Mention the name Spring to devotees of early 70s progressive rock and you’ll be met with quotes like “amazingly professional live” and “one of the first bands to use the mellotron as an integral part of their sound”. However equally as many people will say “Spring? Who?” as so little is known about the band.
Formed in 1970 and based in Leicester, vocalist Pat Moran, guitarist Ray Martinez, drummer Pick Withers, bassist Adrian Maloney and keyboardist Kipps Brown had all previously played in local bands. Following a gig in Cardiff the Spring touring van broke down on the way home leaving the band stranded ‘somewhere in Wales’. It was then that fate dealt one of its kinder blows for the first car to stop and help them was one driven by Kingsley Ward who owned Rockfield Recording Studios.
Recalls Ward: “I’d spent months trapesing around the country in search of new talent and here I meet a group in a broken down truck in my own home town”. Inviting the band to audition, Ward snapped them up for management, heavily influenced by their mellotron-driven progressive rock. Prior to the release of their self-titled debut album (NEON NE6), produced by Elton John cohort Gus Dudgeon, Spring toured the UK supporting Velvet Underground also played with the likes of Keith Christmas and The Sutherland Brothers. This highly collectable LP, released in a triple gatefold sleeve, remained their only official release as the band went their separate ways in 1972. The second, unreleased, album, “Spring 2”, has finally seen light of day in 2007 via Second Harvest.
Following the band’s demise, vocalist Moran pursued a career in production and his credits include Iggy Pop, Robert Plant, Lou Gramm and Eddie Bickall to name but a few. Ray Martinez became an in-demand session guitarist working with the likes of Alkatraz, Michael Chapman, Gypsy, Tim Rose and Robert Plant. Currently a member of Showaddywaddy, Martinez also played in late 70’s rock band Airwaves, whose first LP was produced by Moran. Kipps Brown worked with Ian Anderson and continues to play in local bands in Leicester whilst bassist Maloney retired from music. Pick Withers, like Martinez, took up session work and helped out the likes of Chris Jagger, Bert Jansch, Prelude, Magna Carta and Dave Edmunds before joining Dire Straits in 1978. by Mark Brennan……….. Here’s a legendary band from the Early British Progressive Rock Movement, the sixtet SPRING including Pat Moran (vocals, Mellotron), Ray Martinez (lead guitar, Mellotron, 12-string guitar), Adrian Maloney (bass guitar), Pique Withers (drums, Glockenspiel) and Kips Brown (piano, organ and Mellotron). Peter Decindis played bass on two tracks. This is a one-shot band that released the album “Spring” in 1971 and put on CD by Laser’s Edge in '92. It contains 3 previously unreleased bonustracks. Producer Gus Dudgeon (known for his work with Eric Clapton, David Bowie and Elton John) died a few years ago and drummer Pique Withers became famous with Dire Straits.
The sound of SPRING is a 'Mellotron’s heaven’, no less than three members use this marvellous instrument! So it ain’t no surprise that this album is loaded with Mellotron (flute - and violin-sound) but it doesn’t harm the compositions, there’s no overkill. All 8 songs from the original LP from '71 sound warm and melodic with strong vocals, many floods of organ and sensitive electric guitarwork and beautiful twanging 12-string guitarplay. To my surprise, the 3 bonus tracks doesn’t contain Mellotron. The emphasis in these songs is on the organ in fluent rhythms with nice, slightly shifting moods. Certainly one of the gems, beloved by the 'connaiseurs’…………..
Mellotrons addict this is an orgy and should provide you with many orgasms. Except for the drummer (later in Dire Strait) I don’t know what happened to these guys but it is a shame they only made one album ….by Sean Trane …….
