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HELP YOURSELF

Prog Related • United Kingdom


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Help Yourself biography
HELP YOURSELF were formed in 1970 near London, and initially consisted of guitarist Richard Treece, drummer Dave Charles, bassist Ken Whaley and guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Malcolm Morley. The band recorded their first studio album in 1971 and would release three others before disbanding in late 1973, their career marked by financial and personal issues. Bassist Whaley briefly left the band to help form DUCKS DELUXE and was replaced by guitarist Ernie Graham. For a time in the early seventies the band roomed at the Grange (home of Led Zeppelin's Symbols record) with fellow British act Brinsley Schwarz, where they also recorded their second album. They also performed on the All Good Clean Fun tour in 1972 along with MAN and other British acts.

Amid a number of lineup changes Ken Whaley returned to the band in 1973, and his return was marked by the band's fourth and final seventies release 'The Return of Ken Whaley', after which the group quickly disintegrated, but not before recording several tracks which would become the 2004-issued compilation known simply as '5'.

Morley and Whaley would join MAN, a band to which HELP YOURSELF had been associated for most of their existence. Morley would also do a stint with BEES MAKE HONEY. Treece recorded with ICEBERG as well as forming the short-lived HEALY TREECE BAND in the late seventies with GRATEFUL DEAD drummer Bill Kreutzmann and soundman Dan Healy. He would also record with MAN, as well as THE FLYING ACES, THE ARCHERS, THE NEUTRONS, SPLENDID HUMANS, and THE TYLA GANG before joining GREEN RAY in 1988.

HELP YOURSELF's rather brief and rocky career left us a collection of decidedly American-sounding folksy, blues and psychedelic recordings. Most of the band members would pursue full-time music careers, and while none managed to find significant commercial success, their discography of Helps albums are widely admired by progressive and psych fans the world over.

"We were also incredibly stoned all the time."
- Richard Treece

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Reaffirmation: An Anthology 1971-1973 /  Help YourselfReaffirmation: An Anthology 1971-1973 / Help Yourself
ESOTERIC 2018
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Help Yourself/Beware The Shadow/Help YourselfHelp Yourself/Beware The Shadow/Help Yourself
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The Return Of Ken Whaley/Happy Days/Help YourselfThe Return Of Ken Whaley/Happy Days/Help Yourself
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Hux Records 2004
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Strange Affair / Return of Ken Whaley Plus Happy by HELP YOURSELF (1999-08-25)Strange Affair / Return of Ken Whaley Plus Happy by HELP YOURSELF (1999-08-25)
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Reaffirmation: An Anthology 1971-73 by HELP YOURSELF (2013-05-04)Reaffirmation: An Anthology 1971-73 by HELP YOURSELF (2013-05-04)
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HELP YOURSELF discography


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

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

3.31 | 10 ratings
Help Yourself
1971
3.38 | 10 ratings
Strange Affair
1972
3.90 | 10 ratings
Beware the Shadow
1972
3.71 | 7 ratings
Return of Ken Whaley
1973

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

HELP YOURSELF Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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

4.00 | 4 ratings
Help Yourself/Beware the Shadow
2002
3.09 | 3 ratings
Reaffirmation - An Anthology 1971-1973
2014

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

2.33 | 5 ratings
5
2004

HELP YOURSELF Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Reaffirmation - An Anthology 1971-1973 by HELP YOURSELF album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2014
3.09 | 3 ratings

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Reaffirmation - An Anthology 1971-1973
Help Yourself Prog Related

Review by oliverstoned
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars 3,5 stars really!

At the time I'm writing these lines, this compilation is the first record I discover from the band. It's a mixed bag, to say the least. I was very sceptical at first listening cause hardly half of this compilation is worth. But what an half! This English band shows varied influences without sounding as a copycat. The influences range from the USA west coast: "Running down deep" is an excellent tune reminiscent of QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE, "Old man", as the title suggests, reminds of NEIL YOUNG's HARVEST period and also a tad of FAITPORT CONVENTION UNHALFBRICKING for the delicate guitar parts, a delight! "Street songs", another solid number, may remind of the ALLMAN BROTHERS. "Brown lady" is a nice acoustic piece in the CROSBY STILLS & NASH vein.

"The all electric fur trapper" begins as a heavy psyche-rock until a floaty, spacey "hawaian Gilmourian" guitar part show the influence of PINK FLOYD's MEDDLE.

"Reaffirmation", a long tune, has some similarities with CARAVAN IN THE LAND period. There's not much to save from the second disc of this compilation, only "It has to be" hold its own, another spacey piece somewhat reminiscent of PINK FLOYD. The rest of the compilation is made of dubious tunes, some are awful, far from progressive musical territories. Indeed, the band was hesitating between several musical directions, including "pub rock" (!).

