Hudson-Ford — The A&M Albums
(Caroline CAROLR070CD, 1975/2017, 3CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2018-03-05
Richard Hudson and John Ford (drums and bass respectively) began as the rhythm section of Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, who later, sans-Elmer, with the addition of guitarist and singer Paul Brett became simply Velvet Opera, recording the LP Ride a Hustler’s Dream in 1969. Hudson and Ford, sharing vocals along with Brett, wrote much of the material for the band. Their break came when Dave Cousins and Tony Hooper of The Strawbs were looking for a more electric sound for the band following the Dragonfly album (on which Brett had played), and thus Hudson and Ford were recruited, along with keyboard player Rick Wakeman, making the Strawbs a five-piece, all first appearing on their third album, 1970’s live set Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios, as well as their next three albums, through 1973’s Bursting at the Seams, where Hudson and Ford together authored the Strawbs only-ever top-ten hit “Part of the Union.” Strawbs were quickly becoming a band with too many prolific songwriters in their ranks, and that pressure was felt, causing Hudson and Ford to break out on their own, and following their successes with the Strawbs, A&M records was fully supportive.
The clamshell box set at hand contains all three albums that the duo recorded for A&M Records in the mid-70s, along with all the associated single A and B sides along that journey. The first of these, Nickelodeon, was released in late 1973. Hudson is now playing acoustic and electric guitars and singing, Gerry Conway (ex-Fotheringay) was brought in to replace him on the drum kit on most of the album’s twelve tracks. Also featured are Rick Wakeman on harpsichord and piano, Chris Parren on piano and clavinet, Mickey Keen on lead and steel guitar, and others. Their sound pretty much picks up where they left off with the Strawbs, offering a full folky-rock sound and great songwriting all around. Numerous standouts include “Pick up the Pieces,” “Take It Back,” and “Angels.” The three bonus tracks include the single version of “Take It Back” and the thoughtful “This Is Not the Way (To End a War or to Die).” The duo’s next endeavor, released in 1974, was the aptly titled Free Spirit, the group now resembling a five-piece band rather than a collection of studio musicians, with Chris Parren doing all the keyboards now, Mickey Keen playing all guitars, and Ken Laws replacing Conway on the drum kit. The album contains only eight tracks this time (plus two bonus tracks), songs stretching out a bit more, with the opener “Take a Little Word” (strangely reminiscent of Yes) approaching the seven minute mark along with “I Don’t Want to Be a Star,” and “Silent Star” almost reaching the nine minute mark. Of the three albums, this one is transitional, where they still embrace much of the folkiness of the debut, but start to rock out a bit more, adopting the freedom that comes from being a working band. The third and final A&M album, released in 1975, is Worlds Collide, perhaps the most rocking of the three; the band is now a four-piece, as before but without Mickey Keen, with Richard Hudson now handling the lead guitar duties. Many of the tunes here feature brass and strings, with Dick Morrissey (from If) playing saxes on a couple of the cuts, and John Mealing doing the string arrangements. The three opening tracks, “When Worlds Collide,” “Mechanics,” and “When Love Has Overgrown” set a solid foundation for the remaining seven, right out to “Mile High City” and “Keep Me Rolling” – every song here is a winner. When one listens to this album, it’s just bewildering how these songs weren’t enough to propel the band higher, the album is as strong as they get, but then again, musical tastes were changing in late 1975. The bonus tracks include “When the Lights Go Out,” a tune from the third album sessions that was only released on the band’s little known sampler album Repertoire. Hudson-Ford would be back one more time in 1977 with Daylight, an LP released on CBS, so it’s not included in this set. All said, it’s great to have these three classics available on CD in a single set at an affordable price.
Seaprog 2018 Artist Announcements Raise Festival's Profile – Seattle's Seaprog festival has been going since 2013, and the 2018 edition features a slate of artists that's sure to bring more attention to the event. Cheer-Accident, Bubblemath, and Free Salamander Exhibit are in the first round announcement of performers. In keeping with their tradition of focusing on regional artists, they will also present a number of artists from Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. [Edit: Just added: Inner Ear Brigade] » Read more
Adelbert von Deyen RIP – Word reaches us that German electronic musician Adelbert von Deyen has died. His recorded legacy reaches back to 1978, when Sky Records released Sternzeit. Von Deyen, who was born October 25, 1953 in Süderbrarup, was also known as a painter and graphic artist. » Read more
Didier Lockwood RIP – Word reaches us today of the death of one of France's great jazz musicians, violinist Didier Lockwood. His playing bridged many worlds, from traditional jazz to fusion to progressive rock, and his talent can be heard on recordings by Magma, Clearlight, Pierre Moerlen's Gong, and many more. Lockwood was 62. » Read more
10 Years of Fruits de Mer - The Incomplete Angler – Those of you who are faithful followers of Exposé will know that we have been promoting Fruits de Mer and its side labels and releases from nearly its first year. Now music journalist and author Dave Thompson has written a book chronicling the past ten years as a celebration of this milestone. » Read more
Carmen - Fandangos in Space & Dancing on a Cold Wind – Do you like Jethro Tull? Curved Air? Flamenco dancing? Did you ever wish for a combination of the three? Your wish has come true, and its name is Carmen! And if you don't think they could pull off... (1994) » Read more