I’m pretty sure that alot of people are familiar with the mellotron hype surrounding this album. You’ve probably read statements like “Soaked in mellotron!”, and “3 mellotrons on every track!”. Well, don’t fall for it. Although most of the tracks have mellotron, the band was actually well-rounded, and consisted of acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. Basically, don’t expect anything similar to KING CRIMSON’s “Mars”. SPRING’s music is mostly song-oriented with an early 70s proto-prog vibe, and emphasizes vocals. You could compare this band to FANTASY, but FANTASY are a bit more complex. That being said, SPRING produced some great music. The first 5 tracks are high-quality if you enjoy early-70s rock. Most listeners will instantly notice the singer’s unique, and charismatic, voice. I have to also mention that the bonus track from an unfinished 2nd album are high-quality. Overall, I recommend SPRING to fans of early seventies English rock…. by Steve Hegede …..
OK so SPRING wouldn’t be what you call a complex prog rock band. They were a song- oriented prog-band that’s not too far off from the MOODY BLUES. But for those wanting more Mellotron, you can’t go wrong with this album, as three guys are credited to playing it (vocalist Pat Moran, guitarist Ray Martinez, and keyboardist Kips Brown). The rest of the band consisted of bassist Adrian “Bone” Maloney and drummer Pique Withers, yes the same Pique Withers who became a member of DIRE STRAITS (who then went by Pick Withers). All the hype of three Mellotrons are true, according to the CD reissue I have (the long-out-of-print US reissue by The Laser’s Edge) claims that the only overdubbing was acoustic guitar. “The Prisoner”, “Grail”, “Shipwreck Soldier”, “Golden Fleece” and “Gazing” are all prime example of early, Mellotron-heavy prog. “Boats” is an acoustic piece that’s more folk-like, while “Song to Absent Friends (The Island)” is a piano-oriented ballad that bears more than a passing resemblance to what Elton John was doing at the time (the Spring album was produced by manager Gus Dudgeon who also produced and managed Elton John). Certainly this album has its detractors. The pace seems the same throughout, and Pat Moran’s singing is an acquired taste. But I don’t care if the music doesn’t have the complexity of GENTLE GIANT (or the Swiss prog band ISLAND with their 1977 album “Pictures”) to make great music, as SPRING proves that. The old LP was released on RCA/Neon, with the triple gatefold (like YES’ “Going For the One”), and has became quite a collector’s item. It’s great that the Laser’s Edge, and later Repertoire in Germany had reissued this gem. Both reissues also contain three bonus cuts from a never completed second album from '72. Those songs were “Fool’s Gold”, “Hendre Mews” and “A Word Full of Whispers”. At this point, the band dropped the Mellotron altogether, and let the Hammond organ dominate. Bassist Adrian “Bone” Maloney also left, replaced by Peter Decindis. These three songs are nowhere as bad as many claim they are. They make perfectly fine early organ-driven prog. Great album for those who like the not so complex early British prog…..by Proghead ……..
Very good, little know prog rock from the early 70s. The vocals and instruments are beautiful and this music is very pleasing to the ear. Not overly complex but than again, thats not a bad thing. I would consider this more folky than art-rock. But than again, I don’t like art-rock being a sub genre of prog seeing as music is a sub genre of art, not the other way around…….by Carl floyd fan…….
I find it amazing how many groups there were on the cusp of something as big as the development of an entire genre of music. Progressive rock was just starting to kick it into high gear in 1971 and bands like Spring were working on important recordings like this self- titled set. At first, I was not sure what the picture of the dead soldier meant but after listening to the albums lyrics, it makes more sense. The album certainly has a theme. “The Prisoner,” “Fool’s Gold,” “Shipwrecked Soldier,” “Golden Fleece,” and “Grail” certainly have an explorer war like premise.
The tone created by this talented group on this outstanding effort needs a much harder look than ever before. Perhaps the reasons why you have not heard too much of this band is that giving credit were credit was due has been part of the problem.not an all together unusual circumstance in a business full of unfairness and corruption. Part of this entire process of recollection for us all interested in learning more about some of the pioneers of prog-rock is discovering important contributors such as Spring.
