Sunday, January 13, 2013

From The "West Coast" Of England One Of The Best Ever Made Little Big Horn

 There always has been a "grass is greener" complex between countries that are strong musically and culturally and are oceans apart. Back in the 1960s and early 1970s a lot of young people in America were heavily into and influenced by England with at some times the British looking right towards America for its powerful counterculture. In some ways I suppose this was a way of the British Invasion being paid back by how it led to the American bands trying to sound British and even adopting the "Mod" look. In 1964-1969 no places were hipper for music, lifestyles, image, and influence than England and America if you just gave a quick look at what was happening in both places. However, you can't overlook how much important and brilliant music was brought to us (I'm American myself with a huge Anglo/European side to my personality + musical tastes) by The Germans, Dutch, and Scandinavians. Most of these bands would only be cult bands for huge collectability later on when the interest in psych and progressive music surged, but they were there at the time making brilliant music.
                                  -A Little Prelude To Little Big Horn's Victorious Assault -
  As American influences came into play with British and European bands the most important thing if you were going to be influenced by the "West Coast Sound" was to put a firm British or European stamp on it and turn it into your own creation.. Little Big Horn from England were only released in Germany by Bellaphon in 1971 or 1972. This is incongruous that they weren't released in America only with the number of British bands who only came out here at the time when you look at how Anglo/American their sound is. I'm not saying that Little Big Horn were just copying the Americans, but the California and also the Southern Rock/Rural Rock influences are really a key component to the sound this amazing little band produced on their self titled lone release. Little Big Horn at times go for a very British late Mod into early 70s West Coast/Southern Rock sound that leads to a huge difference between Side One's Anglo ambitions and Side Two's all out Pastoral Americana/UK rural rock. It's in these pages that you'll find out just how successful this band are at their look towards both their native England and America.
           -They Came And Went As Fast As They Came Little Big Horn's Musical Ride-
    In a crazy steal I got a perfect original of Little Big Horn's rare and valuable one release for $25 from a German dealer for Christmas when before the copy I'd had and lost was $250 from an American dealer who is now someone I don't deal with nor ever will again not because of anything acrimonious just because we are two very different kinds of people with very different views. The expensive copy went to one of the worst fiends ever to have come into my life from the depths of Hell itself! He moaned and freaked about it sounding like "An American Major Label Record." So what!? Also, it DOES NOT sound like just some British band who are American obsessed. People will often not hear music properly and just completely miss the entire point of not just one song, but an entire album.
                     -Little Big Horn Take On Post Mod Psych And The American West-
      If you love Andwella's Dream (I do) from Northern Ireland and wish they'd carried on their psych sound when they went for Americana this album is compulsory- an absolutely brilliant work of musical genius. Then also if you love Dog That Bit People, Northwind, Fairfield Ski (their name is misspelled Fairfield Sky" on their only vinyl release from the mid 90s because the guy who did it was an idiot), Honeybus (I love all of the bands I'm mentioning) and other British melodic Pastoral rock this album will be your favourite for a long time to come. It's crazy how this amazing band only came out in Germany, but I firmly prefer them to some other UK only released in Europe bands such as I Drive who are horrendous. In collector's circles bands that only came out in a country that wasn't their own are both highly sought after and vastly overlooked. At the time they made almost no impression in their native land or else were just dealt an unkind blow by ignorance. Thankfully bands like Peter And The Wolves stirred up some interest in America and got released here (their masterpiece is credited to "Wolfe" on the Rare Earth label) whilst bands like Little Big Horn and the inferior yet still good Diabolus were only released in Germany. Diabolus had a German drummer and so did Light Of Darkness which makes sense, but Little Big Horn as far as I know had no German connection whatsoever.
      Comprised of keyboard player/vocalist/main writer Jim Turner, bass player/vocalist Barry Beasley, drummer Billy Slaney, lead vocalist Alan Davis, and guitarist/vocalist Danny Maidment England's Little Big Horn named themselves after one of the most powerful Native American legends who finally ended the appalling genocide of General Custer. With a name like that you can tell they were big into The American West. With a cover that shows cavalry on horses behind a psychedelic American flag you have an idea where this band were coming from. However, you only have a small idea.
