New releases by Racing Cars seem to be speeding into view just lately, and Bolt From The Blue keeps the pace up, by presenting, for the first time, what should have been the band’s fourth album. Recorded over five weeks in 2000, following the group’s recent reunion (their last release was in 1978), it was very much a continuation from all the Welsh band was doing in its prime, but with a harder, funkier edge that reminds us of the time that has elapsed.
Unfortunately, the promised deal that set the sessions in motion never materialized, and Bolt For The Blue languished unreleased, bar the handful of private pressings that were sold at shows. Angel Air’s (www.angelair.co.uk) reissue of the set includes the entire album, plus a bonus disc reprising the live DVD that was released a couple of years back. It’s an attractive package, and yes, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They” appears on both the discs.
Angel Air also has gathered together a magnificent memorial to Family, the band that launched Roger Chapman to fame in the early 1970s and whose repertoire continues to underpin his live show. Best Of Family & Friends is another two disc set, comprising a reissue of the Chapman live DVD filmed in Newcastle in 2002 (and, again, released alone a couple of years back), plus a solid 14-track compilation of original Family recordings. Hits “Burlesque,” “Weaver’s Answer,” “In My Own Time” and “Strange Band” all are present and correct, together with a well-chosen gathering of album cuts to remind us just what a phenomenal — and phenomenally eclectic — outfit the band was.
Some other fascinating albums from the dawn of prog have just been sprung by Esoteric Recordings (www.cherryred.co.uk), beginning with the much-sought after, but rarely sighted, Bluebell Wood, by Big Sleep — a new incarnation for ’60s Welsh legends Eyes Of Blue. Originally released in 1971 on the B&C label, Bluebell Wood was the band’s attempt to shake off their old identity’s psychedelic connotations and, in musical terms, it works perfectly.
Expansive and adventurous, stretching out so far that the 11-minute title track really seems too short, Bluebell Wood should have been the beginning of great things. Instead the band broke up almost immediately after release, and the album sank from view.
Another much-missed, but long-forgotten act was Jonesy, a familiar name to anybody who studies the old Dawn label. But beyond that? Well, Alan Bown was a member for a while, which might give you a clue as to their sound, his signature trumpets and flugelhorns are a key element in the Jonesy sound, and Masquerade — The Dawn Years Anthology (Esoteric) will give you as much of that as you could need. Two CDs round up the band’s entire output for the label; that is, three outstanding LPs, a solitary 45 and one outtake, while the booklet documents the band’s short, but fascinating history.
Finally, as we drift through the distant past, two albums by Paladin — their self-titled debut from 1971 and the following year’s Charge — present us with some of the most aggressively challenging rock of the age, a smorgasbord of influences that stands as a general precursor to the world-music hybrids that wobble around the modern stage, but that sounded a lot more exotic way back then. Of the two, Charge is the stronger (and comes with an excellent Roger Dean sleeve), but if you pick up one you will certainly enjoy the other.