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BLONDE ON BLONDE

Psychedelic/Space Rock • United Kingdom


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Blonde on Blonde biography
BLONDE ON BLONDE (taking their name from BOB DYLAN's 1966 album) were formed in Newport, South Wales in 1967 by drummer Les Hicks, bass guitar / keyboard player Richard Hopkins and guitar / sitar and lute player Gareth Johnson. The vocalist / guitarist Ralph Denyer was found via Melody Maker magazine, and Simon Lawrence joined the band playing 12-string guitar.

In 1968 the band moved to London to give out concerts, and their publicity led them to be signed for Pye Record label in late 1968. A single "All Day All Night / Country Life" was released in November of the same year. Then was recorded their debut long player ablum "Contrasts", which was issued by Pye in mid-1969 and produced by Barry Murray.

Musically the group was exploring the areas pioneered by 1967 psychedelic acts like PINK FLOYD, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE and CREAM, but in a much larger scale of influences than them, having a more wider musical palette than the bands influenced which them, offering much to the listener open to their style, with slightly varying production quality. Their music is a dance between contrasts of free impressionism paired with predefined melodic more carefully constructed elements, varying from streetwise side to high levels of spirituality, from folk tones, classical guitar runs and mantra like instrumental runs, bursting with oriental musical influences, introducing cosmic drones running hypnotically on varying time scales, and all this paired with hard rock tones of heavy psychedelic guitar similar to JIMI HENDRIX and 1960's work of PETE TOWNSHED. There is also a strong drum/bass presence with tender pianos, cembalos and organs. Their lyrics are quite basic trippy poems, but also thoughtful, emotional and interesting at their best, little in the spirit of THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND which two songs they covered ("No Sleep Blues" and "I Need My Friend".) Also the most psychedelic records of THE BEATLES were an obvious influence (they covered "Eleanor Rigby"). There is melancholy in their music, but there is also hope and happiness among it. Like the name of their first album suggests, the band is full of contrasts, as different elements meet in successful manner, often interesting and unique results are born.

Dave Thomas, a forthcoming singer of the band, told that the source of these contrasts was their home area, which was heavily industrialized countryside. He replaced Ralph Denyer after the band had signed to Ember Records at the end of 1969,...
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Labyrinth of LoveLabyrinth of Love
Import
Nl Distribution 2007
Audio CD$12.51
$7.98 (used)
ContrastsContrasts
Import · Remastered
ESOTERIC 2010
Audio CD$11.54
$26.83 (used)
RebirthRebirth
Remastered · Import
Fantastic Voyage 2009
Audio CD$5.17
$8.98 (used)
Rebirth/Reflections Of LifeRebirth/Reflections Of Life
Future Noise Music Ltd. 2011
Audio CD$15.99
Healing in the DarkHealing in the Dark
Sliced Bread Records 1999
Audio CD$30.59
$0.01 (used)
Rebirth (Mini Lp Sleeve)Rebirth (Mini Lp Sleeve)
Import
VIVID SOUND (JAPAN) 2007
Audio CD$34.94
$32.06 (used)
Contrasts...plusContrasts...plus
Audio CD$34.99
$39.27 (used)
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BLONDE ON BLONDE discography


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

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

3.08 | 14 ratings
Contrasts
1969
2.61 | 15 ratings
Rebirth
1970
2.19 | 7 ratings
Reflections On A Life
1971

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

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0.00 | 0 ratings
All Day All Night/Country Life
1968
0.00 | 0 ratings
I Need My Friends/Conversionally Making The Grade
1969
5.00 | 1 ratings
Castles In The Sky/Circles
1969

BLONDE ON BLONDE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Contrasts by BLONDE ON BLONDE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.08 | 14 ratings

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Contrasts
Blonde on Blonde Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Most likely you go your way and we'll go ours

If it was not for the fact that their albums came a little too late, Welsh band Blonde on Blonde would probably be listed on this site under the "Proto Prog" category. Their music certainly has psychedelic content, but it lacks the sophistication generally associated with genuine prog, even in its infancy. "Contrasts", the band's first album, dates from 1969, and thus just about falls within the proto prog period (defined retrospectively of course). It is an album of short tracks, the longest being around 5 minutes, but the band still manage to explore some interesting and at the time adventurous styles and sounds.

The opening "Ride with Captain Max" (no relation!) for example has some fine lead guitar and a dynamic arrangement, while the following Beatlesesque "Spinning wheel" (not the BS&T song) combines eastern sitar sounds with pop harmonies.

