|Colin Catt||Keyboards, Vocals|
|Mick Fletcher||Flute, Harp, Saxophone, Vocals|
|Raw Material||Arranger, Primary Artist|
|Paul “Mighty Paul” Young||Percussion|
Highly obscure and criminally underrated, British outfit Raw Material may not have exactly set the world alight with the two albums they released at the beginning of the 1970s, yet both do fully deserve their place in the gilded pantheon of ‘lost classics’. A self-titled effort, the first Raw Material release (barely) saw the light of day in 1970, pretty early in progressive rock’s development, but thanks to a chicken-livered label and complete-and- utter apathy from the days music press this was an album cruelly doomed to fail right from the start. However, whilst ‘Raw Material’ may have sunk without trace when first released, the same cannot be said for the album’s 21st century CD reissue, which has happily re-ignited interest in the forgotten group(so much so that the Relics imprint have re-released the album on limited-edition vinyl!). And boy do they deserve it. Blending elements of psychedelia, organ-baked blues, jazz-tinged rock, folksy meanderings and lysergic- dipped pop, ‘Raw Material’ is indeed a fascinating set, featuring an eclectic brew of styles that somehow manage to hang convincingly together. The album also has a strange, atmospheric tone that lends a seriously cosmic ambience to proceedings, especially on the mystic opener ‘Time & Illusion’ which brings to mind both ‘Meddle’-era Pink Floyd and King Crimson during their more aggressive moments. Add the pacey, blues- inflected raunch of ‘Fighting Cock’, the sparse, dreamy acid-pop of ‘Future Recollections’ and ‘Traveller Man’s flute-doused fusion and you have a genuinely exciting album that constantly surprises with it’s stylistic invention and gutsy playing. Nowadays, of course, original vinyl copies fetch a small fortune on the collector’s circuit, and for once the reputation of the record is matched by the music it contains. They may have been summarily ignored in their own time, but life has a funny way of turning the tables on almost everyone and everything, and thankfully the raw deal dealt to ‘Raw Material ’ has finally come full circle. An excellent slice of jazzy, cosmic prog, this comes very highly recommended indeed…
Arriving a tad late to the party…
I´ve read a fair amount of Van Der Graaf Generator references regarding this band, and if I´m perfectly honest – I don´t hear anything other than both bands feature a saxophone player and maybe the odd falsetto vocals. Kindly sponsored by Colin Catt, these vary from mellow and sweet singing – to the more distressed and theatrical falsettos that he veers into, when the music gets stomping and rocking. Still a long way from Peter Hammill though… If anything Raw Material proved that you could play rock without having the focus strictly placed on the guitars, just as VDGG did, but saying the two sound alike is like saying that bananas and strawberries look the same. You know with the yellow peel and all…
Consisting of 5 blokes with a leg and a half stuck in the late 60s, this debut revolves largely around blues rock a la The Yardbirds with alternating tempers and moods, disguising the distinctive heritage of what some folks here 4 decades later on have decided to nail down as proto-prog. Ok I´ll bite. The guitars in play here have that clean and bluesy sound, which I really love, and are often used as an additional rhythm instrument. Along with the rhythm section, that sounds like something out of the US psychedelic West Coast scene, the feel of Raw Material is much more of a 60s band trying to convert their sound to the wild and adventurous new decade. That doesn´t mean this album isn´t good though, because it is, but if you´re looking to find the next Van Damme Generator, then you´re setting yourself up for disappointment – big time (I know I did…).
My favourite thing about this release is the way the organs sound. Especially when they are accompanied by some dreamy vibraphone work. You´ll pick this up on the opening cut as well as on Future Recollections, which incidentally also are my top picks. Both tracks ravel in a hazy sort of mystique, that only magnifies itself with these sweet lullaby dreamings cooked up by the interplay of these 2 instruments. If the band had pursued this fantastic spacey asset of theirs, and stuck with a more mellow approach, I honestly think they would have broken through the magical barrier that separates the Crimsons and Floyds from the Springs and Happy the Men. Raw Material are at their very best, when they work within the moody atmospheric, and what these conjure up are slow, meditative and pensive psych sections that just takes me away. Pitted against the rockabilly tendencies of the album, i.e. Pear on an Apple Tree – with screaming stuttering rock n´ roll piano and Chuck Berry like guitars – I certainly know which side of Dr. Jekyll I prefer…
The flute and sax playing on this album is wonderfully cheerful, and whilst being several nautical miles from the great Jackson both in terms of progressive gasoline and overall dexterity, I genuinely like these small windy touches – that brings with them that warm and humane feel to the mix. They are always melodic and not far away from the Sunday sermons you´ll get from the neighbour´s house held parakeet. Phh – phhheiw – phheewwiii!!!
If you like the sound of the late 60s – a big boots n´ reefer rockabilly boy rooster teaming up with windows to dreamy horizons of delicate and soft psych cockadoodledoos, then you could do worse than tracking this small gem down. It isn´t fancy, but it´s like your old worn jeans: Comfy, – ready for all occasions and maybe hiding a tiny bag of wizard´s tobacco….
by Guldbamsen ….