      My guess is that Little Big Horn are from Northern England and their melodic yet very powerful approach is made even better by very intelligent and downright great lyrics to every song on their record bar the two cover versions which open the album. The covers are of Lovin' Spoonful's "Good Time Music" and a Jon Mark composition "Getting It Together." The rocked up wild ass guitar frenzy that starts the album with "Good Time Music" is exciting fun. "Getting It Together" is a really nice Pastoral rock song with great vocals and some unusual sounding electric piano. The best songs, however, follow the two covers and are all original compositions. "I Wish I Had The Words" and the rest of Side One leap head first into amazing later era British heavy psych complete with lots of trippiness, cranked fuzz and effects loaded guitars, and very appealing strong melodic vocals together with more unusual keyboard motifs that are unique to this record. "I Wish I Had The Words" is about the lack of communication that needs to be addressed by people everywhere and uses that as a springboard for other very important things that are constantly overlooked by most people. Alan Davis has a great voice on the whole record that is laid back and inviting. The harmonies are also great and the instrumental work of Little Big Horn is incredible. Give full marks to guitarist Maidment who is a really great musician and who also knows how to play in an emotional, tasteful way that takes nothing away from the songs. "Anything That Turns You On" comes next and is just as awesome as "I Wish I Had The Words." Despite the quality studio Sound Techniques the sound is very odd on this album and while that works to their benefit it also leads one to wonder if it was hastily recorded then run through again in marathon sessions for a week. No one will ever know and I don't think anyone in Little Big Horn went onto other bands. "Anything That Turns You On" indeed all of Side One's 4 tracks after the two covers are some of the best melodic heavy psych ever laid down anywhere. The lyrics are a really big reason why this whole album is so good. For once there is not a single trite pretentious hackneyed take on something of importance and the words to the songs are all very sympathetic, even downright savvy. Clearly Little Big Horn were looking at America AND England and wondering just what was going wrong with people. Also just as clearly they never mock, attack, or try to put others down. This record is beautiful at the same time that it rocks. The general feeling is that of an open door to a place where there is warm sunshine flowing out of it. You could probably say that about Honeybus and Northwind, but Little Big Horn at the same time as having some things in common with those bands sound really like no one else.
      If psych/heavy psych is your thing Side One is outstanding, but don't overlook the more country rock oriented second side of the album as it has just as much to offer. Everything changes from one side to the next in stellar contrast on this record. "Something Good" is the beautiful song that heralds in a change of pace with soft soaring harmonies, warm and honest music, and a very appealing take on melodic Pastoral pop/rock. "Ain't No Harm" is somewhere between Side One and what follows it on Side Two with some Rural/Country rock influences, strong vocals, and intelligent lyrics. "Isn't It Strange" is a melodic country-ish/hippie rock song with more intelligent lyrics, great vocals, and some nice olde time acoustic fingerstyle guitar. It is the last two tracks which are still very good, but for once become a bit far fetched. "Just Ain't Fair" is a great song, but I've heard this whole "Oh Look How Much The World Hates Me For My Long Hair And My Open Attitude" so much that even when done way better than average it sounds a bit pedestrian in comparison to the rest of the album. Everything is great in this song including a painful story line that speaks nothing but truth, Unfortunately, as I said I wish it was up to the higher level of what proceeded it. "Another Man's Song" is a kind of melodic Gospel Rock I would say song about Jesus and has a big string arrangement, soaring mutli vocals and the rest. I wonder though from the words to the song if Little Big Horn were having a bit of an identity crisis and that strange juxtaposition that's been going on for much of the album takes a turn towards big budget commercial early 70s radio rock here. It's a great song, but on this record it sounds a bit out of place. I hate to say that because it is a really good song, but I've heard too many songs about Jesus and having to live by his Word. So what you have on Little Big Horn's record is a mixture of the best in the world and nothing that goes beneath "pretty" to "really" good. This album is very hard to find and has always been a serious rarity. My running into it at such a low price I unfortunately have to tell you probably won't happen for you. The realistic value is around what my first copy cost, but this album is so obscure that it would probably turn up when you least expect it. Word should get around about what a great one this is- it certainly beats loads of hyper expensive rarities that are just as rare and not half as good.

No comments:

Post a Comment