Two of the longest favourite records of mine would hands down have to be Honeybus's masterful STORY and Fable's one album from 1973 on the Magnet label also from England. Both define British melodic psych/melodic rock and certainly both were bands who deserved much better than what they got.
-Honeybus Share Their Story-
Honeybus can trace their beginnings right back to the very beginning of British rock in early 1960s, but Honeybus proper were formed by ex Yum Yum Band/Sunlighters genius Pete Dello as a songwriting outlet originally in 1967. Dello had been around since the start of the 60s playing hard driving no nonsense rock and roll, but he felt it was time for a different approach to music and was tired of touring. He had suffered a collapsed lung during a previous tour and did not look forward to doing much live work ever again. He formed the band with Ray Cane (Vocals/guitar), Colin Hare (Vocals/Bass/Guitar), and Pete Kircher (Drums/vocals) and all 4 were seasoned talented musicians when they put the band together. They are best known for the much loved ill-fated yet oftentimes covered pop brilliance of "Do I Still Figure In Your Life" and the equally brilliant one smash hit they had "I Can't Let Maggie Go." Their start in 1967 on Deram records was the exciting, fresh, and invigorating single "Delighted To See You" with the other side devoted to a loud atypical hard freakbeat rocker "The Breaking Up Scene." It was a good beginning, but the banners of everything at the BBC banned the single for the harmless line "Delighted To See You My Little Child/My Little One!" As singles followed and flopped Pete Dello was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the public's lack of appreciation. Miraculously, it was the huge success of "I Can't Let Maggie Go" which caused the split. The last thing Dello wanted was to be a pop star. He was only in this strictly for his songwriting craftsmanship and when tours and TV became a reality he pulled out in 1968 just as they were on the cusp of making it. To replace him in most bands would have been impossible, but this is where Honeybus are different from a lot of other bands. They had not just Dello, but Ray Cane could be a brilliant writer and so could Colin Hare. Both also had stunningly beautiful voices and with Scottish guitarist/vocalist Jim Kelly filling the vacant slot they had just enough time in their career in 1969/1970 to cut the early 1970 release STORY for Deram- the label they had begun with. As crazy as it may sound they managed to top their work with Pete Dello or at least to completely equal it!
The album cover showed the band in their "Den" or "Pad" or "Living Space" whichever you prefer and the back featured a nice black and white picture of a book opening with the song titles and curiously the front and back covers only showed 3 band members. The music inside the cover which Deram did not do a thing to promote is beautiful tough melodic pop psych of the best Badfinger/Beatles/Honeybus and only Honeybus tradition. They were influenced by The Beatles and baroque pop very much, but harder rock and country rock influences were brought in together with finely honed power pop from Ray Cane's luxurious pen. Cane wrote nearly the entire album and proved himself to be a very talented multi-instrumentalist. He also took lead vocals on almost the whole record with some brilliant songs/lead vocals from Colin Hare who wrote the country tinged songs and Jim Kelly who had a great voice. Honeybus for me define British melodic rock of the very early 70s era and they have no one who can surpass them. It's easy to explain just why this big grower of a record is so appealing to listen to- it makes you feel satisfied and good. It makes you happy when you are miserable and you can just sit back and relax and let the music do the rest for you. At first listening back in what I refer to as "The Summer Of Bad Timing" in 1995 I hated it. I had been screwed with a bad copy graded "M-" and I just didn't understand it at all. For some reason, though, unlike with Arcadium or Dog That Bit People two masterpieces only awarded one play back then I gave Honeybus quite a few listens and wound up loving it. Since then my take on Honeybus has been to salute them with the highest ranking there can be. Other bands recorded just as satisfying albums like Octopus or The Parlour Band or Byzantium for instance, but all of these bands miraculously would meet the same fate- record-buying public apathy and record label skullduggery. While Octopus of Restless Night fame would have been glad to continue had things worked better for them and The Parlour Band would continue with a name change/completely different take STORY is what I call 'The Koobas/Oddesey And Oracle Scenario-" they were throwing the towel in and this was to be how they wanted us to remember them. It was all coming to an end for the band at this point as singles wouldn't chart and they were becoming just as disillusioned as Pete Dello had been right when they could have made it. Although Colin Hare would record a wonderful but way overpriced solo album MARCH HARE (On Penny Farthing) and they'd get back together with Pete Dello for some singles and a tragically shelved second album for Warner Bros. RECITAL Honeybus would never achieve success again together or apart. It must have hurt them terribly to record such beautiful and rewarding music and see nothing come of it and Pete Dello on his again wonderful again very overpriced solo album INTO YOUR EARS wrote a song full of cynicism for the British music industry "A Good Song."