British band Raw Material recorded two albums over the course of as many years between 1970-71, and on their self-titled debut from 1970, they offered an exciting mix of late Sixties/early Seventies adventurous rock with traces of psych, blues, folk and jazz elements, with lengthy instrumental jamming passages woven around strong melodic tunes. They were somewhat comparable to other bands of the time such as Beggars Opera, Rare Bird and perhaps the early albums of Birth Control in just a few fleeting moments, and while not as intricate or demanding, the use of sax and flute gave the group a surface similarity to Van der Graaf Generator without the depth or complexity, although that element would manifest more on the follow-up disc a year after this, `Time Is…’
Opener `Time and Illusion’ is the longest and most ambitious piece at over seven minutes. After a brief vocal introduction and supposed chorus, the band launches into a grooving extended instrumental run of punchy sounding drumming, piercing Hammond organ and glistening piano with murky bass, and the way the piece slyly picks up in tempo with a brief taste of sax in the final minute is very tasty indeed. There’s a cool Rolling Stones-like Jagger swagger to Colin Catt’s snarling lead vocal on `I’d Be Delighted’, a tough bluesy strut with cool pumping slinking bass and a raucous rowdy group chorus with dirty flute trills and sax blasts, and `Fighting Cock’ begins as a mournful early King Crimson-style lament before erupting into a Skin Alley/Rare Bird-like boisterous and frantic piano/sax blast to close the first side.
`Pear on an Apple Tree’ opens the second side with an amped-up foot-tapping bluesy rock n’ roller with energetic guitar and piano runs, and the dreamy shimmering electric piano tiptoes and warm drifting group vocals of `Future Recollections’ call to mind the Moody Blues. `Traveller Man’ is a relentless chugging rocker powered by driving dusty harmonica and wild buzzing acid-rock guitar wailing sounding not unlike swampy German psych/kraut band Krokodil as it spirals off into the heavens, and closer `Destruction of America’ is mostly a spoken-word passage with Mellotron landscapes rising around it.
Although hardly essential, Raw Material’s debut is a charming and undemanding rock listen that quickly reveals consistently strong instrumental and compositional skills on repeated plays (and the terrific cover art is just the added gravy!), and it’s an underappreciated album well deserving of a bit more attention. The second album has more ambitious progressive rock elements emerging and is probably the stronger of their two works, but if you like any of the bands mentioned above and are a sucker for the proto-prog sounds of the late Sixties and early Seventies, there’s a good chance you’ll greatly enjoy what Raw Material are doing here……
by Aussie-Byrd-Brother …..
RAW MATERIAL were a band out of England who released two studio albums. This is the debut from 1970 and the followup is called “Time Is…” from 1971. The second album is much better than the debut in my opinion, not only more consistent but just better songs overall. They were a five piece band and besides the usual instruments we also get flute, sax and harmonica. This is a short one clocking in around 32 minutes.
“Time And Illusion” is my favourite off this album and one that reminds me of “Time Is…”. I was a little excited the first time I heard this song because I thought this was an indication of how good the rest of the album was going to be. Nope! Anyway strummed guitar and reserved vocals to start and it’s quite sparse sounding until it kicks in just before a minute with bass, drums and organ joining the party. Contrasts continue. We get an organ solo and what sounds like vibes which sound to upfront in the mix when they arrive around 3 minutes. By the way the organ solo I mentioned goes from after 2 minutes to the end so a 5 1/2 minute solo.
“I’d Be Delighted” is my least favourite track. Just too commercial sounding even if I like he rhythm section. Some flute comes in over top but man the chorus is bad. Sax before 3 1/2 minutes. Nope I don’t like this one. “Fighting Cock” opens with guitar and bass as reserved vocals arrive. It kicks into an uptempo rocker with passionate vocals before 2 minutes. Vocals stop as a sax solo arrives before 2 1/2 minutes. The vocals are back a minute later.
“Pear On An Apple Tree” was a contender for the worst song but it got the consolation prize instead. Another commercial sounding track with the focus on the vocals and guitar. I’m just not into this one at all. “Future Recollections” opens with drums and bass as intricate guitar joins in then vocals. This is relaxed but the drums are active. A laid back number with mellow vocals and a 60’s vibe.
“Traveller Man” is really the only other song besides the opener that I really like. This one sounds so much like JETHRO TULL, especially the vocals. Some nice guitar after 2 minutes as the vocals step aside for the rest of the song. The guitar goes on and on then we get harmonica taking over before 4 1/2 minutes as the guitar steps aside. It’s back! “Destruction Of America” is a poem of spoken words that really is pretty good if you like this sort of thing. Seems like a prayer for the USA.
Most fans point to the second album as the one to get and I’d agree. While these may be obscure releases both have had many re-issues over the years so it’s all about the timing I suppose……
by Mellotron Storm …..
This was one of those rare discoveries that make your day. What a sleeper of an obscure gem this album is.l f there is one thing l love it’s finding an exemplary 60’s era recording of different sounding music that is played well. There is a little bit of fidelity lacking in this re- issue but that is a moot point in relation to the music itself. The flute seems to be the dominant feature and the arrangements are quite impressive ,each song having it’s own individual and unique flair. A very creative and well- played album from an era that undeniably produced many but the suprising thing is having never heard such a well- crafted album as this before. It may not be for 60’s collectors who can only abide with heavy rocking music like PG&E but this disc certainly has it’s merits for being exceptional in it’s own right…..
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