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GROUNDHOGS

Prog Related • United Kingdom


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Groundhogs biography
The Groundhogs and Tony (T.S.) McPhee

"Progressive rock with balls." - T.S.

Known primarily as a hard rock / blues rock group, the Groundhogs have become a legend in the world of rock, they never set out to become a Prog rock band though during 1970 - 72 created some imaginative experimental music born from the pen of Tony McPhee, and made much of the band's work interesting material for followers of Prog - social, mindwarp, ecological and psyche/space rock themes and unusual instruments found their way into the band's albums made during this their most progressive and arguably most fruitful period, featuring many regard as the classic Groundhogs line-up of Tony (T.S.) McPhee guitar/vocals, Pete Cruikshank on bass guitar and Ken Pustelnik on drums.

The Groundhogs originally began as "John Lee's Groundhogs", who coincidentally went on to back the great bluesman John Lee Hooker during some of his trips to the UK and recorded their first session with him in 1964. In 1968 during the great UK blues boom The Groundhogs continued to tour as a blues group, supported Led Zeppelin among others and recorded "Scratching The Surface" at the Marquee Club studio. With the end of the blues boom in 69, (their second album "Blues Obituary" shows the band on the sleeve ceremoniously "burying" the blues) the band had to come up with a new direction - which came with the release of "Thank Christ for the Bomb".

Intending to create something away from the blues, manager Roy Fisher, thinking of a concept Tony could work on, came up with the inflammatory phrase "Thank Christ for the Bomb".

At the time the cold war with Russia was still deep in the public psyche, "Ban the Bomb" marches still occupied the press, the album title statement was an antedote to all this, saying that the nuclear standoff would stop nuclear wars happening in the future - and here we are 39 years later and still no World War Three nuclear holocaust in sight..yet. The album consists of nine tracks, side one has the suite of four songs "Strange Town", "Darkness is no Friend", " Soldier" and "Thank Christ for the Bomb", ending in a huge ..BOOOOM!
Guaranteed to raise controversy for such a sensitive political subject, the album was nevertheless well received by champion-of -Prog DJ John Peel who aired "Soldier" and sales for the album rocketed.

Tony didn't have to look far for the inspiration behind material for his next album of songs - after suffering a...
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Thank Christ For The BombThank Christ For The Bomb
Parlophone 2016
$6.75
$6.74 (used)
Blues Obituary (BLUE VINYL)Blues Obituary (BLUE VINYL)
Fire Records 2018
$28.87
Groundhogs -  Blues ObituaryGroundhogs - Blues Obituary
BGO 2015
$11.19
$11.79 (used)
SplitSplit
Remastered
Caroline 2007
$49.99 (used)
Groundhogs -  Crosscut Saw / Black DiamondGroundhogs - Crosscut Saw / Black Diamond
Remastered
BGO 2015
$22.76
$13.94 (used)
Best of GroundhogsBest of Groundhogs
Reissued · Remastered
Caroline 2007
$20.62
$2.83 (used)
Hoggin the Stage PlusHoggin the Stage Plus
Talking Elephant 2006
$11.39
$16.67 (used)
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10h
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GROUNDHOGS discography


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

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

3.33 | 17 ratings
Scratching the Surface
1968
3.53 | 17 ratings
Blues Obituary
1969
3.85 | 33 ratings
Thank Christ For The Bomb
1970
3.96 | 45 ratings
Split
1971
3.49 | 26 ratings
Who Will Save The World? - The Mighty Groundhogs!
1972
4.02 | 26 ratings
Hogwash
1972
3.48 | 12 ratings
The Two Sides of Tony (T.S) McPhee
1973
3.31 | 18 ratings
Solid
1974
3.36 | 11 ratings
Black Diamond
1976
2.66 | 13 ratings
Crosscut Saw
1976
3.20 | 5 ratings
Razor's Edge
1985
3.00 | 5 ratings
Back Against The Wall
1987
3.04 | 8 ratings
Hogs in Wolf's Clothing
1998
2.50 | 2 ratings
Muddy Waters Songbook
1999

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

3.87 | 6 ratings
Live At Leeds '71
1971
3.33 | 3 ratings
Hoggin the Stage
1984
4.00 | 2 ratings
Groundhog Night: Groundhogs Live
1994
3.00 | 1 ratings
Live at the Astoria
2001
3.00 | 1 ratings
Live at the New York Club - Switzerland 1991
2007

