Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Mick Abrahams Band - A Musical Evening With The Mick Abrahams Band

Mick Abrahams Band
A Musical Evening With The Mick Abrahams Band

Released 1971 on Chrysalis
Reviewed by Fitter Stoke, 18/08/2002ce

My recent blow out on the first Tull album led me on to fresh listening to Mick Abrahams' subsequent output. And while Blodwyn Pig's two studio albums deserve (and will get, if I have my way) in-depth analysis here, it is the first album by Abrahams' lesser-known, self-named band that I would like to share with you today.

Three facts about Mick Abrahams:

1. He is a damn fine guitarist, vocalist and songwriter;

2. He looks like a long distance lorry driver; and

3. The Charalatans ripped off the Mick Abrahams Band big time.

Those in the know will already know (1). Those who have seen him live in the last ten years will testify to (2). And anyone who ever dug this excellent album then heard The Charlatans' first few 45's will have been amazed at the latters' brass in totally filching the MAB's sound. Totally. And was our trucker ever acknowledged for this? Was he gonads. Well Michael, I am here to do justice for you.

'A Musical Evening With The Mick Abrahams Band' (also known as just 'Mick Abrahams' by the way) opens with the behemoth of driving blues-rock that is 'Greyhound Bus'. And if you don't get the Charlatans' comparison within two nano-seconds then you're on another planet, man. First off, Bob Sargeant's Hammond riff is straight out of the same lucky bag as 'Indian Rope', and as for his solo ...well, I'm convinced the infant Robbie Collins was spoon fed it with his Farley's. Second, the drum beat (by the late great Ritchie Dharma) is that archetypical Madchester rhythm nearly two decades before its time. And even Mick's mighty SG is mixed into the background for most of the song, pre-echoing the production on The Charlatans' early releases. Mind you, when he comes in for HIS solo, there ain't nothing on any Charlatans' records to compare. It's a blinder, as is his bandless spotlight right at the song's end. The only 'of it's time' element of 'Greyhound Bus' is the harmony vocal of Abrahams and Sargeant. And we'll hear more, much more, of this later.

Next up it's Mick's turn to plagiarise. But only in part. 'Awake' is the first of two stone epics on the album. It features a gospel-like, melodic verse with a top notch Abrahams' croon, before the advent of ONE HELL OF A RIFF. But wait a minute...this riff, great as it is, sounds more than a tad familar. Good God. It's 'Bring It On Home'. No matter though, because here it sounds far wilder than anything even Pagey could muster. It's terrific. It leads into a chorus of overwhelming heaviness and passion with an upward key change that just floors me every time. The solo sequences in the middle of the song are incredible, Sargeant's jazzy inventions preceding a echoey solo by the leader that avoids any hint of playing to the gallery and sounds all the more immense for it (great feedback too). A triumph of subtlety over show. But that riff - Jeez. By the end of the song it'll have hammered so far into your head that you'll never be able to listen to side two of 'Zep II' again without a crazed grin.

'Winds Of Change' is a gorgeous country-inflected acoustic ballad by Abrahams, featuring more divine harmony vocals and deliciously-understated bottleneck playing. It's followed by 'Why Do You Do Me This Way', a rocking three-chord basher with harmony guitars that would grace Wishbone Ash and Aby bellowing his best Jim Morrison growl. And, just a point of interest - it sounds like prime Quo BEFORE Quo adopted the mindless boogie that made their name. But it's better, so much better.

'Big Queen' sees a return to Charalatans' territory, except that the talented young Mancs would never attempt a song in Brubeckian 5/4 time. Yet more awesome harmony vocals and wild mid-verse key shifts, atop a rhythm section that rivals that of Tull (no small praise) for activity and attack. Have enough to drink and you can even dance to it. The adjacent 'Not To Rearrange' gives Sargeant a chance to hog (or should that be pig) the mike, in the best country ballad Gram Parsons never wrote. Abrahams shines on pedal steel.

The final fourteen minutes are taken up with the album's second mega-track, the mighty 'Seasons'. A unison guitar and Hammond lick leads into a verse dripping with so much melody that I can't think of a chord in the Weedon tutorbook that hasn't been utilised somewhere within it. These guys have a way with a tune, believe me. Then comes the second section of the song, a slow, slow harmonic (natch) call to the skies that sounds like an outtake from 'Deja Vu', before everything stops and Mick lets rip with some expert under-amplified and echo-inflected megalicks. To be frank, this bit does outstay its welcome a little, even though nothing Aby plays is without interest. Still, the wait makes the advent of the main riff, six and half minutes into the song, all the better. And it's another corker, hanging us once again by that bloody indian rope (pun entirely intended). Sargeant provides Hammond abuse so intense that his subsequent retirement into record and session production almost seems a crime. Then back comes The Man, this time with amp turned to eleven, with the best solo trip of the album on top of still more pyrotechnics-with-heart from his keyboard partner. A reprise of the CSNY section seems to bring the track to a close. Naah. Couldn't leave it without hearing that opening hyperverse again, delivered even more impassionately than before. Overlong, overripe and over indulgent, 'Seasons' simultaneously epitomises all that is right and wrong about UK progressive rock in the early 70's. And it's a belter.

Great, in-yer-face production by future Pistol-twiddler Chris Thomas, incidentally.

I picked up 'A Musical Evening With The Mick Abrahams Band' in Virgin's remainder bin in late 1977 for £1.49. Aside from 'Rumours' and Wigwam's 'Nuclear Nightclub' it was the only non-punk/new wave album I bought that year that got played with any regularity. It was one of the best bargains I ever had and my copy became so worn after a few years that its long-awaited CD release became an excuse to party. It's still available from those nice people at BGO Records. Prospective listeners in need of a thrill - especially Charlatans fans - need not hesitate!

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