Family - Anyway


Released 1970 on Reprise
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 08/06/2007ce

1. Good News, Bad News
2. Willow Tree
3. Holding The Compass
4. Strange Band
5. Part Of The Load
6. Anyway
7. Normans
8. Lives & Ladies

Roger Chapman-lead vocals
John "Charlie" Whitney-lead guitar
John Weider-bass guitar, violin
Poli Palmer-keyboards, vibes
Rob Townsend-drums

Family were truly one of the greatest and most original British rock groups of the late 60's & early 70's, and yet for the most part they are forgotten or at least not given the respect they deserve. Family left behind a string of excellent albums and 45's. Two of their albums "Music In A Doll's House" (1968) & "Entertainment" (1969) are among the greatest albums of all time and I recommend both highly. In fact just about every Family album with the exception of their final album "It's Only A Movie" are a must for any serious record collection.

So why did Family never conquer the world? For one they were blacklisted from touring the USA after an altercation with concert promoter/tyrant Bill Graham during their classic period (1969-1971.) Secondly it was probably the voice of lead singer Roger Chapman. With Chapman it's strictly a love or hate affair, with little in-between. Of course I happen to love Chapman's voice, to me he sounds like a mixture of Robin Gibb, Kevin Coyne & Feargal Sharkey of The Undertones with the ferocity of Nick Cave when he was with The Birthday Party. While it is true Family never made serious inroads in the USA they were immensely popular in Europe, especially in their native England. In the UK many of their eccentric to say the least 45's actually were Top 40 hits, and they were a major concert draw.

However in 1969 a would be disaster hit Family when they lost crucial members Rich Grech to Blind Faith and saxophonist Jim King to drugs. Luckily they found a perfect replacement for multi-instrumentalist Rick Grech in kindred spirit John Weider (late of The Animals) & keyboardist Poli Palmer (formerly of Blossom Toes.) Family actually got stronger in their stage act as the live side of "Anyway" clearly demonstrates. "Anyway" was seen in some circles as a stop-gap album while the group were recording their 1971 album "Fearless", but it is far from a stop-gap album in my opinion.

Those who witnessed Family live were simply awestruck by the group's manic intensity of which Chapman was clearly the focal point. Side one of "Anyway" is a full side of then new material recorded live in Croydon. It is in my opinion one of the greatest sides of live music ever recorded. The album opens with what is perhaps Family's ultimate song "Good News, Bad News" which is so intense there is no way I could describe it properly. Let me just say it makes The Stooges "Down Of The Street" sound tame by comparison. Chapman sings like is dying, while the backing musicians play with the power of a commando raid, Charlie Whitney's power chords are played with such viciousness it leaves most heavy metal dead on the floor. I think this piece illustrates why 99% of heavy metal always disappoints me, most metal groups just turn up amplifiers and end up sounding like bad Deep Purple or Uriah Heap. Family play music that is heavy as fuck, but they are also funky and dramatic and have excellent material.

"Willow Tree" slows things down considerably from the insane opener showing the group's clear understanding of dynamics. The song has a jazz/blues feel but once it gets going takes the listener to the hills like some kind of crazy gypsy folk song, John Weider playing the Rick Grech role on violin perfectly. "Holding The Compass" is another excellent number that has Chapman holding court aided by Whitney's choppy guitar chords and Rob Townsend's rock solid percussion. Chapman is beating the shit out of his tambourine, he most likely destroyed it. Side one closes with a lethal treatment of the group's UK hit single "Strange Band" that has Family firing on all cylinders. Once again Family shows a keen understanding of dynamics, as the song shifts tempos in a heartbeat going from absolute mania to gentleness in a flash, the group play odd time changes that bring to mind art rock groups such as King Crimson & Van Der Graaf Generator. The song ends with an explosion from Chapman's trademark of hurling his microphone into Townsend's bass drum. This is one serious blast of live rock action.

Side 2 consists of studio material and the opening number "Part Of The Load" comes as almost a relief from the pulverizing live material. This track is a funky tale of the usual rock group out on the road theme. The title track "Anyway" is a very interesting piece with acoustic guitar, and a pretty Chapman vocal that is punctured by Rob Townsend's booming bass drum, the style of this song is similar to that of "Willow Tree" from side one. "Normans" is a glorious instrumental that recalls Rick Grech's magic on Family's second album "Entertaiment", John Weider really shines here and is just sensational at any instrument he picks up, he even plays some lovely Chris Wood style flute on this beautiful piece of music. This number never fails to give me chills down the spine.

The record closes with "Lives & Ladies" which is an autobiographical tale about the group's home turf of Leicester, England. It the perfect closer to a sensational album that is right up their with Family's best. I think the only complaint I have of the record is that it wasn't a double album, I for one would have loved to hear some more live material. Family were an incredible group, if you don't know them buy anything with their name on it, I promise you won't regret it. A recent UK CD re-issue of "Anyway" on Mystic Records is the best way to go, as it has superior sound to previous CD's and also features some related bonus live material.

Some similar records I recommend:
Family-"Music In A Doll's House" (Reprise 1968)
Family-"Entertaiment" (Reprise 1969)
Family-"A Song For Me" (Reprise 1970)
Family-"Fearless" (Reprise 1971)
Traffic-"John Barleycorn Must Die" (Island 1970)
Mott The Hoople-"Mad Shadows" (Island 1970)
King Crimson-"Starless & Bible Black" (Island 1974)
Siren-"Siren" (Dandelion 1969)
Roy Harper-"Sophisticated Beggar" (Strike 1966)
Blodwyn Pig "Ahead Rings Out" (Island 1969)
Van Der Graaf Generator-"Godbluff" (Charisma 1975)
Peter Hammill-"The Silent Corner & The Empty Stage" (Charisma 1974)
Man-"Man" (Liberty 1970)
Procol Harum "Home" (Regal Zonophone 1970)
Matching Mole-"Matching Mole" (CBS 1972)
Colosseum-"Those Who Are About To Die Salute You" (Fontana 1969)
Jethro Tull "Stand Up" (Island 1969)
Jethro Tull "Benefit" (Island 1970)

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