Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It's Time For BREAKFAST So Come On People Lick The RUSTIX Spoon!

Two new discoveries for me. And you can find these albums for not a whole lot of money and if you give them the chance they deserve to have you'll be rewarded a lot more than with many $$$ albums. In fact, it is the really good obscure stuff and deals you can grab at a good price that stay permanently in my collection along with some big ticket ones, but the shelf life of really expensive albums is a bit too short in my musical world of trading and listening. I no longer have Spermull, Rag I Ryggen, or Silberbart and that's just a few to be mentioned in the traded list. This is not to say I am downsizing or downgrading my collection by any means, just that sometimes I let go of things that have a high value on the collector's circuit for other collectable and often just fun obscure greatness.
Breakfast, like the first meal of the day, are up first and are kind of a unique band that I got for Xmas and was dying to have. I had seen them described as a rural early Kayak which is an odd cross by any means and to be honest I hear more of a pronounced soul influence, lots of California rock vibes, and NO KAYAK IN HERE AT ALL. It took me a few spins with this one. Their one album It's Time For Breakfast was released by this German sextet in 1976 on the Sky label- which is a hit and miss progressive label from the mid to late 70s primarily. Breakfast are not at all progressive unless I were to use that word very loosely as I do for Ecology by French Canadian band 25th Regiment or some other bands who have clever song structures, but no long tracks or drawn out solos. Breakfast have a tight, crisp, and melodic sound that emphasizes the guitar over keyboards and meaningful lyrics that often are also very upbeat or with a message as in "Starlight" which tells of a musician's rise to glory and fall back down to the dregs after a bout with arrogant nose-thumbing to all his friends who got him to the top. The sound here is extremely pastoral and cheerful with a very American LA rock sound that you wouldn't be surprised to hear from Player, Couchois, or the Eagles even, but much better than the Eagles. Closer to the Aussie/American soulful rock mix of Player and Scotsmen Blue than Eagles or Firefall this album is very warm and charming and you find yourself wanting to hear these melodic songs such as "Needing You" or "Let Me Love You" again once you get the taste for how unprogressive and completely wholly polar opposite Heavy Teutonic rock these guys are. I know nothing of this band, but I don't think they resurfaced in any other outfits and this album is a definite one off. Most German bands were one offs in the 70s. If they made more than one album it wasn't surprising for there to be a drop off in quality after the first, second, or third records (See Eloy and Epitaph). That said, I always wish a group like this could have been given a chance at making another record just to hear what direction they would have taken their music in.
Breakfast are essential if you're a fan of Westcoast styled melodic fuzzy guitars of which there is a huge amount circling around the song structures and adding some spice to the tight airy harmonies. The lead voice is strong, confident, and yet very laid back and friendly sounding. They occasionally remind me of a way, way improved Panta Rei from Sweden if that band didn't have poor vocals and only 5 drawn out tracks on their album. There are 10 tracks on It's Time For Breakfast and only the bluegrass come folkrock pop bubblegum of the closing track "Tramp" is a filler. That leaves us with 9 excellent tunes full of strong melodies and brilliant guitar work. There are some abrupt shifts in tempo and key, but aside from that the word "Progressive" doesn't quite work here. It's funny to hear something this upbeat and commercial coming out of Germany at a time when that country had become immersed in music that was arch its own unique influences and straying away from earlier flirtations with British and American overtones. Some German groups still sounded like they were taking England as a serious influence, but apart from Lake Breakfast are the most American sounding German band I've ever heard. That isn't a bad thing at all on this album as their influences sound like prime era sunny Coast rock and there never was anything wrong with that. Cheerful melodies and soulful overtones sit happily side by side with catchy Club band grooves to create an AOR leaning album of great melodies and excellent songs. A rare, but usually cheap record well worth tracking down.
  I've often wondered what The Koobas would have sounded like had they been from the States. It's an odd thought to have as The Koobas are among the very most British of British heavy/melodic psych and despite lots of Koobas echoes in other bands I can't really think of any other band who nailed the kind of subtle funkiness, earthy hard rock, and high humoured psychedelia quite as well as these Liverpool heroes. The Koobas were a band who drew on soul, psychedelic, beat, pop, and hard rock influences to create the ultimate British psych masterpiece- an album outclassed by none. Every time I'd search for some homegrown American equivalent I would come up with a band who lacked at least one of the Koobas key components. Is it that our only humour is Zappa? I don't know myself. Well, Rustix on their second album Come On People answered that question. This album is a minor heavy/beat/soul/funky psych/rock masterpiece and buy it right away no matter whether you like any or all of the influences I've just mentioned.  The humorous element is here alright, but not overt. In the track "Hey Mose" against Koobas alike hard edged fuzz guitars there is a lot of humour about people who are grouchy and take everything way too seriously which the band say they call "Mose." I don't know where that comes from, but it doesn't make a difference as these guys can do everything you need to do to make a great album all very well. The music is loud, passionate, melodic, catchy, thoughtful, cooking at a high temperature, and really gets into some killer grooves while avoiding dreaded white funk. For instance, the funk comes out a few times, but not in that stupid P Funk way, more in the way of the Koobas if they'd been less ill-advised with their version of "Piece Of My Heart." Rustix do it brilliant style on two long rearranged soul standards- "Do Right Woman Do Right Man" and "Hard To Handle." These are the only covers here, but Rustix are clever enough lads to really take them somewhere else and that's a damned hard thing to accomplish when you're competing with two of the greatest standards in any kind of music. "Do Right Woman" was made famous by Aretha Franklin when she twisted the standard around, but here the twisting around is to avoid doing this song like its a soul standard and instead making it into a slow burning sexy swaggering persuasive psych slow cooker. It's great. The vocals throughout the album are strong, solid, controlled, and very appealing with excellent lead and harmony work. The rhythm section have real firepower as demonstrated by an all round superb production job and when it comes to writing songs that span that Koobas melodic psych/hard rock/prog/pop/funky rock kind of eclecticism gone to an American band with Mod Soul overtones this is one of the best releases of the burgeoning underground scene of the early 70s. "Hard To Handle" is a song I cringe at covers of. It was bad done by The Black Crows as a hit and my motto is usually if it ain't Otis Redding don't even try to fuck with doing it. Poor Otis never would have had so many miserable cover versions if he had lived. He wouldn't have stood for it. Here Rustix excel again. A Latin percussion driven cool groove sets the pace for a high humoured and fun take on the song with no white soul posturings. It's instead just a good get down and with it grooving heavy easy solid sound. This version is driven by congas, timbales, strong yet not overconfident vocals, and more fine fuzz guitar. So with two excellent covers comes the question of the original material and I say it's no question at all. Every song on here is great. The originals show an eclectic intelligence, sense of fun, and excellence rarely heard on American records that straddle the line between late 60s commercial and early 70s harder psych rock. There's plenty of grit and driving wild fuzz guitar in a disciplined manner and also a lot of variety. Each track tries something different. If you give this album a chance it will likely for you become a fave if you have the same openness towards new things that I have. It's got a bit of that magic "Royston Rose" Koobas vibe and you can't beat that. Find it and give it a few spins to treasure another great one on the Rare Earth label which gave us some excellent music in the 1970-1972 era. 'Nuff Said.

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