Just because a band burn it up in concert, it doesn’t automatically mean they’ll recreate that onstage charisma inside a studio. That certainly applies to Ginger Baker’s mid-70s collaboration with the Gurvitz brothers, guitarist Adrian and bassist Paul.
While failing to secure a place in rock’s first division, the Baker Gurvitz Army nevertheless produced an agreeable blend of honest, decent rock that stretched the format a little with a swirl of ambitious instrumental flash.
Released in 1975, their second album Elysian Encounter knocked the spots off their self-titled same-year debut, due to improved writing and the arrival of vocalist Snips, previously frontman with Sharks, and one-time Canterbury scene keyboardist Pete Lemer – whose textural swathes simultaneously add conceptual glue to the music and create broader space for Adrian Gurvitz’s soloing.
This quintet owns the stage in an excellent package that includes three audio shows and two DVDs containing an Old Grey Whistle Test appearance and a full live show first aired on German TV’s Musikladen.
The problem sometimes with being a ‘legend’ is that pleasing the crowd doesn’t necessarily mean serving the music. Literally and figuratively, Ginger Baker stamps, thumps and whacks his personality into these numbers. When making stage announcements he sounds a bit confused and well-lubricated, much to the evident, if a little strained, amusement of his bandmates.
Still, there’s no quibbling with their ability to deliver a soulful kick on Remember, with Adrian’s sudden accelerations on the guitar at the fore. It’s sometimes reminiscent of the nimble force that fellow journeymen Patto imbued in their music through Ollie Halsall’s idiosyncratic writing and spirited playing.
And like Patto, though well-liked and critically respected in their day, the breakthrough for Baker Gurvitz Army didn’t happen. A great package for old campaigners and new recruits alike.
Neon Lights: The Broadcasts 1975 is on sale now via Cherry Red.