Angel Air SJPCD048.
Running time: 73m 56s
John Fiddler is a name familiar to some, but unfamiliar to many, so let me enlighted you. He first shot to fame as leader of British prog-rock band Medicine Head, who enjoyed critical acclaim and indeed major chart successes in 1973/74 with such hits as One And One Is One and Slip And Slide. After Medicine head folded in early 1977, he teamed up with the remnants of Mott The Hoople to form the brilliant but shorted-lived British Lions. And in the mid-80's he found himself part of a Yardbirds reformation, a project which eventually was named Box Of Frogs. In between all this, John has persued a solo career, culminating in his 1993 solo album Return Of The Buffalo, which is now reissued here as The Big Buffalo with four bonus tracks.
John is an accomplished vocalist, adept at ballsy rock numbers as well as softer ballads, as his varied career has demonstrated. That said, those expecting rockers in the British Lions mould are bound to be disappointed, as this album is more in the soft/acoustic rock territory. Sometimes this works, and hits the emotional nail on the head, such as on Hurt and Win Or Lose, which features some soaring lead guitar from guest musician Laurence Archer.
Most of the tracks, tho' are just John (so we are told) playing drums, bass, keyboards and (mostly) acoustic. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't but here it seems to work well and at times the listener can be fooled into believing this is a "band" effort. His cover of Lennon's Working Class Hero is businesslike, and Robert Johnson's Walkin' Blues is "the business" which I am sure works well live as well.
That said, much of the rest of the album comes over as one-paced with the result there is no light and shade and no standout tracks that stay in the memory. This is a shame, as recent concert performances have shown that John can certainly "cut it" when he puts his mind to it.
As always with Angel Air releases, you get a 16-page booklet, this time written by Jay Wyatt (long-time friend of John) and Dale Griffin, providing a concise biography of JF's career.
Ultimately I was disappointed, tho' long-time Head fans could well appreciate the softer side of John's repertoir. But it strikes me this could well be one of those albums which, like a fine wine, improves with age and repay repeated listening.Adrian Perkins