Where to begin with the songs? STORY begins with "Story-" a song which defines Honeybus's music. Ray Cane's gentle lilting voice, the strong harmonies in the chorus, and a rich tapestry created by lush string arrangements and a simple evocative piano riff are mainstays throughout the album. The lyrics are well written pop and the song is a pop masterpiece- absolutely perfect. "Black Mourning Band," Colin Hare's "Scarlet Lady," and "Fresher Than The Sweetness In Water" are more upbeat songs that are still wistfully reflective- a bit like a cross between Badfinger and The Kinks. Honeybus shared the melodic genius of both these bands, but while Badfinger or The Beatles are the obvious listener's take as a springboard The Kinks and particularly the songwriting genius are every bit as relevant as a comparison. The heaviest the album gets is Side Two's rollicking first track "Under The Silent Tree" with its driving guitars, strong vocals from Kelly, and Pete Kircher's precise right on time drumming. The softest tracks are the blissful Colin Hare songs "I Remember Caroline," "She's Out There" (sort of a melodic driving rock meets reflective soft rock) and Ray Cane's beautiful "He Was Columbus" all of which add to the variety and melodic power of this album. "How Long" is another song that jumps to mind with some of the best harmonies ever- painstakingly A Capella at the beginning and then a great lead vocal from Kelly, but the whole album is perfect. Honeybus had everything but one thing- a successful album after putting a lot of hard work into it. Really, there wasn't any promotion to undertake as the band had folded by the time of the release making for this to be a top rarity and a highly praised collector's item. There is but one Honeybus and they are a special group.
An album I would strongly warn against buying and perhaps the worst record ever recorded by a British/British Commonwealth band is the Aussie duo Steve And Stevie's self titled atrocity on the private Toast label from 1968- a dour suicidal depressing/depressed Simon and Garfunkel wannabe by two guys who would later nearly equal Honeybus in their brilliant second incarnation Tin Tin. The musical parallel between Tin Tin and Honeybus is obvious in that Honeybus had started a nice little category of wistful, gentle, yet solid British rock and Tin Tin took it to a somewhat more psychedelic level, but Tin Tin had backing from the late Maurice Gibb whilst all Honeybus had was a disinterested label and probably at the time of recording STORY some not too happy thoughts about Pete Dello who had halted their big break. Honeybus as they were when they recorded STORY would have been glad to bask in success and adulation, but not Pete Dello. He had turned his back on the world of stardom and then regretted losing out on the following he so richly deserved. In later years both the Dello led Honeybus, the Ray Cane led Honeybus who made the album, and the solo work of Dello and Hare would receive huge praise from everyone who hears it, but sadly at the time it just wasn't to be. Tin Tin would have rather a similar fate to Honeybus after hitting it big with a song that combined the best of Honeybus with the best of the Bee Gees in "Toast And Marmalade For Tea" when their two masterful, brilliant albums sold a decent amount of copies, but for whatever reason they only achieved one further minor chart hit in "Is That The Way." Again commercial success would elude the somewhat Honeybus gone progressive Scottish masters Northwind, and the next band wouldn't do too much better commercially. That band is Fable.