Lead vocalist Pat Moran’s style is reminiscent of the dreamy and smooth vocal engagements of the legendary Jon Anderson of Yes. I use Anderson as a benchmark for vocalist in this genre for obvious reasons. His influence can be heard everywhere in rock music from past to present. Spring’s music is tasteful with compositions featuring elegant keyboards and guitars and equally powerfully intoxicating measures of the same when needed to emphasize the lyrics and give listeners chunks of instrumental passages that have become typical for this type of music. This reissue includes original artwork with gatefold sleeves housing two high quality pressed 180-Gram vinyl LPs…….. by Muzikman ………
This is an odd, obscure band with a sketchy history. Apparently the original album came housed in a tri-fold cover that was pretty impressive. I saw a copy on eBay once, but the only copy I’ve been able to get a hold of is a Repetoire reissue CD from a few years back. There’s a couple other reissues floating around the web as well, but be careful choosing one as there was apparently another band called Spring in the early 70’s that was associated with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, and some of the links I’ve found mistakenly show this album cover under that album’s listing. I spent some time researching and was able to find a few bios of the band and reviews of their only album, but much of the material is clearly second- or third- hand information, and much of it seems to have simply been copied from other sources. The band apparently hails from Leicester England, and formed some time in 1970. The album was produced by early Elton John producer Gus Dudgeon, and was released on RCA’s Neon label, which I had never heard of before I came across this band. The album features three Mellotron players, although it doesn’t really sound all that awash with the unusual sound that instrument tends to make.
And I wouldn’t say these guys were exactly experts of the device. They have been compared to the Moody Blues, and I can hear the resemblance, although I would say they seem more like what the Moody Blues would have sounded like when they were still playing in their parent’s basements or high school gyms, or wherever it was they played before they became really good. Also, if you imagine Justin Hayward with a lisp imitating Boz Skaggs, you’ll get something of an idea what Spring singer Pat Moran sounds like. I’ve listened to this album 25 or 30 times since I bought it, and I’ve gotten to the point where his voice isn’t a distraction anymore, but it is definitely an acquired taste.
Two things are usually pointed out in reviews of this album: one, that the band claimed the only overdubs in the studio were of the guitar player’s tracks, which if true is a very impressive statement about the band’s abilities in managing to keep the temperamental Mellotrons running; and two, that drummer Pique (Pick) Withers would later become the only really famous musician of the group, as a member of Dire Straits.
Apparently the band toured the UK as the opening act of the Velvet Underground in 1971. As near as I can piece together, that must have been the VU’s tour in the fall of 1971 after “Loaded” was released and Lou Reed had left the group, so that’s kind of interesting.
There may or may not be another album that was recorded by the group before they disbanded in 1972 - it kind of depends on how accurate some of the various web sites with pieces of the band’s history are. There are three tracks at the end of the CD reissue, although the keyboards on these are organ and a little piano, but no Mellotron.
As for the original eight tracks, there’s nothing about them or the album that connects any kind of critical dots as far as the history of progressive music is concerned. Other than Withers, and some later studio and production credits for Moran and guitarist Ray Martinez, Spring doesn’t seem to have any particularly impressive musical pedigree to their credit.
The songs are kind of interesting though, albeit very steeped in an early 70’s sound.
“The Prisoner (Eight by Ten)” is definitely Mellotron-laden, although the tune is fairly simple and at times the keyboardists seem to be more experimenting with different sounds than following any kind of complex pattern. I have no idea what the song is about since Moran’s voice is not only garbled and lispy, but has a strong British accent to boot. I think I made out “jumping coins that seem to laugh” and “eight by ten on the second floor, fumes that creep beneath the door”, but that’s about it. Who knows. There’s nothing to make this song all that appealing, although after several dozen listens, it isn’t irritating either, so there’s that at least.
“Grail” is another slow, very 70’s sounding tune, a but less Mellotron here and some mildly interesting guitar chords. There’s a short chorus that gets repeated a lot (“nights go on when days pass by, storms blow up and down”, but I can’t make out the rest of the words. There’s also a nice verse - “If inside of Hades I should fall”, something. something. something. “could these things mean nothing to a fool”, that’s rather pleasant, I think, or maybe not - this could be a song about the apocalypse for all I know. There’s a short Mellotron moment accented by the guitar at the end that’s actually quite nice, but that’s about it for this one.
