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9 Jun 2017

Frijid Pink “Earth Omen” 1972 US Heavy Prog

Frijid Pink “Earth Omen” 1972 US Heavy Prog
Detroit hard rockers Frijid Pink formed in 1967, originally comprised of singer Thomas Beaudry (stage name Kelly Green), guitarist Gary Ray Thompson, bassist Tom Harris, keyboardist Larry Zelanka, and drummer Richard Stevers. After two years of relentless touring throughout the southeast Michigan area, the group – substituting Harris with Beaudry on bass – signed with the Parrot label in 1969. Although their first two singles, “Tell Me Why” and “Drivin’ Blues,” failed to attract much attention, their third effort for the company – a distorted, guitar-heavy interpretation of “The House of the Rising Sun” – reached the Top Ten on the U.S. pop charts, becoming an even bigger hit overseas. Frijid Pink’s self-titled debut LP followed in 1970, as did the follow-up Defrosted; subsequent singles including “Sing a Song for Freedom” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” however, failed to match earlier successes, and after 1972’s Earth Omen the group did not reenter the studio until recording 1975’s All Pink Inside, disbanding soon after. ~ Jason Anken………………….. 

After releasing two albums within a year in 1970, Frijid Pink fell apart when the core song writing team of lead guitarist Gary Ray Thompson and vocalist/bassist Tom Beaudry (AKA Kelly Green) left the band. Not one to be put off by such minor setbacks(!), drummer Richard Stevers promoted guest keyboard player Larry Zelankato full band membership then brought in new vocalist Jon Wearing and lead guitarist Craig Webb. Bassist Tom Harris, who played on the band’s début album, also returned to the line up having been absent without replacement for “Defrosted” (Beaudry filled in on bass). 

It is therefore immediately apparent that this is not the band which recorded the wonderful adaptation of “House of the rising sun”, but a largely new band exploiting the name of their predecessors. It is ironic then that this is generally hailed as the best, and certainly most progressive, album released under the band name. 

From the opening bars of “Miss evil” it is apparent why Zelankato has been promoted, his Hammond organ fanfare indicating that this album will exploit his talents to a much greater extent. The oft quoted comparisons with Uriah Heep are justified, but only in relation to Heep’s earliest days (“Very ‘eavy, very 'umble”) when they were still finding their own direction. 

The progressive credentials of the band should not be overstated though, even when referring to this album. While tracks such as the opening “Miss evil” display an admirable willingness to indulge in more complex arrangements, other songs such as “Sailor” are largely straightforward, in this case anthemic pop, affairs. 

Musically, “Earth omen” is light years ahead of the band’s two preceding albums, both in terms of composition and performance. Almost completely absent is are the basic blues tenets which dominated those albums, to be replaced by a rich variety of styles and sounds. “Lazy day” is one track which sums up this diversity nicely, the song’s pop ballad foundations being built upon by fine harmonies, delightful mandolin, and some excellent bass playing. Another highlight is “Eternal dream” which features Uriah Heep like multi-part harmonic ah-ahs and “Dream” references. 

“Earth omen” is in many ways a one off album. At times it reminds me of Rare Bird’s flirtation with prog around the same time (“As your mind flies by”), in that it is radically different to the other Frijid Pink releases. The album features the heavier (but not metallic) end of the prog spectrum, driven along by powerful organ and a fine bass/drum workhouse. Its strength lies in both the song writing and the performances by the band members. 

The CD version includes two bonus tracks which made up a non-album single in 1972, although one of these is a single edit of the album track “Lazy day”. The other is a note for note cover of the Moody Blues “go now”….. by Easy Livin ……… 
Frijid Who? I hear younger readers ask, incredulously. 

Yet this is the band who, following their massive hit with a guitar-drenched cover of the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” had such minor bands as Led Zeppelin for support act. 

Indeed - a huge and monstrous sound is to be expected, and is also delivered in spades. Yet this, their 3rd album, is considered by fans as one of their weakest. 

But there’s no ignoring the hi-energy that belts out of the grooves from this magnificent opus, fully heavy progressive rock of the highest calibre. 

Guitars bludgeon heavy riffs into your cranium, while swirling organs (oo-er!) provide a shimmering shine and jet-propelled propulsion simultanetously. Masterful, tight, but never over-busy beats keep your feet a-tapping, and even though the music is finely crafted and accessible, surprises lurk around every corner. 

It’s easy at times to completely forget that this was released in 1972, such is the quality of the music, and yet, the music itself could not have been written at any other time. It is infused with the heady scent of patchouli and sandalwood, it speaks of those parties with just a few close friends, the intoxications of your choice that last into the wee small hours until the last person passes out with the pleasant fatigue of good times. 