The inclusion of three cover versions, two written by the Incredible String Band's Robin Williamson plus a Beatles song, betrays a band still unsure of its own song writing talents, but performance wise little is left behind in the cupboard. To be fair, the covers are more accurately described as interpretations, the ISB certainly never sounded like this, and "Eleanor Rigby" is barely recognisable at times, especially the intro.

Elsewhere, "Mother earth" displays more overt prog leanings that the majority of the tracks, with organ and guitar supporting an anthemic vocal. The short harpsichord instrumental "Regency" is pleasant if a little out of place while "Island on an island" prolongs the folk feel in a soft regency ballad, complete with recorders and lute.

Overall, an enjoyable album, but one which only flirts with the very edges of prog. The music is performed with admirable competence, and the album offers the promise of greater things to come.

This would be Ralph Denyer's only album with the band, his duties being assumed by David Thomas for the following "Rebirth". Denyer would however go on to form the superb one album band "Aquila" (also listed on this site).

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 Rebirth by BLONDE ON BLONDE album cover Studio Album, 1970
2.61 | 15 ratings

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Rebirth
Blonde on Blonde Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator Psych/Space Team & Band Submissions

2 stars 'Rebirth' appeared in 1970 as a somewhat belated proto-prog album according to (my) prog standards. Provided with early psychedelia moments sounding like a mid 60's output sometimes. Anyhow - the musicianship is on a high standard. Great remarkable bass work like on November for example. Singer David Thomas holds an expressive voice.

The grooving Heart Without A Home contains some nice and even weird guitar attendance and is one of the best songs here. And then I have to recall the long track Colour Questions which sees them excellently jamming. On the other hand some songs like Castles in the Sky and Time Is Passing are sinking into the pop territory with retro references to the beat music.

This is not a bad album, although it does not really appeal to me. Good listenable songs with a folksy touch in parts - 2.5 stars.

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 Reflections On A Life by BLONDE ON BLONDE album cover Studio Album, 1971
2.19 | 7 ratings

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Reflections On A Life
Blonde on Blonde Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars This record is really puzzling. I appreciate highly the two first longplayers of this group, but it feels that on this third record their sense of style, judgment and spirituality is lost. It's also bizarre, that on this record are maybe the few most experimental moments of their career, as an islands between really dull hillbilly songs. The few complete listen troughs left as pleasant memories as some exotic disease, and the only reason not going for a one star is the musicians good ability to play. Blonde on Blonde seem to have similar career in quality like Culpeper's Orchard; Two great records and a one last letdown. I would recommend to listen Contrasts if you like early 1960's sounds or Rebirth if you dig more proggier 1970's post-psych style.

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 Contrasts by BLONDE ON BLONDE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.08 | 14 ratings

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Contrasts
Blonde on Blonde Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Certif1ed
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Real Progressive Rock

If you were wondering what Progressive Sounded like before King Crimson, well here's the answer.

OK, I take that back.

Here's an answer.

Blonde on Blonde took the popular styles of the time (and one or two of their favourite bands), chucked them into a pot and pepped it up a bit - not with virtuoso playing, complicated time signatures, classical references or side-long suites (I don't even get the feel of a concept to the album, except that side 1 contrasts with side 2 in terms of overall style), but with energy that compressed the influences until a new and progressive style popped out.

This is not music that radically changed the status quo (although it does sound a little like the early outings by Parfitt and Rossi's outfit), but music that drew a thick line underneath what had been achieved in music in the late 1960s (which was a huge amount, so this was no mean feat), and raised questions about what else could be done with it. It didn't sit in a corner trying to blend in with everyone else, it was trying out new approaches to the old stuff, with a bit of a swagger, but without some of the preposterous excesses of the times, as if it was trying to cut the crap and get on with the job of doing something different in its own terms.

You would think that they would be making some kind of social statement, considering the album they took their band name from, but I don't really get that from the lyrics - I get more of a musical statement of intent from this album, as well as a great collection of highly and sometimes surprisingly enjoyable 1960s tunes.

Ride With Captain Max starts out a bit of a typical 1960s number, with Mod overtones - think of a highly energetic and less quaint Kaleidoscope or the Small Faces and you're part way there. There's also a smattering of heavy blues a la Yardbirds or even Cream - but it's the Who-like energy that is most noticeable. This drops to a fairly typical sounding acoustic guitar-driven psych song passage, which in turn gives way to a much more boisterous and darker heavy rock passage. Back to the acoustic guitar, and the lyrics get a restatement, with a cross-rhythmic percsussion section, and back to the hi-energy. This structuring approach reminds me of a simplified version of the Clouds. There's no mistaking the catchy rock-pop flavour of this song though.

