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14 Jul 2017

Hookfoot "Good Times A'Comin'"1972 UK Blues Rock

Hookfoot "Good Times A'Comin'"1972 UK Blues Rock


The name Hookfoot sounds as generic as Bulldog, Sweathog, and other pedestrian 1970s monikers, and the music on the group's second release, Good Times a' Comin', reflects just that. It's Elton John sessionmen -- Caleb Quaye, Dave Glover, and Roger Pope from Tumbleweed Connection and other John discs -- recording their Dick James-published songs which were produced at Dick James Studios and going for the brass ring on their own with feeble results. The a cappella ending to "Living in the City" shows they have vocal as well as instrumental chops, while "Gunner Webb's Changes" lifts musical passages right out of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Long Time Gone" and "Almost Cut My Hair." That should come as no surprise since they covered both Stephen Stills and Neil Young on their self-titled debut from 1971. Lead guitarist Caleb Quaye writes or co-writes nine of the ten titles, vocalist Ian Duck is the runner up with six, but with titles like "Sweet Sweet Funky Music," "Slick's Blues for Jumbo," and "Flying in the U.S.A.," it's obvious the creativity of Bernie Taupin or Elton John is missing from this effort. The blues-oriented grooves are all solid and played with precision, but they also fail to excite. Some of it comes off like Savoy Brown without any bite. Why they didn't raid the Dick James vaults for a hit or ask their friends John and Taupin to throw them a hook is the real mystery of Hookfoot. It's an elaborate package, with a gatefold containing the lyrics and classy photos, but these aren't what one would classify as songs to be sold to other artists. "Look to Your Churches" sounds inspired by Traffic and the Band, but not up to those artists' standards. Sometimes sidemen are supposed to be just that, lending their ability to translate a performer's ideas -- to help put the crowd into a frenzy; one can't see Elton John performing the title track, "Good Times a' Comin'," despite Ian Duck and Caleb Quaye generating interesting moments with their guitar duel. It seems none of John's magic rubbed off on the pair's songwriting chops. Still, had England's pianoman made an appearance on this record, it would have made a world of difference. This same year, Hookfoot's American counterparts -- Danny Kootch, Russ Kunkel, and Leland Sklar -- released the first of three albums under the name the Section. What it proves is that without an Elton John, Carole King, or James Taylor, these records end up sounding like instruments playing themselves. A wonderful argument for the value of charisma and the vacuum of space without a star to fill it with light.... by Joe Viglione ................

Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Caleb Quaye was the mastermind fronting the largely forgotten Hookfoot. Quayle started his professional musical career as a member of Long John Baldry's backing band Bluesology. When Baldry decided to disband the group in 1967 Quaye struck out as a solo act releasing an obscure 45 on Philips:

- 1967's 'Baby Your Phrasing Is Bad' b/w 'Woman of Distinction' (Philips catalog number BF 1588)

When the single disappeared without a trace, Quaye turned to sessions and live working, including supporting former Bluesology keyboardist Elton John. His work with John led to a steady paycheck as a house musician signed to Dick James Music (DJM) which also happened to have signed Elton John to a recording contract. It also introduced him to fellow DJM employees Ian Duck, David Glover, and Roger Pope. Duck, Glover and Pope had a lengthy history themselves having started out as members of The Soul Agents, The Loot, and The Final One. With all four working together in support of various Elton John projects, in 1969 Quaye convinced them to join him in forming a band - Hookfoot and were promptly signed by DJM (A&M acquiring US distribution rights).

Co-produced by Quaye and Jeff Titmus, 1972's "Good Times a' Comin'" was a major surprise to my ears. Largely penned by Quaye (there were three group compositions), nothing hear was particularly original, but the combination of Quaye's rugged voice, some above average rock numbers, and the band's enthusiasm made for an album that was much better than the sum of its parts. Musically the ten performances were all over the genre map which meant they never really established a true group identify. On the other hand, they showed a distinctive chameleon-like ability which made it fun to play spot-the-influences which ranged from Levon Helm and the Band American to Supertramp progressive moves.

