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Groundhogs - Split CD (album) cover




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3.96 | 53 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Method in the madness

While "Thank Christ for the bomb" was the album which gave The Groundhogs their big break, their 1971 set "Split" was their most successful release. In the UK, this was the 6th best selling album of 1971, shifting over 100,000 copies. This is all the more impressive when you bear in mind that the line up remained a trio with lead guitar and vocals supported only by bass and drums.

"Split" was reportedly inspired by a drug induced panic attack (sometimes described as a "nervous breakdown") suffered by Tony McPhee. The lyrics of the four part title track which fills one side of the LP certainly reflect that graphically, the piece being a sort of forerunner for Porcupine Tree's "Voyage 34". Those four sections are really only related lyrically, each being a separate song. McPhee's lead guitar is of course superb as ever, but by this time he has invested in a wah wah pedal, adding new dimensions to his style and sound.

Side two of the LP includes four unrelated tracks. Of these the first, "Cherry red", is probably the band's most famous song and the closest they got to a hit single, even securing them a spot on the BBC chart show Top of the Pops. The track features McPhee singing falsetto, but the driving beat and great lead guitar solo make it irresistible. "A year in the life" offers a moment's relief from the pounding rhythms and general madness, the echoed vocals and melancholy melody making for a welcome contrast with the rest of the album. The soft verse, loud refrain arrangement is similar to Led Zeppelin's "What is and what should never be".

"Junkman" sets out as a folky pub song of the type Family recorded, before some decidedly strange guitar interludes disturb the relative normality. The latter part of the track is simply indulgent improvisation and feedback. The album closes with the eponymous "Groundhog", a cover of a John Lee Hooker song which takes us full circle back to the very first, blues based album.

Even allowing for the decidedly dated nature of the production and arrangements here, it is easy to see why "Split" captured the imagination of the record buying public in the early 1970's. This is not a perfect album by any means, but its flaws simply help to enhance its appeal. Not a lot of prog to be found if truth be told, but a fine guitar rock album.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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