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27 Feb 2017

Mick Abrahams Band (Jethro Tull - Blodwyn Pig) "A Musical Evening With The Mick Abrahams Band" 1971 UK Prog Blues Rock













Mick Abrahams Band (Jethro Tull - Blodwyn Pig)  "A Musical Evening With The Mick Abrahams Band" 1971 UK Prog Blues Rock
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My recent blow out on the first Tull album led me on to fresh listening to Mick Abrahams' subsequent output. And while Blodwyn Pig's two studio albums deserve (and will get, if I have my way) in-depth analysis here, it is the first album by Abrahams' lesser-known, self-named band that I would like to share with you today.

Three facts about Mick Abrahams:

1. He is a damn fine guitarist, vocalist and songwriter;

2. He looks like a long distance lorry driver; and

3. The Charalatans ripped off the Mick Abrahams Band big time.

Those in the know will already know (1). Those who have seen him live in the last ten years will testify to (2). And anyone who ever dug this excellent album then heard The Charlatans' first few 45's will have been amazed at the latters' brass in totally filching the MAB's sound. Totally. And was our trucker ever acknowledged for this? Was he gonads. Well Michael, I am here to do justice for you.

'A Musical Evening With The Mick Abrahams Band' (also known as just 'Mick Abrahams' by the way) opens with the behemoth of driving blues-rock that is 'Greyhound Bus'. And if you don't get the Charlatans' comparison within two nano-seconds then you're on another planet, man. First off, Bob Sargeant's Hammond riff is straight out of the same lucky bag as 'Indian Rope', and as for his solo ...well, I'm convinced the infant Robbie Collins was spoon fed it with his Farley's. Second, the drum beat (by the late great Ritchie Dharma) is that archetypical Madchester rhythm nearly two decades before its time. And even Mick's mighty SG is mixed into the background for most of the song, pre-echoing the production on The Charlatans' early releases. Mind you, when he comes in for HIS solo, there ain't nothing on any Charlatans' records to compare. It's a blinder, as is his bandless spotlight right at the song's end. The only 'of it's time' element of 'Greyhound Bus' is the harmony vocal of Abrahams and Sargeant. And we'll hear more, much more, of this later.

Next up it's Mick's turn to plagiarise. But only in part. 'Awake' is the first of two stone epics on the album. It features a gospel-like, melodic verse with a top notch Abrahams' croon, before the advent of ONE HELL OF A RIFF. But wait a minute...this riff, great as it is, sounds more than a tad familar. Good God. It's 'Bring It On Home'. No matter though, because here it sounds far wilder than anything even Pagey could muster. It's terrific. It leads into a chorus of overwhelming heaviness and passion with an upward key change that just floors me every time. The solo sequences in the middle of the song are incredible, Sargeant's jazzy inventions preceding a echoey solo by the leader that avoids any hint of playing to the gallery and sounds all the more immense for it (great feedback too). A triumph of subtlety over show. But that riff - Jeez. By the end of the song it'll have hammered so far into your head that you'll never be able to listen to side two of 'Zep II' again without a crazed grin.

'Winds Of Change' is a gorgeous country-inflected acoustic ballad by Abrahams, featuring more divine harmony vocals and deliciously-understated bottleneck playing. It's followed by 'Why Do You Do Me This Way', a rocking three-chord basher with harmony guitars that would grace Wishbone Ash and Aby bellowing his best Jim Morrison growl. And, just a point of interest - it sounds like prime Quo BEFORE Quo adopted the mindless boogie that made their name. But it's better, so much better.

'Big Queen' sees a return to Charalatans' territory, except that the talented young Mancs would never attempt a song in Brubeckian 5/4 time. Yet more awesome harmony vocals and wild mid-verse key shifts, atop a rhythm section that rivals that of Tull (no small praise) for activity and attack. Have enough to drink and you can even dance to it. The adjacent 'Not To Rearrange' gives Sargeant a chance to hog (or should that be pig) the mike, in the best country ballad Gram Parsons never wrote. Abrahams shines on pedal steel.