“Boats” is a short acoustic work that doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the songs, kind of reminds me of some of the stuff of Elton John’s “Honky-Tonk Chateau”, or maybe a song from an old 'spaghetti-western’ movie. It seems to be a song about a guy’s women who took off. Think of it as a British progressive equivalent of Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” and you’ll get the picture - “I’m sitting and watching the boats on the river, the last train from the station takes you away.”. Ends with a soft martial drum rhythm, which is kind of weird.
“Shipwrecked Soldier” starts off with a bit of an infantry march drum beat, possibly taking up where “Boats” left off, and then launches into some ambitious guitar work. This is the one song on the album that sounds like the band actually showed an active interest in the message, whatever that message is. I get the impression this one has something to do with wars and stuff like that. There’s definitely a mention of governments, and ships in the mist, and men dressed in black. Selah.
“Golden Fleece” has something to do with disillusionment, not sure what though. Moran is really slurring his words by now, but the Mellotrons are pretty active and they make the song interesting at least. This one probably makes more sense to people who understand Greek mythology and its symbolism and all that.
By the time “Inside Out” rolls around, I can’t understand anything Moran is singing anymore. The keyboards here sound more organ-like, and the drums are a bit more prevalent than elsewhere on the album, plus there’s an interlude of what I assume is a Mellotron that sounds like a xylophone. Then again, maybe it’s a xylophone.
“Song to Absent Friends” is the other Elton John-sounding tune on the album, mostly because the keyboards are just a plain old piano. This is clearly intended to be a sad song, as evidenced by the slow tempo and sad-sounded gargling Moran does in lieu of actual singing. It’s a nice tune on the piano, though this probably would have been better as a purely instrumental song. I can’t help but wonder if Michael Stipe found some inspiration in Pat Moran’s vocal stylings when he recorded the first couple of R.E.M. albums. That would make sense.
The original album closed with “Gazing”, which is marked by the absence of Moran’s voice for nearly the first minute and a half. He seems to have cleansed his palette, as his articulation is somewhat better here, but I can still only make out about every fourth word. Something about turning pages, and taking paths, and deep sleep. Lots more Mellotron on this one, and also Martinez’ guitar really starts to grow on you by now, kind of bluesy and also a bit improvisational at times.
The 'bonus’ tracks on the CD are apparently from the aforementioned unreleased recordings. Moran sounds a lot like the guy in Amazing Blondel on these, but is still largely inarticulate. I’m spending a lot of time making fun of the guy’s voice, but I have to admit it kind of grows on you if you think of it as another musical instrument in the band, and not as an actual human voice. “Fool’s Gold” sounds like a kind of adventure tale of the 'Olde Englishe varietie’. “Hendre Mews” actually has some nice guitar licks that permeate the whole song, more aggressive than anything else the band has recorded here. The bonus tracks all feature some pretty good organ work as well. This is also apparently the longest song the band ever recorded, clocking in at over seven minutes.
The album closes with “A Word Full of Whispers”, and it finds Moran at his most coherent, but also his most off-key. The chorus goes “today I turned on a friend, tomorrow I might choose my end”, which seems both very hippy-like and also a bit disturbing. There’s also a reference to Zachary Smith lying dead in the snow. I wonder if this is Dr. Zachary Smith, the oddball scientist of “Lost in Space” television show fame. Probably not.
