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5 Aug 2017

Head East “Flat As A Pancake” 1975 US rare Private Rock debut album

Head East “Flat As A Pancake” 1975 US rare Private Rock debut album
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People from Southern Illinois trying to play southern rock—like Lynyrd Skynyrd meets AC/DC. The kind of thing that’s been reincarnated by the likes of the Drive-By Truckers and Blitzen Trapper.

Head East hails from South Central Illinois and played its first show in Carbondale. St. Louis, however, is often cited as their hometown (there’s a shout out to their “St. Louis Road Crew” on the liner notes to this record). Head East recorded and released Flat As A Pancake itself (on its own label, called Pyramid) while attending the University of Illinois-Champaign in 1974.

The record did well enough to earn them a contract with A&M Records, which re-released it in 1975. It ended up going gold, with the singles “Never Been Any Reason” and “Love Me Tonight” both charting in the Billboard top 100.

It was all downhill from there. Head East released nine more albums, none as successful as the first. Its self-titled album from 1978 and live album from 1979 were the last gasps at notoriety, peaking at 78 and 96 on the Billboard pop album charts.

In 1979 lead singer and founding member John Schlitt was booted for the band for drug and alcohol dependency (he was later born again and fronted the contemporary Christian group Petra). Head East went through a number of line up changes, continuing to release records all the way up to 1988’s Choice of Weapons.

Head East still performs today, but only keyboardist Roger Boyd remains from the original line-up..

Head East is one of those mid-Western bands that had plenty of talent and actually became extremely popular throughout the center of the country, but for all their touring and hard work, simply couldn't get arrested on the east or west coasts. Shame, since they were as talented as some of their competitors who managed to become '70s megastars. 

The band initially came together in 1969, featuring the talents of bassist Larry Boyd, keyboardist Roger Boyd, drummer Steve Hutson, guitarist Danny Piper, and singer John Schlitt . The Boyd brothers and Schlitt had been students at the University of Illinois, while Hutson was going to nearby Easter Illinois University and Piper was out of school. Originally known as The TimeAtions, they quickly accepted a roadie's suggestion to go with Head East. Over the next five years the band became a fixture on the mid-Western club and touring scene, playing hundreds of dates. By the time they recorded their debut album the band had coalesced around a line up featuring bassist Dan Birney, keyboardist Roger Boyd, drummer Hutson, singer Schlitt, and lead guitarist Larry Sommerville. 

Unable to interest a major label in signing them, the band pooled their resources to record and release an album on their own Pyramid label. Released in early 1975, the Roger Boyd produced "Flat As a Pancake" saw 5,000 copies (and an additional 800 8-tracks) pressed with the intent of selling them at the group's live shows. With such limited distribution the group wasn't exactly poised for a massive commercial breakthrough, however mid-western radio stations began to play the song 'Never Been Any Reason' which brought A&M Records to their door. Signed by the label, the album was quickly repacked with new artwork and a revamped running order (for some odd reason A&M marketing elected to flip the sides), before being re-released on a national basis. 

With Hutson, Schlitt, and Sommerville all contributing to the writing chores, creatively the album wasn't exactly ground-breaking. Anyone looking for Pulitzer Prize winning lyrics wasn't going to find them buried in the midst of tunes like 'Love Me Tonight' or 'Flight By Night Lady' That said, these guys were quite talented with the band showing an ability to easily straddle the line between mindless bar band boogie ('Lovin' Me Along') and a more polished commercial pop sound ('Never Been Any Reason'). Having a talented singer in Schlitt (who occasionally sounded a bit like Geddy Lee), an under-recognized guitarist in Sommerville, and a tight rhythm section in Birney and Hutson certainly didn't hurt the band. Personally I've always felt keyboardist Boyd was the band's secret weapon. His cheesy synthesizer fills always brought a smile to my face. Released as a single, 'Never Been Any Reason' is the tune most folks know, but there were actually a couple of tunes that were just as strong - 'Fly By Night Lady' tapped into the same commercial vein, while 'Love Me Tonight' was an even more commercially successful single.

Rock and roll. Nice and solid. Great opening act music. Great for driving on two lane roads in the Midwest or the Central Valley of CA, or anywhere there’s wide open agricultural spaces. Heading north on SR41 from Kettleman City to Stratford, or heading east (!) on Avenue 144 From Blanco to Plano, it’s nice driving music. 

But ... not driving through ranchland, tho. Not ranchland, Monument Valley, desert, or Route 66 east of the Rockies. Or the Rockies. Or urban areas. Or the Northeast Corridor. Or the Capital Beltway. Not even Canada, or Mexico or England or Austrailia. And France ... completely out of the question. Serge Gainsbourg or April March for France, not Head East. 

This is drive-alongside-the-fields-of-corn-or-alfalfa music. The Marshall Tucker Band meets Styx. 

