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Alan White - Ramshackled CD (album) cover

RAMSHACKLED

Alan White

 

Crossover Prog

2.49 | 43 ratings

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patrickq
Prog Reviewer
1 stars I was so excited to discover that this out-of-print LP was going to be released on CD - - Japanese CD, no less - - in the winter of 1990 as part of Atlantic Record's "AMCY" release campaign. I was a bit less excited when I heard the music. In short, I didn't feel my US$20 (roughly $40 today, thirty years later) was well spent, and as my post-Ramshackled purchasing pattern demonstrates, I can't even say that I learned an important lesson.

A bit of context which is probably widely known by anyone looking up this album - - but just in case: after the Relayer recording-release-touring cycle, each of the five members of Yes recorded a solo album. This kind of made sense for singer/bandleader Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire, and wasn't a terrible idea for guitarist Steve Howe or keyboardist Patrick Moraz. But it seems obvious in retrospect that drummer Alan White just made Ramshackled because everybody else was making solo LPs. And Atlantic Records went along with the plan for the same reason.

Anderson, Howe, and Moraz made traditional solo albums, writing and producing most of the material themselves, with session musicians as needed.* Squire's album was more of two-person collaboration, made with substantial and crucial input from arranger-conductor Andrew Pryce Jackman. As White's contribution to the pentalogy, Ramshackled was essentially a reunion of his band Griffin, which released the 1969 UK single "I Am the Noise in Your Head" / "Don't You Know" and, with the horn section of Ginger Baker's Airforce, re-formed and toured the US in 1972 as Simpson's Pure Oxygen. The core of Griffin was White, guitarist Peter Kirtley, bassist Colin Gibson, and keyboardist Kenny Craddock; Kirtley, Gibson, and Craddock wrote Ramshackled and performed most of the instrumentation other than the drums. The duties of White himself consisted of co-producing the album (with future Hawkwind producer Bob Potter) and playing the drums.

The album was an obligatory product with surprisingly limited participation from the man whose name was on the cover - - but that doesn't mean it couldn't also be an excellent album.

But as it happens, there apparently was a reason that Griffin and Simpson's Pure Oxygen were short-lived bands. Ramshackled sounds like a compilation of b-sides from unsuccessful early-1970s pop-rock singles. It's well-performed and well-intentioned. Everything about it is professional, but little of it is memorable. Sadly, the only song that sticks out, so to speak, is "Spring - - Song of Innocence," which is a showcase for White's Yes mates Anderson and Howe. This was the album cut for which a video was filmed, and Yes performed it (along with "One Way Rag") on tour a few times. But "Song of Innocence" pales when compared to nearly any track of any of the other four Yes solo albums from 1975 and 1976.

There are two bright spots: the lead brass lines of "Avakak" and the really cool groove, beginning at 1:12 but unfortunately lasting less than twenty seconds, in "Darkness, pts. 1-3." These are, however, more than counterbalanced by the regrettable reggae of "Silly Woman," the greeting-card sentimentality of "Song of Innocence," and the way-too-soft pastoral flavor of both "Song of Innocence" and the time-filler "Marching into a Bottle." Still, most of Ramshackled is marked by the utter forgetability of songs like "Everybody," "Giddy," and probably some others I'm forgetting at the moment.

As a rule, albums should be judged on their own merit. By that standard, Ramshackled is pretty poor. But in this case I think it's fair to consider the album as advertised - - as an Alan White solo album or as one of a set of five debut solo albums - - it falls even shorter of the mark.

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*Anderson apparently performed, wrote, and produced Olias of Sunhillow entirely by himself, and although I've never been completely convinced of this, I can't point to any part of the album as evidence to the contrary.

patrickq | 1/5 |

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