There is no answer to the question “what is the music like”, for it covers a multitude of bases. The closest bands I can think of are Spooky Tooth, Uriah Heep, Atomic Rooster and Vanilla Fudge. 

Miss Evil hits you straight away with swathes of Hammond curling from a rotating Leslie, quickly joined by a piano duplicating the Hammond’s part for a stalkfest in a dark alley. The fuzzed-out guitar riff that follows, the hard-edged, crystal-clear vocals and the little solo lines quickly get mixed up in a maelstrom of sounds that sit at the edge of controllability - and that is why this music is so great; You can practically feel the musicians at the edges of their abilities and pushing hard, but never succumbing to the temptation to overdo it and ruin the whole thing by sounding amateurish. The musical interlude gives visions (probably illegal) of “evil women” and their seductive, tempting dances. 

This is followed by the haunting shanty “Sailor”, which features some of the tastiest piano licks ever buried in a mix. Shame on the engineer responsible. This being 1970s rock, we have a Tufnell special of a guitar solo. I recommend not listening to this on headphones, as the engineer decided it would be fun to pan it all over the place as the poor guy was recording it. I mean OK, it’s not the most exciting solo ever, but it’s pretty good, and didn’t deserve that. 

Earth Omen carries a cheese warning - but at the same time you have to give the band props for being environmentally aware and putting this much sheer passion into getting the message across; “Oh lord, what have we done?” indeed. Very stirring stuff indeed, providing you can ignore lines like “first we killed the sea and now we kill the sun”. 

And so it goes on - Frijid Pink demonstrate their mastery of forms and styles by chucking in some mandolins on “Lazy Day”, and produce a magnificently soporific tune. “Train Woman” is a piece of heavy blues par excellence, “Eternal Dream” hearkens back to a more innocent psychedelic era, while maintaining a progressive symphonic feel like Procol Harum or the Moodies at their best, “New Horizon” ventures into a funk-rock territory and gets you dancing around your clothes, which are probably in a pile on the sitting room floor by now. Close the curtains, would you? 

To round off the album, Rainbow Rider delivers a gospel-style soul that’s utterly infectious, and Mr Blood produces some of the scariest and heaviest rifferama outside of Sabbath. The vocal harmonies give Uriah Heep a run for their money too. The burn-out practically justifies the price of the album alone. 

In short, one of the most polished rock albums of 1972-3, and definitely one of the most overlooked. There are no real classics on this album - no monster hits, but each song is a personal moster hit waiting for you to discover it and share it - but only with people you really like … Certif1ed,….Julian Cope Heritage…….. 

Even the cover of the third FRIJID PINK album Earth Omen (1972) points out that the times and probably the music with the band from Detroit have changed significantly. No more funny tape photo - sitting on a scaffolding or standing in an ice cube - but a gloomy “Adam and Eve on burnt earth” reminiscent of the apocalypse. The Omen just, true to the motto: “If we continue like this, then …” 

And if you do not know yet, after the hit of her first album, FRIJID PINK, two years later, joined the musical progress and even a concept album beginning with “Miss Evil” and “Mr. Blood ”, which has just appeared in the repertoire completely remastered, stunningly sounding 180g vinyl squeeze, will surely make eyes and ears when this probably most unusual album By FRIJID PINK on her plate. 

“Earth Omen” is the most progressive, darkest and most psychedelic (and thus for all “Proggies” surely the best) album that FRIJID PINK created in their short musical (over) life time, after the crass cut by the band , Which they had to overcome by the separation of singer Kelly Green and guitarist Gary Ray Thompson - the “hit” masters of “House Of The Rising Sun”. On “Earth Omen”, FRIJID PINK clearly transcends the traces of URIAH HEEP. Actually, they sound like their big competition. But because their musical change was so crass, they simply did not get the attention, which should have been brought to this successful album unconditionally. 
In addition, the major deal had long since burst, and the new singer JON WEARING did not have a very charismatic voice as KELLY GREEN. On the other hand, organ and piano played a much larger role than on the two previous albums and the instruments, more solo frets were created, from which one could enjoy the bass extensively on “Miss Evil”. Even these deep tones, the lingering sense of minority, revealed to the listener of the “new” FRIJID PINK that a sound pinch of musical gloom had moved into “Earth Omen”, which seemed to drive the blues away, and even to “Eternal Dream” To the melodramatic-hymnic “July Morning” -Rock of URIAH HEEP and to “Trainwoman” to psychedelisch driving, harder rocking ATOMIC ROOSTER. 

