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Help Yourself - Beware the Shadow CD (album) cover

BEWARE THE SHADOW

Help Yourself

 

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4.00 | 15 ratings

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Psychedelic Paul
4 stars HELP YOURSELF (known as The Helps by their fans) were a London-based band with a unique sound that can best be described as Psychedelic Country. They recorded four albums during the early 1970's:- "Help Yourself" (1971); "Strange Affair" (1972); "Beware the Shadow" (1972); and "The Return of Ken Whaley" (1973). It seemed like Help Yourself may have been consigned to the annals of rock history after poor sales from their fourth album, but due to popular demand by their fans, they made a brief belated comeback with "Help Yourself 5" in 2004, which consisted mainly of 1973 recordings from an unreleased fifth album. It's time now to give Help Yourself's third helping a listen.

Upon hearing the "Beware the Shadow" album for the first time, you'd be convinced they were an American Southern Rock band. In fact, their first song "Alabama Lady", sounds like a typical song that the U.S. bands Alabama or the Allman Brothers Band might have recorded in their heyday. Help Yourself have encapsulated the American Southern Rock sound perfectly with "Alabama Lady". It sounds as American as a Stetson-wearing cowboy in a rodeo riding a bucking bronco. Next up is the real highlight of the album, the 12-minute-long song "Reaffirmation". The floating sound of a Mellotron in the opening gives the song a somewhat mystical air, but this is only a prelude to a long Psychedelic Country jam session that sounds very reminiscent of some of the Grateful Dead's extended jams, only Help Yourself are much more Alive and Kicking in this exhilarating number than the Grateful Dead ever were in their seemingly endless jams. Side One draws to a close now (already?) with the brief "Calypso", which turns out to be a hippyish campfire sing-along song.

The Side Two opener "She's My Girl" has the same happy and carefree sound of the summer as "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles. "She's My Girl" has Hit Song written all over it. It's a song that's positively aglow with passionate romantic love and optimistic hope for the future. Up next is "Molly Bake Bean", a song with childish innocence which sounds just as silly and frivolous as the song title implies. It's a perfect Country sing-along song to listen to and join in with whilst eating baked beans around a campfire with the kids. And now it's time for the BIG bluesy piano ballad "American Mother", another song that sounds as quintessentially Born To Be Wild American as riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle over the Golden Gate Bridge. "American Mother" sounds like a song that Big Brother & the Holding Company might have recorded and it brings to mind another great song, "American Woman", by the Canadian band The Guess Who. Both songs represent good old-fashioned Blues-Rock numbers with the same raw and earthy appeal. We're just "Passing Through" now for the final song, a gently laid-back slice of Folk-Rock Americana.

"Beware the Shadow" is unlikely to appeal to Prog-Rock fans generally, but if you're in the mood to listen to some good old country boys from the Deep South of London in England, then Help Yourself to this rather unique Psychedelic Country album.

Psychedelic Paul | 4/5 |

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