So, I’ve worked over the infamous Spring prog-gem. All in all it was an interesting and not altogether unpleasant experience. I’ve been playing this CD every few days or so, mostly so I could work up enough material for a review. It’ll probably fade to the middle or back of my collection now that I’ve written this, but I would imagine it will get pulled out and played from time to time. I wouldn’t call this one an essential collectible, but it doesn’t flat out suck either. Three stars seems appropriate. ……..by ClemofNazareth …….. In 1971 the Leicestershire UK-based band Spring recorded its first album at Rockfield Recording Studios with Elton John cohort Gus Dudgeon producing. The music was recorded live to tape, with just some acoustic guitar overdubbed later. This is music awash in seas of rolling Mellotron tones — at times you’ll think you’re drowning in melancholy marzipan. At times all three Mellotrons are in use, each with a different tone, and it makes for quite a rich and ornate musical tapestry. Just close your eyes while you listen to “Grail” and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
No doubt the blues was a very popular choice for young bands in the UK in 1971, and Spring’s music reflects that. In fact, Spring toured the UK opening for The Velvet Underground before they recorded this album. But Spring weren’t doing the out-there jazz jamming of The Soft Machine or the LSD-fueled space trips of Hawkwind, or even the whiskey-soaked blues of Led Zeppelin. It’s hard to know which scene Spring grew out of, but considering that London’s airwaves were full of acid pop in the late 60s — I can hear the sounds, humor, and instrumentation of such bands as Turquoise, 23rd Turnoff, and Timebox in Spring’s music — it’s fair to assume Spring’s sound was influenced by quite a few styles and bands.
But Spring’s music isn’t all just Mellotron, and all of the playing is exceptional. “Fool’s Gold” features some excellent guitar playing and not much Mellotron, and breaks into a particularly fiesty jam. Drummer Pick Withers’s articulate use of cymbals and fleet fingers is always in the pocket and pure icing. Vocalist Pat Moran’s voice recalls John Wetton’s baritone with a touch of vibrato. The instruments were recorded with no phasing, flanging, or effects, so the recording does not sound dated in any way. But for all the tricky tempos, busy playing, and mountains of Mellotron, this is glorious, effortless music. I feel refreshed after listening to it, not tired or worn out as I would after a King Crimson album.
The album has been given one vinyl reissue by Akarma Records in Italy (which is good, because according to popsike.com original copies are fetching up to $800US). The Akarma and Repertoire CD reissues are pricey, but relatively easy to find and the sound is good…..Rising Storm review………. If you’ve heard anything about Spring’s only release from 1971, chances are you’ve probably also heard the mellotron hype a thousand times already (SOAKED IN MELLOTRON! THREE MELLOTRONS PLAYING AT ONCE! A MELLOTRON LOVER’S DREAM COME TRUE!) Be assured, though, that overall this is actually a pretty good collection of songs. Part of the hype stems from the liner notes themselves, which proclaim, “It is often tempting to use fancy recording techniques in the studio but Spring don’t need it. Everything on the album is exactly as it is on stage - with the exception of some overdubbed acoustic guitar.” Since the band essentially recorded live in the studio, and given that three of the five band members are credited with playing the mellotron, there are indeed places where there are three 'trons going at once, though it’s entirely possible that three people were playing just one beast. In fact, Spring were one of the first groups to actually incorporate the mellotron into their sound right from their conception. Understand that the arrangements are not just all mellotron, though; there’s plenty of acoustic 6 and twelve-string guitar, a good balance of driving blues-rock electric guitar, and gritty Hammond organ as well as bass and drums. Pat Moran’s vocals may be an acquired taste for some, especially on “Shipwrecked Soldier” and “Golden Fleece,” but I’ve apparently acquired it because it doesn’t bother me anymore. It fits well with the mood of the music and the tone of the lyrics. And the speaking of lyrics, they’re surprisingly good, which often isn’t the case with a large chunk of progressive rock. As Mr. Miler points out in his review, the first five tracks seem to be the strongest, but all of the tracks from the original album are enjoyable. On the other hand, none of the three extra tracks from the shelved second album are quite up to the same standard, though the first of these, “Fool’s Gold,” is pretty good. Sadly, there is no mellotron on any of these three tunes, which instead place emphasis on organ and guitar. These could just as easily have been left off of this CD.
If you’re a fan of early 1970s progressive rock, enjoy some of the other short-lived bands from the same era such as Gracious, Cressida, and Fantasy, and like the Moody Blues but wish they had a slightly edgier sound and more down-to-earth lyrics, then this could well some music you’ll like a lot. Highly recommended……..ByAllen Ray……