Wednesday, 2 February 2011

If - If [1970]

Only If

In following these routes and prompts and aural desires I did say I would visit and write about If as the English counterpart to the Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears jazz-influenced rock of the late 60s/early 70s.

The riveted motif of the cover is a securing to the wall of If's important presence as well as future covers featuring their moniker's lexical simplicity. I pulled my vinyl copy only to be annoyed at just how worn and faded the silver cover had become though this reflects positively on its initial playing days which were often and very loud.

The jazz on this album is, however, more than an 'influence' - it is the heart. J.W. Hodkinson's vocals have that gruff fullness of the greats in this genre [David Clayton-Thomas; Chris Farlowe; Larry Millas] and the rock sensibilities are carried by this, but the sax-driven arrangements and solos of both Dick Morrisey and Dave Quincy remind the listener of the jazzier roots.

The opener 'I'm Reaching Out On All Sides' begins with solo guitar leading into the song's simple descending melodic line that is picked up by a beautiful tenor and alto combination. This is repeated after a longish but subdued guitar solo, cascading down with accompanying vocal. And that's the problem with written description - trying to represent the song in narrative. But the idea is to encourage anyone listening to this to have a listen to that. The opening track is followed by an instrumental with Andersonesque flute solo, and the album's credentials are established and sustained. I like the penultimate track 'Dockland' which sounds the most like a Chicago number, and the album finishes strongly with 'The Promised Land', again driven by a powerful vocal, Terry Smith's wow-wow guitar, that rhythmic saxophone core and John Mealing's resonating organ.

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