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Family - Music In A Doll's House CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.97 | 167 ratings

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4 stars Like an awful lot of latter sixties albums, Family's debut doesn't hold up particularly well in an age where everything that followed it has come and gone and been burned into our collective consciousnesses. And that's too bad, because the extent to which the band album demonstrated innovation and creativity can probably only be appreciated by real students of the history of rock music, and particularly of progressive rock.

Few bands had made the leap from Southern blues or R&B-based rock by the time this album released in mid-1968. Those that had (Zappa, Pink Floyd) were so far outside the pale that their ability to penetrate the musical conscious of most fans was limited. There were others of course, mostly groups who had vaulted onto the psychedelic bandwagon and were riding that fad into the artistic sunset. Family on the other hand managed to combine a flavor of fusion with traces of British folk, some fairly innocuous rock and just a touch of psych in a non-threatening enough manner to be able to capture some measure of popular appeal. That in itself was quite the accomplishment in the days leading up to the explosion of progressive rock that closed out the decade and consumed contemporary psych in its wake.

This album is a hodge-podge of sounds, beginning with a tepid form of rock on "Never Like This" that was not unlike what acts like the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, Manfred Mann and even the Moody Blues rode to the top in their earlier days. From there the makings of a psych standard emerge with "Me and My Friend" and "Winter", but with a depth of musical talent that supplanted nearly everything going on at Haight-Ashbury and other hotbeds of peace-and-love stoner music.

And that's not to say the band left the blues basics behind as they journeyed to musical parts unknown. "Old Songs New Songs" is aptly titled as it combines a tasty blues riff with Roger Chapman's road-weary vocals, surely a voice that both Robert Plant and Bon Scott spent some time checking out as they developed their own rock personas. The soaring saxophone passages give this song a character that was almost unknown elsewhere at the time.

The folk-rock vibe of "Hey Mr. Policeman", "See Through Windows" and "3x Time" belie Dave Mason's involvement with the production of this record, as does what sounds like a faint sitar on "Peace of Mind"; while "Voyage" showed that the band was not afraid to take their music into uncharted territory with a psych-tinged and freeform jazz painted experimental dirge that collapses gloriously into sonic feedback and the sort of rock excess that would characterize so much of what would follow over the next several years. For those who had the chance to hear it then though, this was new and raw and adventurous stuff.

Family never make many inroads in America and had only a modest following in their native UK, but their innovation and therefore influence should not be underestimated now, more than forty years after they burst upon the emerging progressive rock scene. It would be a short and tumultuous road to the disappointing death knell of 'It's Only A Movie' just five years later, but for the time being Family were at or near the top of the progressive heap, along with the Moody Blues and some guys named King Crimson who would remake the genre just fifteen months later. Four stars and highly recommended to students of prog music.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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