-Peter Goalby's Beginning And Fable's Masterpiece-
Fable were a band from Wolverhampton who formed in the early 70s and who were an early outfit for vocal God/songwriting genius Peter Goalby- a guy who I constantly wonder where he is and what he is doing now. This guy had a voice most people would die for. In fact, so good was his voice and so much of a talented writer he was that he would later achieve some notoriety in first Trapeze on their Running album (called Hold On and with a different cover in the States) and then as the lead vocalist for Uriah Heep between their ABOMINOG and EQUATOR albums. Goalby had a soulful, strong, passionate, very melodic voice and he also was a considerably talented songwriter. He wrote or co-wrote nearly every song on Fable's one record and just how this absolute gem of melodic British rock missed a major label airing is beyond me! Their keyboard player Paul Robbins would go on to engineer the amazing LIGHTNING TO THE NATIONS debut by Diamond Head! Clearly we have but one person to blame for the lack of exposure Fable suffered- the head of Magnet records one success the worthless Alvin Stardust. Pretty sad to have to share a label with almost only one other artist and have him be as bad as Gary Glitter. Think of what the world of rock missed out on when they missed out on Fable.
Fable bear no resemblances at all to Diamond Head and if I were to say there is any trace of Uriah Heep here it's not the metal/hard AOR era that Goalby was in and instead it would be the most melodic of the John Lawton fronted period's material- he also the possessor of a magical voice. While John Lawton would get a little carried away in his first major band Lucifer's Friend Peter Goalby is both forcefully and softly singing in Fable. They are a little bit heavier than Honeybus, but again are a class melodic rock group. Filling out Fable is the previously mentioned second multi-instrumentalist/keyboard player/vocalist Paul Robbins, drummer Keith Tully, lead guitarist Mac Bailey, and bass player Peter Mackie. There's much diversity on Fable's record and quite an attractive mix of late 60s and early 70s influences ranging as far as from Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple if they hadn't sucked vocally in the harder rock tracks to Honeybus and The Parlour Band on the melodic softer material. There's some definite 60s influences in a very subtle manner and two beautiful ballads on Side One "Same Key" and "Speak Your Mind." The darkest song on the album is "Four Horsemen" which actually is a very beautiful haunting song with an apocalyptic lyric and the album closes with two funny upbeat cheerful songs "Google Eye Eye" about a guy addicted to masturbation (!) and "Old Queen" which is about an unstoppable ship that's fun to ride on. If you're looking for metal I'm afraid this won't be for you. You can spot Goalby's unique voice, but in a very different context. I personally feel that Uriah Heep as much as I love them didn't make enough use out of Peter Goalby's talents and I still just don't understand why both the first two albums with him in the band (ABOMINOG and HEAD FIRST) are littered with cover songs. As hard as it is to conceive Peter's jump from melodic balladeer to hard rock powerhouse on the best of his recordings with Uriah Heep there are a few songs here that are tough melodic hard rockers. The first track on the record "See My Face" rocks really hard with gritty guitars, churning organ, and powerful vocals from Peter while the first track on Side Two the Paul Robbins composition "Hard Life" is another tough rocker. Clearly Goalby and Fable are well rounded, but I can't believe how ignored their album has been by collectors and by the buying public at the time. Yeah, they weren't glam or proto Metal or whatever you expected, but they were one of the best bands ever to come from England and the ignorance is the same today as it was then. REISSUE IT! PUT IT OUT ON CD! BLAST IT OVER EVERY LOUDSPEAKER IN THE WORLD! My love for Fable isn't shared by a whole lot of other collectors who just turn their nose and tone deaf ears up at it when I mention it, but I turned Paul Major onto it a long time ago when Paul was a considerable record dealer. For all the differences Paul and I have/had for a long period of time he was both a really good friend and a very sympathetic person to me. He could occasionally be completely impossible, he was never prompt in the least bit about sending records to me, but Paul and I had a lot of good times talking on the phone together. Turning him onto Fable was something I couldn't do with any other record dealer. Do you have to be British? Well I'm not British and I understand British rock front back and any other way there is to zoom in on what it's all about. For me Fable just like Honeybus define just how good the British are at mixing sensitive melodies with quirkiness and great rock and roll. This album is a masterpiece, and if you don't like it you fit the kind of narrow minded fool described by Goalby in the funny put down song "Thick As A Plank." There's even a mandolin led track of cheerful British rock called "Madolin." A very eclectic, melodic, strong, sensitive, enjoyable record and one of the most overlooked. Find it and be rewarded by it.