The final fourteen minutes are taken up with the album's second mega-track, the mighty 'Seasons'. A unison guitar and Hammond lick leads into a verse dripping with so much melody that I can't think of a chord in the Weedon tutorbook that hasn't been utilised somewhere within it. These guys have a way with a tune, believe me. Then comes the second section of the song, a slow, slow harmonic (natch) call to the skies that sounds like an outtake from 'Deja Vu', before everything stops and Mick lets rip with some expert under-amplified and echo-inflected megalicks. To be frank, this bit does outstay its welcome a little, even though nothing Aby plays is without interest. Still, the wait makes the advent of the main riff, six and half minutes into the song, all the better. And it's another corker, hanging us once again by that bloody indian rope (pun entirely intended). Sargeant provides Hammond abuse so intense that his subsequent retirement into record and session production almost seems a crime. Then back comes The Man, this time with amp turned to eleven, with the best solo trip of the album on top of still more pyrotechnics-with-heart from his keyboard partner. A reprise of the CSNY section seems to bring the track to a close. Naah. Couldn't leave it without hearing that opening hyperverse again, delivered even more impassionately than before. Overlong, overripe and over indulgent, 'Seasons' simultaneously epitomises all that is right and wrong about UK progressive rock in the early 70's. And it's a belter.

Great, in-yer-face production by future Pistol-twiddler Chris Thomas, incidentally.

I picked up 'A Musical Evening With The Mick Abrahams Band' in Virgin's remainder bin in late 1977 for £1.49. Aside from 'Rumours' and Wigwam's 'Nuclear Nightclub' it was the only non-punk/new wave album I bought that year that got played with any regularity. It was one of the best bargains I ever had and my copy became so worn after a few years that its long-awaited CD release became an excuse to party. It's still available from those nice people at BGO Records. Prospective listeners in need of a thrill - especially Charlatans fans - need not hesitate! ......by....Julian Cope.............

The roots of Mick Abrahams' musical career were typical of aspiring guitarists in the mid-sixties, taking in stints with R&B groups like The Hustlers, The Toggery Five, Screaming Lord Sutch, Neil Christian's Crusaders (replacing Jimmy Page) and his own McGregor's Engine.

By late 1967 Mick had become a founder member of Jethro Tull, and throughout 1968 the band built up a reputation based on the already distinctive blues guitar of Abrahams and the flute playing and wild stage persona of Ian Anderson. The band's unique blend of blues, jazz and rock was reflected in their first album This Was, an immediate UK chart hit. However, having two such strong personalities as a twin focus was always going to be a recipe for musical incompatibility, and at the end of 1968 Abrahams jumped ship.

After quitting Jethro Tull Mick formed his own band, called Blodwyn Pig. They released two albums "Ahead Rings Out" (1969) and "Getting To This" (1970). At that stage Blodwyn Pig looked destined for great things - but the old ogre of musical differences reared its ugly head, and Abrahams left his own band. Blodwyn Pig soldiered on for a while, but Mick's presence had been too vital a factor in their success, and the Pig died.

The early seventies saw Mick on 'Top Of The Pops' and 'In Concert' on Radio One with The Mick Abrahams Band, showcasing two fine guitar-driven rock albums in (A Musical Evening With) Mick Abrahams and At Last. The band enjoyed success throughout Europe but record company support was less encouraging and, after a short-lived Blodwyn Pig reunion in 1974 (immortalised via another Radio One live broadcast), a disillusioned Mick Abrahams effectively quit the music business. ..........

Having left Jethro Tull and recorded two solid albums with his new band Blodwyn Pig, Mick Abrahams decided it was time to move on again, albeit temporarily. He put together a new band, choosing the moniker the Mick Abrahams Band. There is though a degree of confusion over the use of name, as this album is simply credited to Mick Abrahams on the sleeve, but to the band on the LP. Likewise, the album title is not entirely clear either, the front of the sleeve bearing the notation "A musical evening with..." but the spine and the actual LP showing no album title at all.

The band is a four man line up, but is more rock orientated than that of Blodwyn Pig with no brass at all. The multi-talented Bob Sargeant is the second principal musician (after Abrahams), his organ and piano contributions being the main alternative to Abrahams fine lead guitar. In keeping with his band leader status, Abrahams writes all the songs here, with Sargeant receiving two co-writing credits.