This CD release sounds good and well balanced. Only 3.5 stars for the whole, but it's a easy 4 stars if you only keep the good ones.

 5 by HELP YOURSELF album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2004
2.33 | 5 ratings

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5
Help Yourself Prog Related

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

2 stars This is one of those throwback albums like Proto-Kaw’s ‘Early Recordings of Kansas’ or Midwinter’s ‘The Waters of Sweet Sorrow’. Like those records this was originally a series of preliminary studio tracks that were never released as an album when they were first recorded (in this case, in 1973). Help Yourself fractured around that time with several tracks on studio tapes but not released. Some of them were included on a Malcolm Morley solo project, but that also was never released (to the best of my knowledge).

Most of the original members of the band got together in 2002 and finished production on these tracks though, leading to its release in 2004. I’m not sure exactly what the point of Rick Griffin’s ‘Wrench Boy’ painting is on the cover, but it’s kind of cool – maybe intended to reflect the working-class nature of the original Helps lineup.

The sound here is more even than their seventies studio albums, with no meandering psych hippie excursions like ‘Excerpts from “The All Electric Fur Trapper”’ or “Reaffirmation”, so in that respect it shows some maturity and polish to a band that was otherwise kind of charmingly out-of-control when it came to studio work back in their heyday.

But on the other hand any suggestion of a progressive sound is also absent. The Helps were never more than a marginally progressive band anyway; they could be described as experimental, but could just as easily have been called noncommittal, so its hard to say if they were looking to expand their sound or just to find one that would get people to listen to them.

Their ‘Strange Affair’ album from 1972 had a couple of tracks that bordered on a west-coast country sound ala Firefall, and on this album that sound is out in full force. The opening track would easily have fit on a Firefall album, or maybe Ambrosia. The band also continues their penchant for sounding more like an American country-inspired band than like the British rockers that they actually were. This is quite evident on “Cowboy Song” and the de facto title track “Monkey Wrench”.

For “Romance in a Tin” the boys brought in Ian Hunter and asked him to pen a sequel to “Irene Wilde”, which is exactly what he did.

Okay, just kidding there, but the vocals, tempo and lyrical message on that tune seems like it was meant to be just what I described. A little borderline fuzz guitar for effect, but this is almost a ballad really.

These are followed by the Keith Carradine-sounding love song “Grace” and the Jimmy Buffet calypso love song “Martha”, both of which are interesting sounds for the group but largely forgettable in the overall framework of this album (and of their career).

The one track on the album that I would say is an attempt to recapture past psychedelic experiences is the six-minute “The Rock”. But I get the impression these guys had cleaned up their acts long ago visa vie recreational stimulants, so this one comes off feeling a bit forced and awkward. Very nice guitar work though, and pretty heavy for a band like this which tended toward a more mellow sound. “Alley Cat” later on the album is similar but on that one the tempo is a bit looser and seems less strained.

And speaking of mellow, “Willow” is a seriously authentic-sounding throwback to the CSN acoustic-n-harmonies days of the very early seventies. Nice.

Finally “Duneburgers” I believe is a reworking of a 1973 tune the band recorded around the time of “The Return of Ken Whaley” titled “Eating Duneburgers”. This is the other psych-inspired tune on the album, but it is toned down considerably from the laid- back fuzz and patchouli sound the band worked into their psych tunes back then. A natural-sounding ending to the album, and likely and end to any new material from the band.

This is a nice flashback to the late days of the Help Yourself experience, and its always cool to get a chance to listen to music that has essentially sat in a time capsule for a couple of decades. But unless you are a Helps fan, or at least a pretty big fan of Wishbone Ash / Home / Allman Brothers / Ambrosia music from the early seventies, you probably won’t find much here to get excited about. So that makes this a ‘fans-only’ recording, although I certainly don’t find anything particularly wrong with any of the tracks here. And since I fit the above description, it has a place in my collection.

peace

 Strange Affair by HELP YOURSELF album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.38 | 10 ratings

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Strange Affair
Help Yourself Prog Related

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars More of the same for Help Yourself on their second album, for the most part. Bassist Ken Whaley had taken his leave, replaced by former band roadie Ernie Graham on guitars and vocals (although Whaley would return a couple years later with the band naming their fourth album in his honor). Graham penned the only non-Malcolm Morley track on the first two albums, the strumming and west coast-flavored “Movie Star”.

Otherwise most of these tracks are quite similar to the debut, at least most of them. The band would put together their first full- length psych jam here with the ten minute rambling “Excerpts from the ‘All Electric Fur Trapper’”, which would only be topped during their career by the even longer and more improvisational “Reaffirmation” on the ‘Beware the Shadow’ release.

