Saturday, July 30, 2011

SAMPLE & HOLD : family / fearless

I remember a peculiar event at Bill Graham's Fillmore East sometime in the late sixties. I had arrived at this venue expecting to see Keith Emerson's organ gymnastics with The Nice unaware of what was to about to expire before my youthful eyes. The british group Family took the stage by storm, creative musicians bent on making a lasting impression...and they did! During the very first number, if I recall correctly, Family's torn and frayed singer Roger Chapman, in the crazed passion of the moment, hurled the mike stand across the stage almost hitting Bill Graham. This was to be the last time they played the Fillmore...

Recently I re-acquainted myself with their 1971 album Fearless, a mixture of whiskeyed rock and blues influences, pyschedelica, brit-folk, and jazz. With Poli Palmer's vibes taking the musical lead role in many Family songs, jazz-tinged twists and turns are musically negotiated. And Rob Townsend's drums make a dynamic impression. But the record and their shows centered around Roger Chapman whose shredded vocal chord, stoned eyed vocals were truly scary as he stumbled around the stage spastically destroying tambourines and hurling microphone stands. His atonal screeches throughout the album track "Blind" are truly horrifying, the manifestation of a seemingly insane individual bent on self-immolation. While there are moments of melodic beauty, Family's intensity is indeed fearless and perhaps peerless.

Please note the unique cd cover, a facsimile of the original vinyl release.

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