The opening "Greyhound bus" reflects Abrahams growing ambitions Stateside, where Blodwyn Pig had enjoyed a degree of success on tour. The song is a mid-paced slice of blues rock. Probably identified early on as a potential single, the track boasts a decent vocal melody and some excellent lead guitar. "Awake" is the first of the two feature tracks, running to almost 9 minutes. The song is a majestic blues anthem featuring a killer vocal performance by Abrahams and some wonderful Ken Hensley style organ playing by Sargeant.

"Winds of change" changes the mood completely, this soft acoustic folk style ballad being Tim Buckley like in its beauty and simplicity. "Why do you do me this way" is almost onomatopoeic, the title betraying a simple blues funk rock number. The song is far from original, but enjoyable nonetheless. "Big queen", which opens the second side of the LP, is a variant on "Greyhound bus", Abrahams fine vocals being the focal point. Bob Sargeant co- writes and takes lead vocals on "Not to rearrange". The song has a country blues tinge, but while the performance is competent the song is the weak point of the album. The problem with it has more to do with its anonymity, the steel guitar only serving to distance the song from its peers on the album.

The final track is a 15 minute monster entitled "Seasons". Here, Abrahams vocals bear comparison with the great David Clayton-Thomas. The piece has a fine multi-part progressive structure, and is by far the most ambitious thing Abrahams had done up to this point. The extended nature of the track gives both Abrahams and Sargeant ample space to add a variety of solos, all of which are consistently high in quality and appeal.

Overall, an excellent album which benefits from Abrahams taking tighter control over the content and sympathetic production by Chris Thomas.

While the LP sleeve is at best prosaic, the rear image of Abrahams is nicely embossed like a mosaic.....by Easy Livin .............

"Unlike most guitarists, Mick Abrahams' playing, blending sophisticated chord work with dazzling single-string breaks, goes beyond the distinction between lead and rhythm playing. You can hear echoes of many forms - Mick has a wide-ranging style drawing from jazz, country and western, rock'n'roll (ancient and modern) and he is also one of the most imaginative and sensitive exponents of bottlenecking.

Mick made his decision to go professional at the fitting age of 21, when his mother asked him whether he wanted a big party or a guitar to launch him into manhood; he chose the guitar, a Gibson SG that he still uses six years later, and shortly after formed his own band, the Original Hustlers, who played mostly Chuck Berry and Little Richard songs and what Mick laughingly refers to as "our own arrangements of Beatles' numbers".
Beat Instrumental, February 1971

In 1970 Abraham's left the Blodwyn Pig, to be replaced by ex-Yes guitarist Peter Banks and guitarist/singer Larry Wallis. The group continued on under the leadership of Lancaster, although it was eventually renamed Lancaster's Bomber. Initially Abraham's formed a new group called Wommet; it was very short-lived, however, so he reorganized his career around the Mick Abraham's Band, with Walt Monaghan on bass, Bob Sargeant on guitar, keyboards and vocals, and Ritchie Dharma on drums. He released two albums on Chrysalis, Mick Abraham's and At Last, with his former Blodwyn Pig bandmate Lancaster expanding the lineup to a quintet. Neither sold very well, although Abraham's was never at a loss for paying gigs.
by Bruce Eder.............

Tracklist
A1 Greyhound Bus
A2 Awake
A3 Winds Of Change
A4 Why Do You Do Me This Way
B1 Big Queen
B2 Not To Rearrange
B3 Seasons

Credits
Bass Guitar, Vocals [Sings] – Walt Monaghan
Design [Album Cover Design] – CCS Associates*
Drums, Congas, Percussion [Various Percussion] – Ritchie Dharma
Engineer – John Punter
Guitar, Slide Guitar [Seven String], Mandolin, Pedal Steel Guitar, Vocals [Sings] – Mick Abrahams
Organ, Piano, Guitar [Second Guitar], Vocals [Sings] – Bob Sargeant
Performer – Mick Abrahams Band
Producer – Chris Thomas
Written-By – Sargeant* (tracks: A4, B2), Abrahams

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