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BEAD GAME

Crossover Prog • United States


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Bead Game biography
US outfit BEAD GAME was formed in Cambridge, Massachussets sometime in the lates 60's, and consisted of K. Westland Haag (guitars, vocals), Jim Hodder (vocals, drums), R. Gass (keyboards), Lassie Sachs (bass) and John Sheldon (guitars). The band managed to build up a local following in the Boston club circuit, which landed them a record deal with AVCO Embassy Records, who released their debut album Welcome in 1970.

While Bead Game were working on their second album Baptism in 1970, the band fell apart. Their sophomore effort was shelved, but saw a very belated release 26 years later. Today this band is first and foremost remembered as the first band of Jim Hodder, who would later make a name for himself in US act Steely Dan.

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Bead Game - Self TitledBead Game - Self Titled
CD Baby 2014
Audio CD$13.88
WelcomeWelcome
Extra tracks
Fallout 2007
Audio CD$81.93
$47.99 (used)
baptism LPbaptism LP
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BEAD GAME discography


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

3.22 | 7 ratings
Welcome
1970
2.61 | 3 ratings
Baptism
1996

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BEAD GAME Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Baptism by BEAD GAME album cover Studio Album, 1996
2.61 | 3 ratings

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Baptism
Bead Game Crossover Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars Here's an odd and rather dated-sounding collection of pop-psych from the late sixties/early seventies. While the studio date is 1970, these are actually early recordings from Bead Game that were rumored to be the foundation of their second studio record, but wasn't released until 1996 which was nearly fifteen years after the group had disbanded.

Like so much music that was released in those days, there's a charming lack of continuity and direction with this collection of tracks. The influences are all over the place, from the slightly bluesy "Sweet Love" to a James Taylor-like title track (John Sheldon was a childhood friend of Taylor's), to several Jesus-freak leaning songs including "What a Day", "This is True" and the oddly titled "Nude Bathin'". There's a little bit of everything here, although not much that could be considered progressive and almost nothing that sounds like the band's other 1970 studio release 'Welcome'.

Some have referred to this as a 'religious' album, but tracks like the tongue-in-cheek "She's on the Rollin' Pin" (think about it) and the West Coast breezy "20 Dollars Bill" suggest the band was simply trying out different sounds to see what would click. In the end nothing really stands out, but there aren't really any duds here either. There is more emphasis on vocals, guitar and piano on this album, while 'Welcome' features more eclectic keyboarding and longer instrumental passages.

Most of the lyrics are rather trite or even meaningless, particularly those on "Rollerskatin' Baby", "Steamballin'" and the cliché-laden "Sweet Love", but the musicians are all quite good and the production is pretty tight given the youth of the band's membership and the time period. At times they remind me alternately of early Grateful Dead, James Taylor, a happier Warren Zevon and just a touch of Jackson Browne. Nothing to get too excited about, but a decent record nonetheless.

This may be a bit generous but I'm going to say this is a three (out of five) star affair, worth picking up if you run across it but certainly not something that should be heavily sought after.

peace

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 Welcome by BEAD GAME album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.22 | 7 ratings

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Welcome
Bead Game Crossover Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars 'Welcome' is the mildly interesting 1970 debut of an obscure New England funk-rock band whose progressive tendencies are evident from the opening strands of "Punchin Judy" through the extended tempo-shifting closing track "Slipping". The band would disappear shortly after recording an aborted second album, but the songs here are quite good for the time period in which they were recorded and all the members of this fledgling group went on to moderately successful music careers.

Bead Game (named I assume for the odd Herman Hesse novel 'The Glass Bead Game') was formed by a quite young John Sheldon, an aspiring kid from the Boston area who was among other things a childhood friend of the great American folk singer James Taylor. Sheldon in fact purchased his first electric guitar from Taylor. Sheldon had toured the East Coast as a member of Van Morrison's band while in high school, and scored a record deal while still a teenager. This album was the result of that deal.

The band also featured a young Jim Hodder on drums. Hodder would go on to form Steely Dan with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker and appears on that band's first three albums including providing the lead vocals for the smooth jazz hit single "Midnight Cruiser". Interestingly enough keyboardist Bobby Gass's organ work on this album sound a bit like Fagen's light jazzy style that would so endear fans to that band in their early days, particularly on "Wax Circus" and the rambling "Slipping".

