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Steel Mill - Green Eyed God CD (album) cover

GREEN EYED GOD

Steel Mill

 

Heavy Prog

3.94 | 85 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars While prog bands that released a single album and disappeared into the ethers never to be heard from again were quite common all throughout prog's heyday of the 70s and even far beyond into the 80s, usually there exists a bit of historical context of how the bands formed, how they crafted their albums and where the various members would end up after projects imploded. STEEL MEEL on the other hand remains to this very day one of the more mysterious bands that somehow eluded the record keepers. In the pursuit of a historical analysis, many trying to paint a clearer picture have been utterly stumped. Even producer John Schroeder remembers nothing about neither the band nor the sessions that he was a part of. None of the musicians belonged to the English musicians union and even those who knew of the band during their time seemed to know nothing about their story, therefore it is a complete mystery as to how the five members came to the process of forming STEEL MILL and the recording of their sole album GREEN EYED GOD.

What is known is that the band consisted of David Morris (vocals, keyboards), Terry Williams (guitar), John Challenger (sax, woodwind), Jeff Watts (bass) and Christ Martin (drums, percussion). Much of this lack of information stems from the fact that despite hailing from the music mecca of 1970s London and having released two singles, a truncated form of the title track and "Summer's Child," GREEN EYED GOD found little support from the record company which would only issue an original release in Germany in 1972 and the album wouldn't find a proper debut in their native UK or North America until 1975, long after the band had called it quits and when i say called it quits, i don't mean that the band members called it a day and moved on to other projects. They literally fled the music business totally. All of these issues conspired to create one of rock's most enigmatic mystery bands of the era. Only Jeff Watts is known to have ventured into another project, the equally forgotten band Design.

It's somewhat understandable as to why STEEL MILL found such resistance. GREEN EYED GOD has a rather anachronistic sound for the year 1972. While the band was fairly original in how they composed their eight tracks on GREEN EYED GOD, the music itself relied on the template of late 60s heavy psych with fuzzed out guitar riffs in the vein of Iron Butterfly or Vanilla Fudge and peppered it with fluffy flute laden psychedelic folk with Celtic flavors along with touches of jazz and psychedelia. Likewise, another 60s trait is that the band lacked a charismatic vocalist that carried the music to another level however Dave Morris does a decent job in carrying his weight actually. It is known that STEEL MILL formed in 1970 and the music presented here surely must have been crafted in that same timeline as it sounds very much like its on the change of the decade years in terms of style.

Despite the rather dated sound for its release time, GREEN EYED GOD is a really good album that stitches together the various elements that make it original. Consider it an early retro album and all is good. It's the sort of album that SHOULD have been crafted in the late 60s but never was and STEEL MILL were there to add their stamp to the sounds of that era even if it meant entering the world's stage a little late to the party. The heavy psych guitar riffs erupt immediately on the opener "Blood Runs Deep" which finds rather groovy guitar and bass interactions embellished by a jazzy saxophone dominated backdrop and intermittent cooling off periods of psychedelic folk. The single "Summer's Child" starts out like a Led Zeppelin ballad except with an airy woodwind section but transmogrifies into a bass driven mid-tempo rocker that incorporates bluesy guitar soloing and vocal harmonies.

GREEN EYED GOD's greatest strength is it's diversity. Every track takes on a different characteristic. "Mijo And The Laying Of The Witch" continues sounding completely different than the previous two tracks with an intriguing mysterious atmosphere with a jazzy backdrop. The track slowly changes into a heavier rocker with hard rock guitar heft but also a healthy presence of the sultry sax soloing. The track at nearly eight minutes long is also one of the more progressive as it tackles varying stylistic shifts which alter tempo, timbres and dynamics as well as some abrupt time signature changes. The folky parts exude pastoral flute runs.

"Treadmill" starts strangely with a Hare Krishna type of a cappella group vocal chant and some bells before erupting into a more standard hard rock tune laced with guitar fuzz and bass and drum heft to back it up. The call and response of the vocals and bluesy guitar solos keep the track fiery and sounding great. The highlight of the album is surely the nine minute title track. While released as a truncated single, this full version is gorgeous and also quite progressive as it begins in a mediative ancient Celtic flute trance and cymbal action that slowly ratchets up to a heavy bluesy rocker sounding something like Bad Company only more adventurous with stylistic chord changes, ballsy soloing and excellent bass and percussive interactions. Jazzy touches also join in and Morris offers a more passionate than usual vocal performance. It's fairly ecstatic how the sax and flute alternate and the percussive drive flips from standard rock to tribal drumming at the drop of a hat. This track demonstrates STEEL MILL's strong sense of instrumental interplay as the musicians find many variations that play well together.

The piano driven "Turn The Page Over" offers yet another stylistic shift with Beatles like vocal harmonies conspiring to create utterly infectious melodic counterpoints. "Black Jewel Of The Forest" is another Pagan ritual sounding track with heavy flute action, tribal drumming and eerie background vocals. Somewhat like Comus but not as frantic. The album ends with the unusual fifty second instrumental "Har Fleur" yet again sounding different than what came before. It's most likely you will not own an original copy as the first vinyl editions are extremely rare and have been known to be some of the most expensive original prog vinyl albums ever to exchange hands in which case if you do indeed own GREEN EYED GOD then you will be treated to the two bonus tracks "Get On The Line" and "Zang Will" which are every bit as good yet different from the original eight tracks but still fit in so well. STEEL MILL may have only crafted a handful of tracks but did an outstanding job in the process.

Despite the album bombing big time the first time around and shrouding the band in mystery for decades, the popularity of GREEN EYED GOD has only grown exponentially since. The album has become quite the mandatory staple of progressive rock collectors who like a hard rock bite with their psychedelic folk with jazzy touches which is mostly due to the strong songwriting that provides intricate and addictive melodies but most of all it's how the band crafted these compositions with a keen sense of adding subtle elements that despite using the templates of the 60s, implement the more sophisticated touches of the progressive rock heyday. The result is an album that sounds like it exists in two timelines. True that Dave Morris doesn't provide the most stellar vocal performances but his limited range keeps the album simmering in a typical hard rock band fashion while the nuances of the instrumental interplay make this an more intriguing progressive listen. This was a grower. It may not blow you away at first but if you let it sink in for a few spins, its unleashes its magic in doses, at least it did for me.

Just a quick note: apparently some of the band's secrets have been revealed on the 2010 "Jewels Of The Forest (Green Eyed God Plus)." Until i acquire that copy, they are still a mystery :)

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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