Interesting what keyboards can do, and the variety of keyboards makes this album straddle the Hammond organ-supported 60s-era rock and the 80s synth-driven new wave, although its soul is strictly 70s looking back to the 60s. The Moog drives the hit “Never Been Any Reason” and shows up again for a bridge toward the end of “Lovin’ Me Along” after 80% of the song was supported by the organ; the change catches the ear, but not necessarily in a “Hey, I belong in this song!” kind of way. 

Aside from simple lyrics, there’s nothing objectionable about this album. While some albums are lyric-driven (think singer-songwriter bands), this is more music-driven in a way that the melody and rhythm tell the story more so than the lyrics. “Ticket Back to Georgia” is a nice ballad, and I don’t like ballads. 

(They do try a story-song [good vs. evil] with “Brother Jacob,” but despite the nice harmonies The Marshall Tucker Band would’ve given “Brother Jacob” the drama and soul and immediacy a song with the devil inside requires.) 

Like REO Speedwagon, Midwestern rockers Head East commanded a solid following in the heartland (aka the flat land) of America, during the turbulent '70s. Although the group never managed to break-out beyond fly-over country in a major way, Head East delivered straight-on rock 'n' roll from the off with their debut album Flat as a Pancake. The tasty platter features two stacked cuts, "Never Been Any Reason" and the life-on-the-road "Love Me Tonight", that garnered a degree of chart success, and ample radio airplay for the Illinois based group. 

The other notable tracks from this 1975 A&M Records release include the hot summer night romp of "Jefftown Creek", which opens with Jon Lord inspired keyboard work from Roger Boyd, plus "One Against the Other", the infectious "City of Gold" and the red-light flashin' "Fly By Night Lady". The transition from "City of Gold" into the spirited "Fly By Night Lady" is well conceived. Vocalist John Schlitt stands out on the tightly-wound "Fly By Night Lady". The group get mellow on the laid back "Ticket Back to Georgia", while album closer "Brother Jacob" is merely three-minutes of filler. 

The solid set of songs from Flat as a Pancake provided the foundation for the groups support slot for major acts on the arena rockin' tour scene into the late ...

Head East recorded their first album, Flat As A Pancake, in 1974 at Golden Voice Recording Studio in South Pekin, Illinois. Released on their own record label, (Pyramid Records), all 5,000 records and 500 eight-tracks produced were sold. Several midwest album rock radio stations, chief among them K-SHE 95, St. Louis and KY-102 in Kansas City and others, began airing songs from the album as well. With those sales, and the song "Never Been Any Reason" on radio, A&M was impressed enough to sign the band and re-release [without re-recording] the album in 1975. A&M also flip-flopped Side 2 on the Pyramid version to Side 1 and vise versa.

Flat as a Pancake was the first album that Head East recorded. Originally released on their own record label “Pyramid Records” label around 1974 or 75. Soon after Never Been Any Reason started to get radio play A & M Records signed them and then re-released it in 1975. 

Although Head East is still putting out records and touring today (mostly the Midwest) they never had a hit song again unless you would like to count their 1978 remake of the Russ Ballard song Since You Been Gone. But lets face it when a guitarist like Ritchie Blackmore has a top ten hit with it in 1979, Head East’s version that only reached number 46 on the charts doesn’t have a chance. 

Original keyboard player and the only remaining original member Roger Boyd’s double tracked Minimoog and drummer Steve Huston playing are the highlights for me. Steve’s drumming never does overpower the song but is still strong enough to keep the song going. Then you have the well timed double tracked Minimoog by Boyd pieced in at certain points that made people really dig the tune back then. Add in the great guitar work of Mike Somerville, the bass playing of Dan Birney and alternating vocals of Huston and John Schlitt and you got a big hit. The multi-part vocal harmonies sung by all the members didn’t hurt the song much either. 
Never Been Any Reason is one of those songs that just picks you up whenever you hear it..

Head East 
Roger Boyd - Piano, organ, moog, mellotron, vocals 
John Schlitt - Lead vocals 
Steve Huston - Drums, percussion, vocals 
Mike Somerville - Guitar, vocals 
Dan Birney - Bass guitar, vocals

1. Never Been Any Reason 05:11 
2. One Against the Other 03:47 
3. Love Me Tonight 04:27 
4. City of Gold 03:41 
5. Fly by Night Lady 02:47 
6. Jefftown Creek 06:41 
7. Lovin' Me Along 05:27 
8. Ticket Back to Georgia 04:05 
9. Brother Jacob 03:10 
Total playing time 39:16 

1974 Flat as a Pancake 
1976 Get Yourself Up 
1977 Gettin’ Lucky 
1978 Head East 
1979 Head East Live! 
1980 U.S. #1 
1982 Onward & Upward 
1988 Choice of Weapons 
1999 Concert Classics 
2000 Live on Stage 
2008 Head East Live 2008

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..







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