In addition to a noticeable New England jazz-funk pop sound on the first few tracks, the band seems to have dabbled a bit in the country-rock sound that was somewhat popular in the United States at the time with the trio of tunes "Natural Song", "Country Girls" and "Amos & Andy". These come in the middle of the record and are decidedly more earthy and languid than the guitar/organ heavy front side of the album.

For a closing number the band shows strong progressive leaning in their song construction with the wandering, eight-minute plus and heavily instrumental "Slipping" which features some excellent guitar breaks from Sheldon and complex drum work courtesy of Hodder. This particular song is quite distinctive from the rest of the album.

The Fallout label CD reissue includes three bonus tracks that feature flute and what sounds like a spinet. These are more instrumental and folksy than the original album, all decent but none exceptional except the closing instrumental "My Life in Review" which provides an inspiring and emotive ending to the record.

Although the band did tour some in the New England area following this release, the group and their album found little success and disbanded after laying down tracks for a second album. That record wouldn't be released until 1996, more than two decades after the members of the band had all moved on to other pursuits. The five members also released another record in 1970 under the band the Freedom Express, along with an obscure funk single fronted by Buddy Miles.

Sheldon would later tour with Linda Ronstadt and take on sporadic session work and songwriting after returning to Boston to study music theory. He also released at least three albums with Blue Streak, another band he founded, and has recorded several solo albums (Bead Game guitarist/lead vocalist Ken Haag appears on some of these recordings). Hodder would depart Steely Dan in 1974 for a career doing session work including sessions with Sammy Hagar's band before drowning in 1990. Bassist Lassie Sachs became a studio engineer.

This is an obscure album and certainly not a lost classic, but the music here is quite good and professionally delivered. I'll say it is at least a three (out of five) star effort, but not quite four. Well recommended to fans of early seventies American music.

peace

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 Baptism by BEAD GAME album cover Studio Album, 1996
2.61 | 3 ratings

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Baptism
Bead Game Crossover Prog

Review by Lozlan

2 stars Okay, it took me a good bit of effort to hunt down this album, and the results have been less than pleasing. Whereas Bead Game's first album flirted vaguely with the twangy, down-home feel of country, their second belated release embraces the genre much more completely. There is nary a keyboard riff to be detected; instead, the band provides us with some very straightforward, very rockabilly numbers. There is also a much more Christiantastic element, which I suppose is fitting on an album titled Baptism, but it does tend to throw this atheist for a bit of a loop.

Over all, Bead Game still maintain a hint of their prog edge, making the result quite listenable, but actual progressive rock this is not. Having said that, this album is decent prey for the rare album hunter, and is certainly recommended for fans of Bead Game's debut. But don't expect stars and fireworks.

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 Welcome by BEAD GAME album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.22 | 7 ratings

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Welcome
Bead Game Crossover Prog

Review by Lozlan

4 stars This is going to sound a bit condemning, but there's simply some swell music on this album. This is pretty much the epitome of a crossover prog release: slightly idiosyncratic time shifts, shimmery organ swirls, occasionally unusual lyrical motifs...but it's all so dang *listenable.* If anything, they are just barely too odd to find their niche as a straightforward pop-rock band, but not odd enough to warrant exclamations over breathtaking compositions and musical virtuosity. This is prog-pop, with a tip of the musical hat to the atmospherics of psychedelia: lots of great hooks, too. I'm adding on the extra star for lyrical content, which is pretty impressive overall, as well as for the occasional tasteful intrusion of a classical theme. If you decide to go hunting down a copy, be certain to get the bonus track remaster. It comes with a great, compact prog epic called Sweet Medusa that is not to be missed.

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 Welcome by BEAD GAME album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.22 | 7 ratings

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Welcome
Bead Game Crossover Prog

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Here is found some nice & groovy soulful easy prog rock with nice rhythms and pretty album covers. Sadly the music is not so very interesting for me due my own tastes, but is certainly well done, is the style is appreciated. My own associations were Humble Pie, Snafu and the later records of Beatles, which is quickly referred in one part of this record. The best moments are in the long "Slipping" song slipping over eight minutes, and some shorter chamber music pastoral elements which were used maybe little too scarcely. Also when listening this record from the northern hemispheres of Finland, I can't escape the familiarity of sounds and melodies of late 1970's Wigwam. A pleasant nugget for the fans of easier psych-flavored artistic popular vintage rock.

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