Spinning Wheel is a grin-inducing sitar-driven affair, with a catchy and simple little melody over an oom-pah bass that gets rather irritating after a while - but you can see the intent here, to conjour up the spinning wheel image, and empahsise a kind of Raga flavour at the same time. There is no let up in the energy.

No Sleep Blues is an entertaining interpretation of the Incredible String Band song, full of angelic slide guitar, tempo change, and such a connection with the original spirit of the piece, that if the ICB had ever rocked up, this is probably what they would have sounded like.

Goodbye reminds me even more strongly of the Clouds, although with the organ taking a more back seat role, and classical music merely hinted at with tinkling harpsichord lines.

I Need My Friend shows a return to heavy blues rock, with some nice twists, hints at the style of the Spencer Davis Group - but infused with some original melodic ideas and a real feel of the changeover in rock style from the late 1960s to the early 1970s.

Mother Earth is altogether a more sophisticated composition, still in a heavy blues rock vein, but with a more progressive atmosphere overlaying the repetitive riffs of the parent form. The chorus seems designed to be sungalong in a stadium, while the breakdown before the instrumental carries an late-night bar-gig intimacy about it.

What a contrast for the B-Side - the cover of Eleanor Rigby starts with an almost unrecognisable introduction, and replaces the string quartet with an insistent acoustic and gentle percussion - and a trumpet. With this interpretation, you'd think that the song had been written by the guys on Blonde on Blonde themselves. Your mileage may vary, but there's so much to like in this version that I'd be hard pushed to say whether the original was better than this or not.

Next up, back to 1960s psychedelia, with a large dash of Small Faces, Cream and all manner of other popular bands, making for something that you'd think would sound a bit cheesey and derived - but instead, thanks to the high-energy so typical of this album, creating a style that is original and yet a product of the times simultaneously. The instrumental catches you unawares, with its simplicity and ever-shifting strands of sonic goodness.

A folk flavour infuses the short instrumental Regency, giving the feel of an interlude in a greater whole, with some really nice counterpoint providing excellent movement.

The folk feeling continues in the intro to Island on an Island - pity the recorder is almost a quarter of a tone out of tune, but here it does lend an authentic (if occasionally painful) flavour to a song that conjoures up images on a Celtic shoreline in a summer twighlight in the fabric of the music.

Don't Be Too Long maintains the folk feel, spinning a tale of separation.

The original album ended with Jeanette Isabella, another song that could have been written by Clouds, with lush Hammond backing filling in the space around the guitar nicely, as the pleasantly faintly hoarse vocals tell the story.

The bonuses are nice inclusions that fit in well with the rest of the material, Country Life also sounding uncannily like the Clouds, All Day and All Night heavy in sitar, recalling the Beatles' early use of the instrument, like a Hi-Energy Within You Without You.

Many, many times better than Yes' debut of the same year, in terms of overall energy, arrangement variety and vocal quality - this album is an authentic representation of what was being called Progressive Rock in 1969, before the release of King Crimson's debut, although not really what we'd think of as Prog Rock now.

Many of the essential elements are here - yet at the same time, it can be quite hard to hear how this differs from a lot of the psychedelic pop rock music of the time, from our 21st century viewpoint - apart from an almost indescribable quality.

I think that quality lies in how the several genres (folk, blues, psych and rock) are fused together with a fresh energy, that successfully heralds in, and provides a missing link to the Progressive Rock that was about to explode on an unprepared world. The one thing it really lacks is the improvisational feel of jazz - but there are brief moments of this, buried in the songs themselves.

Recommended, especially to historians - but a great listen for anyone, and indisputably part of the foundation of Prog Rock, albeit a small corner compared to, say Pink Floyd or the Beatles.

I guess this is a 3.5 starrer, really ;o)

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 Rebirth by BLONDE ON BLONDE album cover Studio Album, 1970
2.61 | 15 ratings

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Rebirth
Blonde on Blonde Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

2 stars Probably one of the first group willing to openly yell their influences by naming themselves after an artiste's album, in this case Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde, you won't find much open and flat out Dylan splattered out on the course of this album or their other two. This Welsh psych-rock quartet formed in 68 and still has a very much 60's sound. Although their debut album was released on the legendary Pye label, and appeared on the first Wight Festival, and the band became a regular fixture on some TV show, but al of this failed to produce much fame and sales. Having found a new record deal, but losing Ralph Denyer and Richard Hopkins, BOB didn't managed to finish their second album on time, even though David Thomas and Richard John came in as replacement. So Rebirth, the band's second album was finally released in November 70 (18 months after the debut) and the album's sound was quite dated by then. With a slightly/vaguely "prog" artwork, BOB mostly revolved around the drummer/guitarist duo of Hicks and Johnsion, but newcomer Thomas had more than his space to write music and his voice is sometimes close to Cressida's Angus Cullen.