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

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

4.00 | 1 ratings
The Groundhogs Best 1969-72
1974

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

GROUNDHOGS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Split by GROUNDHOGS album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.96 | 45 ratings

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Split
Groundhogs Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Purveying a deeply nuanced brand of blues rock with significant psych influences, the Groundhogs bridge the ground between psychedelia and proto-prog on the one hand and hard rockin' blues-influenced chugging on the other, with the side-long title track perhaps being the best example of this. Band leader Tony McPhee gets the (distorted) cover shot but really richly deserves it, with his distinctive vocals and guitar playing really being the foundation stone of the group's sound. Though the title track really feels like four different songs mashed together than one single coherent piece, this is still a very distinctive artifact replete with the transitional spirit of 1971.
 Split by GROUNDHOGS album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.96 | 45 ratings

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Split
Groundhogs Prog Related

Review by Roxbrough

4 stars Sometimes pre-conceived notions can totally colour one's opinion and judgment. Thankfully when I first heard Split, I had no previous knowledge of the Groundhogs, and was therefore not expecting a blues album; nor a progressive album either. So I listened to the album with a totally open mind and my how I enjoyed it. Some believe the Groundhogs to be a blues band, but with the intense style of guitar that Tony McPhee introduced me to and the sparse use of synthesised keyboards too, I always thought of Split as Progressive music, first and fore most. I certainly belongs in the pages of this site for sure. In many ways it is progressive in it's purest form, that is to say that it has qualities that no one else had used before. One can never accuse McPhee of being derivative. His blistering finger work on this LP is what makes Split so special. Side one is totally sublime rock with edge. The lyrics bear close scrutiny, being somewhat autobiographical. By the time the listener gets to the close, one can almost feel one's reason slipping. While the first track on side two is often considered to be the Groundhogs at their best, I find it a slight dip from the masterfully superb Split Four. From there things continue to decline. A Year In the Life is too short and Junkman is a definite space filler especially toward the end when McPhee does get totally indulgent with the feedback and electronics. The final track is blues; yeah. Listen to it though and compare it to the rest of the album and it seems somewhat dislocated and really should have been on Blues Obituary (earlier Groundhogs album).

I pause to remember, however, that there are only three Groundhogs on this album and what a lot of noise they make. There is no where to hide in a trio and the combination certainly equip themselves handsomely.

So; whilst Split is not consistent and certainly tries too hard in places, side A makes the acquisition of it a must. The four part Split is musical nirvana. How many LP's are brilliant all the way through anyway? You may disagree and like side two better? There is only one way to find out; explore the Groundhogs today, you will not be disappointed.

 Split by GROUNDHOGS album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.96 | 45 ratings

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Split
Groundhogs Prog Related

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Groundhogs - Split (1971)

Heavy blues rock, proto-metal and guitar experimentation and molestation; Groundhogs is one of those bands with the perfect sound - that almost pastoral feeling rock sensation. With a strong emphasis on riffs and the rhythm section gives me the feel of listening to 'real' man- made well crafted music. The production was done by Martin Birch, one can't ask for much more.

The first side is filled with 'Split I - IV', all heavy rock tracks with guitar innovation and the best of riffs. The lyrics are mostly about psychological problems, front-man singer/guitar player Tony McPhee describes how the world became unreal to him after a breakdown. Part two stands out for having one of best swinging guitar riffs I know of. On side two the band goes into different styles and vibes. 'Cherry Red' is another heavy blues rock track, but this time the melodies are quite catchy. 'A year in the Life' and 'Junkman' are both heavy blues rock tracks that dwell in a late coming sixties psych mood, perhaps the most experimental and daring tracks of the album. 'Split' closes with a very intense bluesy solo performance of McPhee with great vocals, guitar and bass drum (of which I assume he also played it).

Conclusion. I really like this album for its pure musicianship. It's like the kind of association I have with the term 'rock music' (riffs, swing, concentration, no-nonsense). Four and a halve stars.

 Live At Leeds '71 by GROUNDHOGS album cover Live, 1971
3.87 | 6 ratings

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Live At Leeds '71
Groundhogs Prog Related

Review by 1967/ 1976

4 stars Groundhogs, one of the most enduring bands in the Rock history, an institution of British Blues. Really amazing this live, recorded in Leeds in 1971 and printed in 100 copies for American radio stations. However you will not find even one second of Prog. Or rather, Prog Blues is there in spades. In reality this is a live album of pure Proto Heavy Metal, raw and rotten.