The instrumentation is the same: a couple of guitars, piano, bass and drums. Pub band fare for the most part, but Help Yourself had a knack for coming off as just vaguely enough like several ‘A’ list bands to sound like they were a bit more accomplished than what they probably were. The title track for example has a jaunty piano intro and lumbering tempo that bears a striking resemblance to a fair amount of Joe Walsh’s solo stuff; even the theme, something about a classy chick picking up a bum in a bar, sounds like something Walsh would have penned.

“Brown Lady” leans quite heavily into Ambrosia or Firefall territory with its strumming acoustic guitar, almost invisible bass line, and disjointed amorous lyrics. The Graham track “Movie Star” fits quite well in between the Morley tunes, but with harmonizing vocals that recall Buffalo Springfield or even CSN; while “Deanna Call and Scotty” has a Morley vocal track and piano accompaniment that could easily have been inspired by any number of tracks from ‘Abbey Road’, or maybe even some of the early seventies albums from the Beatles Lite (ELO).

The band moves back into pub rock with “Heaven Row”, even to the extent of including female harmonizing vocal backing. And the closing “Many Ways of Meeting” has a real “Let it Be” feel to it but without any kind of heavy lyrical undercurrent of meaning.

But the stand out track is the aforementioned “Excerpts from the ‘All Electric Fur Trapper’”, a lightly psychedelic and slow- developing instrumental that weaves in acoustic picking, electric strumming, fuzz, and some odd keyboard effects with a couple minutes of undisciplined jamming that sounds awfully acid-inspired. The result is one of those space-out songs that is best listened to in early dusk while lying on the hood of your car in a park somewhere. Peaceful, easy stuff, and probably brought the lighters out when it was played live at festivals back then (assuming it was played live at festivals, which I’m sure it was).

The next couple albums would be a bit heavier than this one, which is a bit heavier than the debut. But in reality these guys can be easily lumped with Man, pre-Laurie Wisefield Wishbone Ash, or Home. In other words British pub rock that aspires to be a bit more, and is inexplicably very west coast leaning in its execution. Decent stuff, probably not progressive, but worth a listen unless you are a prog purist. Three stars.

peace

 Help Yourself by HELP YOURSELF album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.31 | 10 ratings

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Help Yourself
Help Yourself Prog Related

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars "We were also incredibly stoned all the time." - Richard Treece

Help Yourself were probably one of the more American-sounding, country-tinged and guitar-driven bands to come out of the early seventies. The problem with this of course is that they weren’t American at all, but a rather working-class British act that existed for but a few short years before the members scattered to a host of other projects including Ducks Deluxe, Bees Makes Honey, Man, and the Flying Aces. This 1971 debut is the most laid-back of their five releases, and gives little hint of the more driving and psychedelic sounds they would graduate to on subsequent releases.

The comparisons are obvious and inevitable almost immediately into this album: Buffalo Springfield, the Eagles, Wishbone Ash, Man, Quicksilver Messenger Service. So you get the idea. The band for this first release consisted of Malcolm Morley who wrote pretty much all the tracks; Richard Treece who apparently owned the only decent guitar among the group; Ken Whaley, and drummer Dave Charles who had recorded a sole album with Morley in a late sixties group called Sam Apple Pie.

The music here ranges from almost country ala Neil Young or the Eagles (“Old Man”) to blues-rock (“Look at the View”) to an odd sort of vaguely folk sound with nebulous lyrics hinting at a bard-like tale from ‘days of yore’ (“To Katherine They Fell”). “Deborah” sounds remarkably like an early seventies Eagles tune, and “Street Songs” would not have been out of place on an Allman Brothers album.

The one real oddity is the opening “I Must See Jesus for Myself”, a sort of honky-tonk gospel-leaning romp that really throws off expectations for the rest of the album. The tongue-in-cheek faux serious mood of this one reminds me quite a bit of the old Violent Femmes tune “Jesus Walking on the Water”, although admittedly the guitar and piano work here is quite a bit more accomplished than the Femmes ever managed. But hey – the Femmes were an awesome live act, so there’s that at least…

It’s hard to know what to think of this album, and in some ways it’s hard to know how to assess this band. They can’t really be considered overly progressive, and other than “To Katherine They Fell” and “Old Man” I’m not sure I’d place them in the folk category either. But overall this is a quite agreeable sound, and it’s always nice to discover obscure bands from days gone by who still have the chops to keep one’s attention for forty minutes or so. “To Katherine They Fell” is the most impressive track here with its dreamy and relaxed guitars wandering behind Morley’s sad vocals. “Paper Leaves” is the other stand out track, even if I can’t get Michael Stipe out of my head when I hear it. I guess this is better than just for collectors, mostly because I think prog folk fans and those who find something to like in bands like Buffalo Springfield and Wishbone Ash will probably find something here as well. So three stars it is, and recommended to all those people I just mentioned.

peace

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the artist addition.

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