- Even though it was tapped as a single, the opening rocker 'Sweet Sweet Music' was actually one of the weaker numbers. Clearly written to maximize radio exposure, this one sounded like it had been cobbled together from a couple of sessions listening to top-40 tracks. The staid 'life is tough as a rocker' lyric certainly did help. rating: ** stars
- 'Living In the City' was a beautiful ballad with a nice Duck bass line and some great harmony vocals from the rest of the band. It's also interesting to hear the song in view of Quaye's early 1980s Christian rebirth. rating: **** stars
- Kicked along by some great jangle rock guitar, another stellar Duck bass line, and a tasty country-rock melody, 'If I Had the Words' was one of the standout performances.
- Penned by Duck, 'Gunner Ebb's Changes' was interesting in that it sounded like something off of a Band LP. Duck's voice bore more than a passing resemblance to Levon Helm and the song's Americana aura was easily mistaken for The Band. I've actually played the song for friends who've mistaken it for a Band track. Nice !!! rating: **** stars
- 'The Painter' found the band taking a stab at a more progressive attack, but it was progressive in a Supertramp fashion, rather than something more bombastic and preteneous like ELP. By the way, that was meant as a compliment since the track had a great melody that climbed in your head and wouldn't leave. My pick for standout performance on side one. rating: **** stars
- The side two opener 'Flying In the U.S.A.' was a perfect example of the album's charms. On the surface this one didn't seem to have a great deal going for it. The melody was okay, but nothing particularly original, as was the case with the 'touring-is-tough' lyric. That said, their performance made the song quite enjoyable and Quaye turned in a nice solo - anyone know what the effect he used to get the cool phased sound? rating: *** stars
- One of three group compositions, 'Is Anyone There ' found the band revisiting their Band fixation. Complete with illusions to the American civil war this one really sounded like it had been pulled from The band's songbook. rating: *** stars
- The first real disappointment, apparently meant to showcase the band's blues roots, 'Slick's Blues for Jumbo' was a conventional blues instrumental. The focus was on Duck's harmonica, but the end result was just kind of dull. rating: ** stars
- Again, kind of ironic giving Quaye's subsequent religious rebirth, 'Look To Your Churches' was an interesting mid-tempo rocker with some lyrics that were quite cutting with respect to organized religion. rating: **** stars
- The album ended with the collection's most conventional rocker 'Good Times a' Comin''. The song sported a nice melody and some great group harmonies, but the highlight on this one came in the form of the extended Duck-Quaye dueling lead guitars. rating: **** stars .........

Beginning as the backing band in the studio for Elton John, up through and including Tumbleweed Connection, they ventured out on their own and created at least two amazing studio albums out of the four released (and a later live recording), those being the self-titled first and the above, my favourite of the four. Led by Caleb Quaye, a superb multi-instrumentalist (guitar, keys, bass and lead vocals) and Ian Duck (guitars, harp and lead vocals) with Dave Glover on bass and Roger Pope on drums, the quartet all contributed to the compositions, though Quaye and Duck are the main writers for this recording. Caleb Quaye’s guitar work, a lot of it through Leslie (remember those days?), is absolutely wonderful. Fluid, edgy, speed-riffed and then subtle, he dominates the solos and floats between many styles. And here is the cool thing about Hookfoot – they borrowed from a number of different artists of their era and blended great songs with memorable hooks and on top of those blended vocal harmonies. I hear early Neil Young, Grin, Eagles (the rockier side as opposed to country), definitely Home, early Elton John (no surprise there) and even some Wishbone Ash (their shorter songs). With interesting lyrics, you are immediately drawn into the song structures and then blown away by the musicianship. So Hookfoot sounds comfortably familiar, even if you haven’t heard them before. And yet, once you are immersed in this album, you realize that though they have adopted styles well, their songs are unique and just as enjoyable as any of the above-named artists.

The album opens with “Sweet Sweet Funky Music”, a fast rocker that gets your toes tapping. It is fun and gets your attention, and is very typical of the day with the Hookfoot flavour. After that, the next nine songs all play out with originality and with great storytelling. “Living in the City”, “If I Had the Words”, “Gunner Webb’s Changes” and “The Painter”, comprising the rest of original side one, move from ballads, rock, and electrified folk with solos from Quaye that will make you drool. Duck and Quaye harmonize beautifully together, and their voices have a Crosby/Nash way that adds extra layers to the material. More of the same follows the next five tracks , which includes a little blues number, “Slick’s Blues for Jumbo” that features Quaye on acoustic guitar and Duck on harp. And it is followed by my personal favourite track, “Look to Your Churches”, a commentary on the state of the poor compared to the wealth within religious organizations. As I mentioned, a lot of meaty lyrics ride along beneath great melodies.
As a bonus track, the band covers “Gimme Shelter”. Now, I personally feel this is one of the greatest rock songs ever made, and it would be hard to even come close in my view to Merry Clayton and the Stones’ rendition. However, the boys give it a noble try, turning it into a straight-ahead rocker that is at least acceptable to these ears.

As far as I know, this album and the other three Hookfoot studio recordings are only available now as card cover replicas in Japan (the first album came out in France a few years back, but I am not sure if it is deleted). The gatefold replica, including the original LP grainy texture, is perfectly done. The CD mastering engineer, Yoshiro Kuzumaki, has done an excellent job of remastering. There is absolutely no hiss, the sound is even, the bass is punchy when called for, and the stereo separation is as it should be. I am not in the camp of “all remaster card covers from Japan are superior”; in fact, I would say it has been hit and miss for me over the years. But in this case, I think this reissue works and I can recommend it. Besides, if you have been waiting for as long as I have for this release, you really have to take it when you can get it. I generally use CD Japan (direct link to album), an excellent mail order house with a site in English that offers different shipping options and bonus Yen points that help with the higher costs. Explore their site for all kinds of reissues and SACD discs often not available anywhere else.......

Bass Guitar – David Glover
Coordinator – Steve Brown
Drums, Cowbell, Congas – Roger Pope
Bass – Caleb Quaye
Rhythm Guitar, Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Harmonica – Ian Duck

A1 Sweet Sweet Funky Music 3:15
A2 Living In The City 5:55
A3 If I Had The Words 3:28
A4 Gunner Webb's Changes 3:15
A5 The Painter 6:08
B1 Flying In The U.S.A. 4:20
B2 Is Anyone There 4:13
B3 Slick's Blues For Jumbo 1:47
B4 Look To Your Churches 2:45
B5 Good Times A' Comin' 6:19 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..