But also a real classic is slumbering to “Earth Omen”. 
If the music business were to do justice, the emotional ballad “Lazy Day” would have to be a real evergreen in all its acoustic beauty and sadness, as well as the EAGLES choral song atmosphere. But it’s not really a comment on this song on YouTube, but it’s a very impressive feature of “House of the Rising Sun”. There are so many songs that are just as good, like this one. It was released on the, Earth Omen 'album and what part of a single as well. “ 

"Earth Omen” shows after FRIJID PINK breaks out where the music journey with new singer and guitarist as well as firmly integrated keyboardboarder goes. Progressive rock, behind which is a textual concept that literally leads us to a “New Horizon”. Unfortunately, FRIJID PINK could not get through with this musical orientation, however great it might sound. But we can finally enjoy the album, which is extremely valuable for every progressive Zeitgeist, in the highest sound quality on 180 gram vinyl in the original record cover as a re-release of Repertoire Records. …. by ….. Thoralf Koß ……. 

There’s still nothing groundbreaking about FP’s 3rd opus’ sound & style but at least they’re no longer just another hard blues combo with slight and occasional Psych instincts; when drummer Rick Stevers remained as the sole original member and apparently took over his shoulders the responsibility of carrying the bands’ flame alight, a substantial renewal took place; it consisted of reenlisting initial bassist Tom Harris and promoting keyboardist Larry Zelanka to full-time membership , thus legitimating the promotion of the piano and organ roles to a degree the band’s sound had never experienced before, and the addition of new members lead singer Jon Wearing and guitar player Craig Webb; these changes would imprint both a new working ethics – the song writing which was mostly the territory of the departed guitar and bass players became a group effort – and a significant swerve in stylistic direction. 

The band did kept their innate Detroit “heaviness” but the songs gained a lot in ambition, sophistication and yes, “progressiveness”; influences are diverse and although the Uriah Heep ones may seem excessive, scattered throughout in the vocal harmonies and yes, the predictability of many harmonic changes, they clearly aren’t trying to carbon-copy no-one as echoes of Deep Purple (and Whitesnake), Black Widow and even Black Sabbath or Atomic Rooster randomly pop in; 

But not everything is perfect and although Wearing is a pretty charismatic singer he clearly struggles for the prefect pitch once or twice, while a similar number of hesitations denounce cohesiveness handicaps in a band which is otherwise and most of the times able to sustain solid and even infectious grooves and work through tension and release modulations with sufficient ease; This is an album filled with anthemic songs and many sing-a-long refrains that evidence a desire to break the charts; and if this is no sin per se when it goes into manifest MOR territory as on the Single-ready and saccharine “Lazy Day” with its mandolin accompaniment straight out of a Rod Stewart hit of the time, it’s difficult to control the “push-the-skip-button” instinct; 

Elsewhere the pleasure graphics curve has its ups and downs but it’s overall a fair listen: blasting and powerful moments that reveal a dignified Purple progeny as on the opening “Miss Evil”, or the mean-Hard Blues of “Train Woman”, rich in Hammond swells and other succulent organ passages, sonic swirling guitar comping and biting leads from a an average guitarist who knows how to keep things moving (even if overdubbing and panning effects do help now and then), instrumental sections or injections of adrenaline that mitigate smoothness abuses (namely those afore mentioned sing-a-long refrains), Classical sophistication and elaborate arrangements (“Eternal Woman”), persuasive cavalcades with rolling pianos, charismatic singing and stinging leads (“New Horizon” ) , with energetic guitars and keys amiably fighting for the front stage( “Rainbow Rider”) or with grumbling and earth-shaking bottom ends, vocal Psych flirts and an instrumental section that evidences solid skills and makes “Mr. Blood” the other perfect bookend. 

The 1995 Repertoire CD issue includes the Lazy Day / Go Now Single as bonus tracks; about the former I’ve already voiced my irrevocable condemnation yet, the Pop/Soul of the latter with its triple meter and pseudo-Motown harmonies is additional proof these chaps were really eager to experiment, which is always a positive sign – not to mention it’s a one-off occasion to listen to Zelanka fiddling with what sounds like a mini-moog!…….comusduke ……….. 

Line-up / Musicians 
- Jon Wearing - lead vocals 
- Richard Stevers - drums 
- Tom Harris - bass 
- Craig Webb - guitars 
- Larry Zelanka - keyboards 

A1 Miss Evil 6:20 
A2 Sailor 4:20 
A3 Earth Omen 3:35 
A4 Lazy Day 4:36 
B1 Train Woman 3:59 
B2 Eternal Dream 4:24 
B3 New Horizon 4:25 
B4 Rainbow Rider 2:55 
B5 Mr. Blood 4:37 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





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