intense.

"If 2" is very much a continuation of the eponymous début, the unchanged line up moving at times into more commercial territories while retaining the jazz rock tenets on which their sound was based.

"Your city is falling" is the first of the six tracks here, the album opening with a delightful up tempo number which sees pretty much all aspects of the band's make up taking centre stage. Dick Morrissey's "Sunday sad" is an unusual song for the band, setting out as a slower, more reflective piece. J.W. Hodkinson offers a fine vocal performance on this 8 minute classic, which also features some dynamic guitar work by Terry Smith. As the track develops, the sax section pick things up nicely transforming the track completely. The oddly named "Tarmac T. Pirate and the Lonesome Nymphomaniac" is very much in the Blood Sweat and Tears vein, the actual song being far better than its title.

The second side (of the LP) is in some ways a mirror image of the first. The opening Dave Quincy song "I Couldn't Write and Tell You" though is not as frantic as its peer on side one. The vocals here are very Roger Daltrey (Who) like, Quincy delivering a surprisingly rock orientated song where his sax talents are kept largely in the background. "Shadows and Echoes" was co-written by Lionel Grigson with his then partner Margaret Busby. The late Grigson was well known during the early jazz/fusion scene, and was in fact a a member of If prior to the recording of their first album. The songs focuses on the band's softer, lighter side, featuring flute and a fine vocal.

The closing Hodgkinson composed "Song for Elsa, Three Days Before Her 25th Birthday" once again has similarities with the work of Blood Sweat and Tears around the same time, especially in the David Clayton-Thomas like vocals.

In all, an album which for my money matches up well beside the band's fine début. There is a good variety of styles and sound here, the songs are strong, and the performances first rate.

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 If by IF album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.77 | 64 ratings

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If
If Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars They "moved the (rock) world just one step on"

Formed in 1969, If had already seen a change of line up (on the drum stool) by the time they came to record their début album released in 1970. Conveniently pigeon-holed as Britain's answer to the jazz rock of Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears, there are in fact noteable differences between If and those bands. The twin saxophones in an otherwise standard rock line up give obvious hints of the band's leanings, but If were perhaps less concerned with catchy hooks and hit singles than their peers from across the pond. That said, there are echoes of David Clayton-Thomas in the fine vocals of J.W. Hodkinson.

The opening "I'm reaching out on all sides" (a track I first came across many years ago on the superb "Bumpers" sampler) actually features the lead guitar of Terry Smith more, the saxes being used to provide colours rather than as a lead instrument. The song makes for a superb introduction to the band. John Mealing, who would later go on to join the Strawbs, lays down a solid Hammond organ base for the instrumental "What Did I Say About the Box, Jack", the longest track on the album. The track offers Dick Morrissey (subsequently Average White band) the chance to display his skills on flute as part of what is a largely jazz workout.

"What Can a Friend Say" reminds me a bit of the Ides of March song "Vehicle". The rock side of the band returns, driven on by some fine gravel vocals, the centre piece of the song being a lengthy sax workout.

The second side of the original LP has four tracks to the first side's three. As might be implied, this means that the songs on this side are generally slightly tighter, although very much in the same vein. "Woman Can You See (What This Big Thing Is All About)" is an upbeat affair, with frantic vocals driven on by a pounding rhythm section and punchy saxes. There are suggestions here of songs such as Chicago's superb "25 or 6 to 4".

The three minute "Raise The Level of Your Conscious Mind" is by far the most accessible song on the album, and might have made a successful single. The track boasts a Guess Who type sing-a-long chorus and a wall of sound backing. "Dockland" slows things down somewhat, the track offering a Traffic like folk/fusion take on painting a picture of a "Dockland scene". The track offers Hodkinson the opportunity to really emphasise his vocal prowess.

The album closes with "The promised land", a track which does lean heavily on Blood Sweat and Tears for its inspiration. Mealing gets a final opportunity to add to fine keyboards to another pulsating jazz rock number.

In all, a fine début from a band who made some excellent music. In some ways, If were unlucky to be around when so many other great bands were trying to make their mark. It is perhaps time now for a reassessment of their excellent music, it deserves far more recognition that it gets.

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