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Drawing Blodwyn from a Stone

19 Oct

Oh my does the writing of “prolific rock critic” Richie Unterberger put a nasty itch under my skin. Seems every time I click over to http://www.allmusic.com to get the lowdown on the career of some 60’s or 70’s heavy/hard rock group, I find that egads! the group has been placed in front of Ritchie for due consideration. And consider he does . . . only through the squinty little eyes of someone who apparently believes 1966 was the high point of western civilization as we know it. A strict folkrock=good, heavyrock=bad maxim permeates nearly every one of his jaded reviews, like he’s never read Joe Carducci’s Rock and the Pop Narcotic. When he’s not decrying the apparently subpar musicians on later LOVE records I dig (“none of whom had skills on the level of Bryan MacLean or the other original LOVE men”), he can be found yawning at the work of gorgeous acid-psych bands like MIGHTY BABY (“fairly generic late-’60s British rock”).

Worst of all, he’s often saddled with the task of revisiting the inconsistent but still important discography of full-on hardrock bands like THREE MAN ARMY, whom he can’t possibly begin to understand, let alone appreciate. It’s a recipe for disaster. Of course he’s gonna brand their best record, Third of a Lifetime: “ordinary to the point of dullness.” Might as well ask my grandmother her opinion of it – at least she’d find it novel. Ritchie just doesn’t have it in him to make sense of such music; in the process, great rock gets completely overlooked.

Which gets me to BLODWYN PIG’s second and altogether greater LP, entitled Getting To This. Over at AllMusic, Ritchie gives it no more than two sentences, one of which claims it “took a more pile-driving approach than their first effort, but the material wasn’t as strong.” I am again struck by this man’s inability to tackle anything with an ounce of heavy in it. And yet again, a great platter is dismissed outright.

What actually was going on here was Mick Abraham‘s jazzy, TULLoid hard bluesrock was growing in expansive/creative directions similar to Roger Chapman’s great and unique FAMILY. But the PIG were less eccentric about it, and hence able to remind audiences more frequently that they were hardrockers at heart. Folks often compare this to early COLOSSEUM LPs like Grass Is Greener – yet another 2nd tier Brit jazz rock band you oughta at least spend a quid or two on before you die. Fair enough, though I find the energy of the PIG fires this to an entirely new level, bringing to mind a raucous, turn-of-the-decade PRETTY THINGS. And anyway the effete jazzbos in COLOSSEUM never enticed gtr-Adonis Larry Wallis (later of PINK FAIRIES) to join them, as the PIG did for a few months after this record was released.

In retrospect, Getting To This is a totally vital piece of the beautiful and outta-control puzzle that was the late 60’s/early 70’s UK rock underground. It was produced in that exciting cusp where progressive still meant vibrancy, still meant unpredictability, still everything-but-the-kitchen-sink exploratory. To this day it blows my mind that this island produced soooo goddamn many worthy – hell, great! – rock bands as the 60’s became the 70’s. Screw the punker era – hands down, this earlier period was the pinnacle of UK rock, probably forevermore.

‘Course, knowing Ritchie biases, he’d probably gloss over both of these periods – and get paid to say so, no less. Hey Ritchie: next time AllMusic asks you to review a newly-discovered SAVOY BROWN live set from ’69, kindly float it my way; I’ll know how to listen to it.

BLODWYN PIG – “See My Way” (Getting To This, Chrysalis Records, 1970)