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

MUSIC IN A DOLL'S HOUSE

Family

 

Eclectic Prog

3.97 | 167 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars It could have been "The white album"

Family's first album was released way back in 1968, long before Prog was even a glint in the eye of the bands who pioneered it. Bearing that in mind, this album is astonishingly ahead of its time while paradoxically now sounding rather dated.

Take the opening track "The chase" for example. It is a melodic pop song with a bizarre Floydian ending. Roger Chapman's quivering vocal is unique but alluring, adding great colour to the 15 tracks included here. The songs are all short, the shortest is 23 seconds, and by today's standards under-developed but there is so much potential here. "Mellow grey" has some delightful unaccredited mellotron orchestration (the Family website suggests it may be Nicky Hopkin) giving the track a dreamy, psychedelic atmosphere. That atmosphere is even more pronounced on the Traffic like "Never like this". The Traffic similarity is perhaps to be expected, given that the album was produced by Dave Mason, who also wrote the song. Roger Chapman however is reported as "hating" the song which he felt was out of character for the band. That aside, as Mason had just left Traffic with a view to moving into record production, the timing was fortuitous to both parties.

"Me my friend" features some good old fashioned phasing and a Bee Gees like vocal on the verses, contrasting well with Chapman's singing on the chorus. "Winter song" returns to the Barrett era Pink Floyd style, but once again Chapman's vocal gives the track some incredible colours. "Old songs new songs", which gave its name to a fine Family compilation a few years later, is a shuffling, rather bluesy number with horns and a gradually more intrusive beat. The development of the track is notable, especially in view of by how much it predates similar sounds of the early 1970's.

"Hey Mr. Policeman" returns to the bluesy feel, this time in a more downbeat swamp rock way, perhaps inspired by or inspiring Creedence Clearwater Revival. "See through windows" has a passing similarity with Iron Butterfly's "Termination" from the same period, the mellotron once again making a welcome but anonymous appearance.

"Peace of mind" is a wonderful, upbeat piece of psychedelia, which Chapman's quivering voice performing at its absolute peak. Rick Grech's violin on the track and the Moody Blues like harmonies blend well with the Uriah Heep like screams to create a sensational but criminally short song. "The voyage" is the most adventurous and least structured song on the album, with jazz like instrumentation alternating with almost a-capella verses. Ironically, the mellotron here is very similar to that on the Moody Blues song of the same name.

"The breeze" moves gently along to a tick-tock rhythm the song having a "Strawberry fields" like feel. Not the most inspired track on the album, but a pleasant diversion. We close with "3 X time", a song which starts softly then goes through a number of time and style changes in less than 4 minutes. The abrupt ending suddenly restarts as the closing section of the British national anthem! The interlude pieces, "Variations on a theme.." are too brief to be of much interest, acting as little more than link tunes.

For a first album, and bearing in mind the year this was released, "Music in a dolls house" is an astonishingly advanced album. It may not contain any hit singles, and is largely forgotten in the history of rock, but the reality is that it is a landmark album. It now sounds very dated, but the inspiration and pioneering attitude which dominates the album makes it an essential listen for all those interested in the roots of prog.

Legend has it that the Beatles were considering using the "Music in a doll's house" title for what became known as "The white album", but Family beat them to it.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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