As is normal for the genre, the music played here is very energetic, psychedelic, and also technical. Is music that captivates the soul! As usual it is a guitar, throbbing and weeping, screaming and unhappy Tony TS Mc Phee to be absolute protagonist. However, it becomes impossible to think of the guitar without the drums of Ken Pustelnik, powerful, searing, precise, button... It is perfect to accompany the guitar, forming a whole impossible to break. In this type of music the bass is also crucial, because many times it is used as a melodic instrument, although not in the way of Jazz. Peter Cruickshank is a practical and technically perfect bassplayer for music recorded here.

"Live At Leeds '71" is just an excellent Prog Blues/ Proto Heavy Metal live albums. But it still sounds great and immediate, better than too many other albums. I advise all of you this live, fans of good music. That made from the heart and soul, technique and passion.

 Solid by GROUNDHOGS album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.31 | 18 ratings

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Solid
Groundhogs Prog Related

Review by cannon

4 stars 7/10

The 'Hogs pour out the pig iron. Hoofed-heavy, filthy, gluttonous and gloomy, so smeltering sloopy. Solid snorts out the eccentric, exitensial despair and the schizo side of "The 'Hog" (Tony McPhee).

Just coming off his solo album from 1973, 'The Two Sides Of Tony (T.S.) McPhee', with his experimentations of the latest electronics on the side long track, "The Hunt", is a real shift from the bluesed psych, guitar swilling so synonymous with the Groundhogs and showcases McPhee's talents on the Mellotron, synthesizers and other electro-gadgets. McPhee would take his twisted taste of technical trickery and snarl it with his sonic, shifting guitar style that would be 'Solid'.

Bringing back his rhythm section from 'Hogwash', drummer Clive Brooks and long time bassist, Pete Cruickshanks and recording in his home studio, this all about Tony (Tough Shit) McPhee and his new toys of a Mellotron and the latest synthesizer with a ring modulator, phasers and wah-wahs and even on some tracks sending his gruff vocals through a vocoder with muddled effects, at times being calculated messy.

The Mellotron morbidly magnifies the melancholy, manic-depressive lyrical content and shadely blends the bog bottom blues and the progressive, stabbing sig shifts with three of the best tracks off the album, "Light My Light", "Sins Of The Father" and "Snowstorm". These three songs would be a mainstay in the 'Hogs' live performances for the next two and half decades.

"Free From All Alarm" opens up acoustically, but McPhee can't make it without engaging electrification half way through the track. Too bad, the first part of this tune has a great greasy groove of swampy country gliding over boogie. "Gosh darn it Tony! Let the strings slide and sing".

"Corn Cob" is the bacon of the Groundhogs. Barbequed blues rock.

"Plea Sing, Plea Song". Please no.

"Hello da'ere" as McPhee welcomes us to "Joker's Grave" as it captures his capricious center of his personality. An eccentric showcase of synthesized and erratic noodling. Too many effects and an overload on the circuitry (the brain).

'Solid' isn't up to snuff as their conceptual trilogy, 'Thank Christ Of The Bomb', 'Who'll Save The World? The Mighty Groundhogs!' and 'Split' and has the qualities and irregularities of 'Hogwash'.

The Groundhogs disbanded after this release but McPhee put together a new lineup two years later and released two albums in 1976, 'Black Diamond' and 'Crosscut Saw'. The 'Hogs didn't "sell out" to the "mainstream" as so many of thier contemparies from the "heyday" of hard blues rock/proto-metal did, however they were also put out to pasture by the emergence of punk and disco.

August, 2011 saw the release of a live album titled, 'Solid Live'. A live album from the tour that followed the release of 'Solid' containing, "Light My Light", "Free From All Alarm" and "Sins Of The Father/Sad Go Round" from 'Solid'. "Dog Me Bitch" from McPhee's solo album, 'The Two Sides Tony (T.S.) McPhee' and "Soldier" from 'Thank Christ For The Bomb'. All these tracks were released in part on other live albums compilations or as bonus tracks but never together as recorded on May 23rd., 1974.

 Hogs in Wolf's Clothing by GROUNDHOGS album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.04 | 8 ratings

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Hogs in Wolf's Clothing
Groundhogs Prog Related

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Still got the blues

The history of the Groundhogs after their (relative) glory days of the 1970's is not well documented, nor indeed is their discography. Already confirmed as Tony McPhee plus a transient drummer and bass line up, they went from being a guitar blues band through an ever expanding keyboards based prog-ish band, and back again.