Indeed it was either gutsy or quite clumsy to release a typical late 60's psych-rock sound when the whole industry was renewing its standards almost every month. BOB's psych hovers between Byrds, Moody Blues, tripped-out Rolling Stones (the lengthy sitar-laden Circles) and more of typically 60's sounds. I must say that I don't find much on BOB's three albums to call particularly progressive, finding many group more precocious being a lot more inventive: even the fuzz guitars sounded clumsy, the sometimes interesting interplay being blues-derived (the 12-mins Colour Questions, where they're slightly more actual-sounding ala Steamhammer or Cressida). The album-closing Release might jusrt be my preferred peace.

As if BOB's career had not been held back enough it appears that the group took another break and changed again their line-up (but keeping D Thomas) before finally releasing (late 71) their third (and final) album Reflections On A Life, which found itself directionless, musically outdated and the group wouldn't survive this new failure, with most members abandoning the music business forever. Some would call Rebirth the group's best moments, and I won't dispute it, but let's be honest: even their best moments simply didn't cut it.

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 Rebirth by BLONDE ON BLONDE album cover Studio Album, 1970
2.61 | 15 ratings

BUY
Rebirth
Blonde on Blonde Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars The times they are a-changing

During their brief existence from 1967 to 1971, Blonde on Blonde recorded just three albums. The first of these, Contrasts took the best part of two years to be released, but this album followed relatively quickly just over a year later. In between the first and second albums, lead vocalist and guitarist (and de facto band leader) Ralph Denyer left the band, to be replaced by David Thomas. (see the entry for Aquila on this site for details of Denyer's subsequent activity.) Given the major setback of Denyer's departure, and the difficulty the band had in coming up with material for Rebirth, the omens were not good for the second album. It is therefore pleasing to report that this release is generally acknowledged to be the band's finest album.

Given that this album dates from almost 40 years ago, it may seem odd to talk about it as sounding dated. The fact is though that even in 1970, there was a retro feel to the music here. The sound is that of the period around the summer of love in 1967, replete with psychedelic lyrics and colours. Take for example the opening Castles in the sky, a song which was released as a single. The high pitched vocals of David Thomas and the harmonised ah-ah backing vocals might have achieved instant success had they been recorded just three years earlier, but to paraphrase another Dylan title, The times they (were) a-changing.

Of the eight tracks in total here, five follow the relatively simple psychedelic pattern of Castles in the sky. They are certainly enjoyable, and sound like genuine proto-prog, the only problem being that by late 1970, prog had enjoyed its own birth. That is not to say there is not some good stuff to be found there. Heart without a home is a great 5½ minute romp, with superb use of stereo (a sadly forgotten skill) and some really dirty lead guitar. Time is passing is a great piece of retro-pop, reminiscent of the style of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap.

That leaves us with three tracks which actually constitute well over 50% of the album. The first of these, Circles, continues the psychedelic atmosphere but in a far more complex and acidic way. There are nuances of the longer tracks of the Doors here, the track weaving through constant changes in tempo and melody. Once again, the lead guitar work is superb, even when it is shunted off into a single channel leaving just the drums in the other! While it all feels a bit disjointed, there is a definite appeal in the way the constituent parts make up the whole.

The longest track on the album is the 12 minute Colour questions. This monster sets off at lightning speed, sounding like an alternate take of Love Sculpture's interpretation of Sabre dance. Thomas soon steps in to bring some sort of order in the vocals, but even these are less structured than on the short tracks. The verses alternate with wild guitar segments which once again challenge the stereo separation to the full, while good old mellotron drifts in and out.

The final track is actually a combination of two shorter tracks to form an 8 minute piece. You'll never know me/Release is a more orthodox number, but features some exquisite piano.

In all, an album which will appeal to those who enjoy the psychedelic music of the late 1960's more than those who seek the pioneering prog of the early 70's. While there are a few twists and turns here, including a couple of fine long tracks, this is essentially the sound of proto-prog recorded after the event.

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Thanks to Eetu Pellonpää for the artist addition.

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