Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

May Blitz - May Blitz

May Blitz

Released 1969 on Vertigo
Reviewed by Mrs Ahab, 05/01/2005ce

May Blitz were one of the four original bands signed to Vertigo. After chart success with Black Sabbath and Juicy Lucy, Uriah Heap and May Blitz were added to the ranks. The band was founded in 1969 by British drummer Tony Newman, previously of the Jeff Beck Group. He recruited two Canadian musicians James Black on vocals and lead guitar and Reid Hudson on Bass and backing vocals. May blitz toured the college circuit extensively in 1969 and quickly grew a reputation for their heavy, aggressive sound. They made two albums, but sadly disbanded after poor sales and were subsequently dropped by the label. May Blitz are a true rock powerhouse, in fact they are more than that, they are a three sided sonic pyramid of rock, quivering at its apex. They deserve to be up at the top with the rest of them but inexcusably they are often overlooked. The band wrote, arranged and produced every track on the album with assistance from Vertigos in-house engineer. After a reshuffle, bass player Reid Hudson had only been in the band for three weeks when they began recording. No one has messed with it, the band and the material was fresh at the time it was laid down, recorded as nature intended it, it is surely a pearl polished by its makers.

The cover features May Blitz herself. Created by NME cartoonist Tony Benyon, she is a chinless, ape faced, earth mama whore. As I only have the CD edition I am assuming the inner picture was the back sleeve or the gatefold picture, here May sits with one milk filled tit poking out through her peephole bra like a bazooka ready to fire, her arms spread down to form intestinal roots spelling out the eponymous title.

Smoking The Day Away - OK babies, let’s get stoned, as soon as the song starts you can smell that sweet aroma. With just the right combination of delay and wah wah on guitars, the main riff is a real steam roller, a heavy cyclical brute, James Black’s riffs lumber along with a real weight behind them, driving the song forwards. This track is about leaving the city and taking a “trip” in the country, getting high and plugging into nature, juxtaposed with a frustration that life cannot permanently be like this. At eight minutes twenty one seconds long it is definitely one of the strongest tracks on the albumand probably the one most people remember them for. The narrator walks through a forest and sparks up, it’s all about that connection with the earth when your in an altered state. As he lies on the ground he looks up into the sun dappled trees, examines the leaves and their colours, feeling a sense of peace and belonging. The midsection is awesome, just when you’re feeling mellow the buzz starts to pick up and we rush into a frenzy of wah wah riffs and twelve string clattering where you get tossed around in their gut rocking stupor. It twirls with coloured trails, dancing and spinning like a long haired, stoned beauty. All the while the drums bash your solar plexus right into the vibrating earth. It’s heavy and dark yet dazzling. I defy even the hardest toker not to get up and dance to this mammoth (or at least make an effort). Then the feeling subsides, we reach the end of the song and return to the main riff backed up by the same steady groove from Hudson on Bass, then the drums creep in and serve as a golden thread holding it all together. “Soon the devil ends I know and I must return, look about we’re walking after dark here in the woods and cannot help but feel there hold’s the truth, smoking the day away, sorry I couldn’t stay.” Have we been here all day? Their lyrics often sound clichéd but I don’t really mind because they are just simple words for deep feelings of the time, they impart the intended sentiment well.

I Don’t Know is a far bluesyer track than the last but it still holds those durgy cyclical riffs that are the May Blitz trademark. The story moves onto the next level and the narrator decides to up sticks leave his home and family for a better life in the country. It vocalises the views of the back to the land movement and although the lyrics are pretty weak, again it doesn’t detract. Not sure why he couldn’t take his kids to the country with him but hey ho, “This city life is all the same, back to the country, back to where I came” This dude has Downs Syndrome- and I’m talking hills here!

Dreaming opens as a slow lament about a vision of a better world. With references to H.G. Wells’s Time Machine, the themes were obviously well connected to the current state of social consciousness at the end of the sixties. The comparisons between one section of society who live a peaceful primitive existence, respectfully living of the earth and the dark hold the upper classes ultimately have over them. He dreams of a utopia where everyone is equal and surrounded by love. The song has two half’s and two voices, Black ponders on why the dream cannot be reality and the song takes an entirely different edge, becoming a whirling dervish full of fury as Black practically barks like a dog “BACK in the animal world, hate is all around” he’s really wound up and the lyrics are an unintelligible howl at times, this is the voice of those folks underground. The rhythm changes and picks up pace as though we are running from something horribly inevitable. The slide is used brilliantly to create a real sense of panic and chaos before the song returns to its unhurried pace climaxing with an explosion at the end. This can’t go on forever.

Squeet is probably my favourite track on the album because it grooves so hard. It was the opener for side two. It’s a real shame you loose this notion on CD, songs don’t have quite the same impact when sandwiched by another track that it should never have been put next to. The two sides are really different the first side is conceptual and the second side is perhaps what they had left over. At nearly seven minutes Squeet has a funky bass line and is a real boot stomper. But what is Squeet? I’ve tried to work it out and tried to find out, but I have no idea what Squeet means, “Squeet, all over the wall” love juice perhaps? “I feel it coming on” Me too, me too, I feel it, pulsing hard, and I want you to feel it, lets all have a feel, whatever it is, it feels good! It’s the shortest track on the album at only four and a half minutes. Squeet does everything I want it to do, except last for longer haha.

Tomorrow May Come is a smooth psychedelic blues sanctuary. It opens with a vibraphone which instantly sets the mood. The lyrics are pretty bog standard tripped out stuff about colours, shapes and purple velvet clothes, but it pleasantly grooves along without causing too much damage.

There are three tracks which make this album for me, Smoking The Day Away, Squeet and following one, Fire Queen – the other tracks are good but they lack that rough, heavy May Blitz gusto. Fire Queen is pumped up, it starts with a gorgeous drum solo then Blacks vocals blast you into the furnace. It reminds me of the Broughtons or Arthur Brown as he squalls out and even manages a bit of falsetto,- Hairy music, bring it on. It’s loud and fuzzy and has that great waka waka sound, slowing down during the mid section becoming quite empty, allowing Blacks guitar solo to set up us up neatly for the forthcoming frenzy. May Blitz excel when they have that steady romping bass line under guitar sounds that flick between neat finger picks and fuzzed up power chords.
Virgin Waters begins with the sound of waves lapping in and out which they do periodically throughout. They are echoed by Newman’s drums until the waves merge into the cymbals and rolling toms and things hot up a little and we get some guitar action before it returns to the sea. It’s a slow melodic number; the drums are luscious and should not be underestimated throughout the whole album.

The vinyl is pretty rare and pricey however both this recording and their second album, 2nd of May released in 1971 can be purchased on one CD on BGO records from the usual places. May Blitz demised mainly because of their lengthy songs, all their tracks have long instrumentals and thus were not geared towards radio play at a time when it counted. Record sales came mainly from word of mouth and gigs, and when you have Sabbath and Uriah heap on the books, I guess they were considered small fry. It’s a shame because all three members were highly accomplished and shine individually in a way that only a three piece allows. It’s worth mentioning the second album as if you hear the first it’s likely you’ll hear the second. The cover sports another delightful picture of May, this time looking for some freaky beak trade. For Mad Men Only is their fuzziest yet and is a real bully. Mad Grim Nits and Snakes and Ladders are also favourites for me. May Blitz are in the tradition of Cream, they compare well to The Edgar Broughton Band and The Pink Fairies with a bit of Hendrix thrown in, they were for a short time an integral part of the U.K. heavy underground live scene and definitely deserve some fresh attention.

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