McPhee gradually lost interest in recording in the studio, preferring to restrict Groundhogs activity to the stage. The last album of original material appeared in the late 1980's, although various live albums have appeared since then. In 1998 however, McPhee did return to the studio to pay tribute to some of his influences. The title of the album is a reference to Howlin' Wolf, one of a handful of blues legends whose work is interpreted here, others including Chester Burnett and Willie Dixon.

McPhee naturally strips things back again, restricting himself to guitar and vocals, devoid of keyboards. The songs are given McPhee's branding, while remaining melodically, reasonably faithful to the originals. Many, such as "Shake for me" are invigorated substantially, McPhee's fine lead guitar elevating them from straight blues to guitar rock toe-tappers. A personal favourite is "Forty four", which really gets down and dirty, the underlying guitar riff making things decidedly heavy.

By definition, there is nothing new or original here, although it is always a pleasure to hear Tony's take on the music he loves. This is really a rites of passage affair, but an enjoyable listen to boot.

 Back Against The Wall by GROUNDHOGS album cover Studio Album, 1987
3.00 | 5 ratings

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Back Against The Wall
Groundhogs Prog Related

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Back to basics

At time of writing, "Back against the wall" is the latest album of original songs by the Groundhogs. Released in 1987, the ever present Tony McPhee brings back Ken Pustelnik on drums and Dave Thompson on bass for the recordings. The album represents a back to basics of sorts, in that McPhee ditches the various keyboards he has amassed, and sticks to lead guitar as his instrument of choice. This does not however imply a return to the straight blues of the very early days, indeed this album is by and large a standard guitar rock album.

The opening title track has something of a Dire Straits feel, McPhee's vocals even being similar to those of Mark Knopfler. The song has a distinctly commercial orientation, but does feature some of McPhee's superb guitar work. Thereafter we have a succession of similar sounding tracks, sometimes a bit slower, sometimes a bit faster, but each sticking to a familiar style and sound.

Apart from the aforementioned Dire Straits, this could well be a Wishbone Ash release, the bluesy lead guitar focused rock being very much in their vein. Tracks such as "Ain't no slaver" could well have been lifted from albums such as "There's the rub" or "New England". While it is all far from original, far from prog, and not very close to blues either, it is actually rather enjoyable. Those approaching the album hoping to hear either "Split - part 2" or the mellotron drenched style which the Groundhogs developed thereafter may not be too impressed. Those who enjoy McPhee's guitar prowess should be reasonably well satisfied.

For the rest of us, this a decent if largely anonymous album, devoid of challenges but well served by good sounds.

By the way, the final track's title "54126" is apparently the serial number of a Gibson guitar stolen from Tony McPhee. The song is a love song to said guitar.

 Solid by GROUNDHOGS album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.31 | 18 ratings

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Solid
Groundhogs Prog Related

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Solid, but about to Split

Having got his solo album ("Two sides of..") out of his system, Tony McPhee reconvened the Groundhogs in 1974 with an unchanged line up. While two thirds of the trio remained faithful to bass and drums, McPhee continued to enhance his collection of instruments, adding the latest synths, while retaining the services of his trusty guitar collection.

The opening "Light My Light" finds the band in an upbeat mood, the track being based on phased acoustic guitar and a light infectious melody. There are strong similarities with the music of Family here, McPhee doing a good impression of Roger Chapman. The following "Free from all alarm" appears to be exactly the same song again, but with a more sparse acoustic accompaniment.

For the mellotron affectionados, "Sins of the father" has some great phased mellotron. The song itself is a bit messy, it reminded me of Hawkwind's work from around the same time, but somehow it all works. Once again, "Sad go round" seems like an extension of "Sins of the father".

"Corn cob" is a basic blues based affair. While I appreciate blues is where the band started, I had hoped they had moved on from basic fare such as this. "Plea sing, plea song" was clearly written as a single, and indeed was released as one (with a non-album B- side). The rather indistinct main melody was probably the reason it failed to trouble the singles chart. "Snow storm" finds McPhee sounding like the great Raymond Froggatt, his gruff tones being supported by some further fine mellotron sounds. At just short of 9 minutes, the closing "Joker's Grave" is the longest track on the album. McPhee continues with his rough, indistinct vocals on this heavy dirge which jumps around between styles and sounds without ever being convincing.

In all, an album which is not without its appeal, but which suffers from muddled production and poor arrangements. "Solid" could have been much better.

