Angel Air SJPCD036 (69:56).
Verden Allen was the original keyboard player in Mott The Hoople, widely regarded as the most influential British bands of the early 70's. One of the few musicians to play a Hammond organ, and one of the first to acquire a Leslie tone cabinet, he soon developed a style and a sound which was unique. Bands like Slade and Black Sabbath would argue what gave Mott's live sound such power, such energy... well, it was the "angry roar" of Verden's organ playing.
After leaving Mott The Hoople in 1973, Verden Allen played in several bands, including Cheeks (with future Pretenders Martin Chambers and James Honeyman-Scott) and Verden Allen's Soft Ground. Although a couple of singles resulted from this, nothing substantial has emerged - until now. Originally recorded in 1994, Long Time No See was privately financed and, when the major record companies turned it down, released on Spinit, Verden's own label. Limited to 1000 copies, it was sold at gigs and via Key Mail Order, finally selling out in 1997. This was a shame, as it certainly deserved a higher profile and proper distribution, which is why this reissue on Angel Air is to be welcomed.
The album comprises 14 new songs, two Allen compositions recorded by Mott, and an Allen song (Son Of The Wise Ones) dating from his Mott days. Allen handles all the vocal duties himself, and he carries it off admirably. The two Mott covers are less hard-hitting than the originals, but Son... (rehearsed by Mott but left unfinished by them) is really powerful, and my current favourite.
This is a really good album. Ian once described Phally as "a Van Gough in a rock band" and I think this is a pretty accurate description of his songwriting. This album is packed with good songs, and the arrangements and production are tight. Phally's organ is strong without being overly forward in the mix; it is very Phallyish - he has lost none of that "angry roar" over the years.
There are some strong rockers on this album, as well as some slower "power" ballads. Strongest tracks on the album are Son..., Wine Ridden Talks, Come On Back (with a haunting melody which you won't get out of your mind - well I can't anyway, indeed it returns later on as The Refrain) and Carry On.
Of the bonus tracks, Hypnotized dates from 1975 and is the only surviving recording of The Cheeks. Two Miles From Heaven and The Chunnel Train were recorded in August 1998 for this reissue. Both rock well, and blend in well with the rest of the album. Indeed, Two Miles From Heaven was written when Verden was still in Mott and is easily the best of the bonus tracks.
Sleeve notes are by Campbell Devine, and are excellent and informative, providing a thorough overview of Verden's career, a comprehensive Verden Allen discography, and full musician credits.
The CD cover shows a reproduction of Frankenstein's monster playing with a yo-yo. At one time this was going to be the cover for Mott's second album, Mad Shadows. Also, look out for a guest appearence from his old Mott chums Dale Griffin and Overend Watts on tracks 6 and 12.
This CD is an essential purchase not just for Mott The Hoople fans but for all fans of good rock music.Adrian Perkins