At the time, this appeared to be the Groundhogs final album, the band breaking up shortly after it was released. The reality is though that Tony McPhee was the Groundhogs, and he soon reformed himself with alternative backing musicians.

The remastered version has one short bonus track, "Over blue", but it will be of interest to collectors only.

 The Two Sides of Tony (T.S) McPhee by GROUNDHOGS album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.48 | 12 ratings

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The Two Sides of Tony (T.S) McPhee
Groundhogs Prog Related

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Split

In the time between the Groundhogs albums "Hogwash" and "Solid", Tony McPhee decided to create a genuinely solo album. Quite why he felt the need to do this is not abundantly clear, his role in the band being the only one outside the rhythm section.

However, the album fits in well in the Groundhogs discography, offering two distinct sides of their music, i.e. the blues on which they were founded and the later electronic sounds which became increasingly relevant to their style.

The five tracks which occupy side one of the LP are short acoustic affairs, featuring only McPhee and acoustic guitars. The style is blues/folk with a southern, swampy drawl. We do not get the standard blues song structure, the tracks generally being more upbeat, but the influences are clear. Fans of the Groundhogs are probably best advised to steer clear of these songs, even the straight blues of the first album "Scratching the surface" was more exciting than this. McPhee's performances are of course beyond reproach, but this is dull stuff.

Side two is a completely different kettle of fish. Here McPhee vents his anger at the peculiar British sport of fox-hunting. He does so via one of his closest ventures to prog, a 19 minute synthesiser and mellotron based side filler. The track takes us through the stages of a hunt, with intermittent narration telling us what is going on. The narrations act as links between the improvisations, each of which can be seen as a separate sub-track or section. With electronic rhythms as the only percussion, the overall effect is not unlike the experiments of Krafwerk and Tangerine Dream, a little clumsy perhaps but in its day this would have sounded quite novel.

Overall, this is probably one of the most divided albums ever. On the one hand we have rambling acoustic blues, on the other pioneering electronic prog.

 Hogwash by GROUNDHOGS album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.02 | 26 ratings

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Hogwash
Groundhogs Prog Related

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars Love 'em or hate 'em?

It is unthinkable these days, but back in the early 1970's, bands would often release two (or more) albums in the same year. So it was that in November 1972, The Groundhogs followed up 'Who will save the world...' with this album 'Hogwash'. In the first significant line up change since they were formed, drummer Ken Pustlenik moved on, to be replaced by Clive Brooks, ex of Egg. Meanwhile, Tony McPhee injured his wrist sometime between the two albums, limiting his dexterity on lead guitar. It was therefore in part through necessity that his digression towards keyboards which started on the previous album was taken further on this album through the introduction of synthesisers in addition to mellotron.

The title of the opening 'I love you Miss Ogyny' is a play on words, Misogyny being the hatred of women. Musically, the song is unusually refined for the Groundhogs, a theme which will prevail throughout the album. Indeed the following 'You Had a Lesson' features some superb mellotron sounds alongside slide guitar. The songs are slightly more complex than on earlier albums, but the prog aspects should not be over emphasised here, this is essentially a blues rock album.

The weak point of the album is the short 'Ringmaster' which is just a few ambient sounds over some phased drumming. It is kept brief though, and soon we are into the longest track on the album, the 7+ minute '3744 James Road'. Once again, this is a pretty straightforward upbeat blues number of the style adopted by bands such as Ten Years After and Creedence Clearwater Revival. It plays out in narrative form, the band longing for their home from home in Memphis. McPhee is back to his best on lead guitar here, much of the track being given over to some extended soloing.

'Sad is the hunter' is a rather ordinary song with a prosaic vocal melody, but it does build nicely via the lead guitar towards the end. 'S'One Song' is another of those witty titles, this time playing on a 'Swansong' variation. The song itself is less inspired though, being a shorter pop style ditty for the first part, before changing completely midway and becoming a heavy rock number. 'Earth Shanty' is probably the track which will be of most interest in these parts. The opening mellotron solo set on a back drop of winds blowing is very prog It leads into some appealing acoustic guitar and processed vocals. It's all rather Moody Blues, and by far the best track here.

The album closes with a tribute to the band's mentor John Lee Hooker entitled 'Mr. Hooker, Sir John'. As might be expected, the song takes the band back to their earliest days, being a basic acoustic blues.

In all, a significant improvement on 'Who will save the world..'. Tony McPhee continues with his efforts to diversify the band's sound, while seldom straying too far from their blues roots.

Thanks to mystic fred for the artist addition.

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