Argent


Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1969-74)

- Rod Argent -- lead vocals, keyboards
- Russ Ballard -- lead vocals, lead guitar
- Bob Henrit -- drums, percussion 
- Jim Rodford -- bass, vocals

 

  line up 2 (1974-76)

- Rod Argent -- keyboards, vocals 
- John Grimaldi (RIP) -- vocals, lead guitar (replaced Russ Ballard) 
- Bob Henrit -- drums, percussion
- Jim Rodford -- bass, vocals 

- John Verity -- lead guitar (replaced Russ Ballard)

 

  supporting musician (1975)

- Phil Collins -- drums

 

 

 

- Rod Argent (solo efforts)

- Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent

- Russ Ballard (solo efforts)

- Charlie (Robert Henrit and Jim Rodford)

- The Mike Cotton Sound

- John Grimaldi's Cheap flights

- The Kinks (John Henrit and Jim Rodford)

- Phoenix (Robert Henrit, Jim Rodford, and John Verity)

- The Roulettes (Russ Ballard and Bob Henrit)

- Unit Four Plus Two

- John Verity (solo efforts)

- The Swinging Blue Jeans

- Chris White (solo efforts)

- The Zombies

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Ring of Hands

Company: Epic

Catalog: E 31028

Year: 1972

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5746

Price: $10.00

 

The band's sophomore release "Ring of Hands" never attracted the attention some of their later albums did.  That's unfortunate since it was a surprisingly enjoyable effort.  Musically the album wasn't a major departure from their debut.  Perhaps a little more aggressive than "Argent" but the underlying influences including Argent's keyboard flourishes and dashes of The Zombies were instantly recognizable.  With writing duties divided between singer/guitarist Russ Ballard and Rod Argent and Chris White, I've always been surprised by each writing teams musical contributions.  Ballard always struck me as being the one with an ear for the commercial edge, whereas Argent and White were the ones willing to step out and experiment.  At least in a couple of instances those roles were switched on this one with Ballard's 'Cast Your Spell Uranus' showing off the band's progressive leanings, while Argent and White's 'Celebration' and pastoral ballad 'Rejoice' were the most commercial songs.  That said, this time out the band's emphasis was clearly on establishing their progressive credentials.  By that I meant progressive in a good way, as opposed to overbearing and pompous (sadly that came later in the catalog).  Even when working overtime to make a big statement ('Lothorien') you had to give them credit for being able to work a catchy hook into the material.  

 

- 'Celebration' was a perfect example of the band's ability to blend a hook with a more progressive feel.  It was also a nice example showing how well Argent and Ballard's vocals blended together.  

- 'Sweet Mary' started out as a conventional slice of blues, but quickly morphed into a likeable slice of swing.   The song also benefited from a great Ballard lead guitar solo.

- One of three Ballard compositions, 'Cast Your Spell Uranus' offered up a nice blend of progressive and more conventional rock moves.  Yeah, the mid-section instrumental solos dragged a little, but overall it was one of the set's standout performances.

- Launched with Argent's ELP-styled keyboards, 'Lothorien' was easily the most progressive-oriented performance on the LP.  The ELP comparison was actually pretty good since it took the song a couple of minutes to breakout of the faux-classical movements into a more conventional structure. The song spotlighted the band's nice harmony vocals with special kudos to drummer Bob Henrit for keeping it all tied together.

- With a pounding rhythm that wouldn't let go. another nice Ballard guitar solo, and some amazing multi-part harmonies 'Chained' was probably my favorite performance.

- Complete with Argent church chorus organ and pastoral flavor, 'Rejoice' was one of those songs that could instantly reduce your blood pressure by 10%.  Beautiful track.

- Another Argent and White composition, 'Pleasure' underscored their ability to meld progressive moods with a commercial base - this one could have actually been a single.  

- Perhaps due to the fact Ballard's strained falsetto sounded like Jack Bruce (and his guitar recalled Clapton's Cream-styled moves), the heavy 'Sleep Won't Help Me' didn't do much for me.  

- The album closed with the most conventional rock song in 'Where Are We Going Wrong'.  It took a little time to get going, but was worth the wait.

 

Epic tapped the collection for a single in the form of:

 

- 1970's 'Celebration' b/w 'Kingdom' (Epic catalog number 5-10746)

 

If painted in a corner, I'll admit this is probably my favorite Argent release (I can hear hardcore fans groaning).  Unfortunately this one went undiscovered until the band hit it big with 'Hold Your Head Up'

 

As an aside, while science has never been my strength, the cover art sure didn't look like a good idea.  Hopefully I was wrong, but it sure looked like they were pouring Mercury through their hands.  Not a smart idea given Mercury's toxicity and certainly not something you'd want to try at home.

 

"Nexus" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Celebration   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 2:55

2.) Sweet Mary   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 4:06

3.) Cast Your Spell Uranus   (Russ Ballard) - 4:31

4.) Lothorien   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 7:50

 

(side 2)

1.) Chained   (Russ Ballard) - 5:10

2.) Rejoice   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 3:46

3.) Pleasure   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 4:52

4.) Sleep Won't Help Me   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 5:11

5.) Where Are We Going Wrong   Russ Ballard) - 4:10

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  In Deep

Company: Epic

Catalog: KE 32195

Year: 1973

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5

Price: $10.00

 

Creatively 1973's "In Deep" was equally divided between Russ Ballard the Rod Argent/Chris White songwriting team.  While the results made it won of my favorite Argent albums, the split songwriting chores served to show the group was beginning to split into two musical factions.  Ballard penned tracks like 'God Gave Rock & Roll to You' and 'It's Only Money' offered up a fairly commercial rock sound, while Argent/White showed they could match Ballard with commercial moves via the mid-tempo rocker 'Candles On the River'.  Elsewhere, a precursor of future endeavors, their compositions 'Be Glad' introduced more complex musical elements and a modest, but noticeable progressive influence.  Another favorite - the Argent/White penned 'Christmas for the Free' was one of the pair's prettiest ballads.

 

Elsewhere Epic tapped the album for a pair of singles in the form of :

 

- 1973's 'God Gave Rock And Roll To You' b/w 'Christmas For The Free' (Epic catalog number 5-10972)

- 1973's 'It's Only Money Part II) b/w 'Candles On the River) (Epic catalog number 5-11019)

"In Deep" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) God Gave Rock & Roll to You   (Russ Ballard) - 6:46
2.) It's Only Money Part I   (Russ Ballard) -  4:07
3.) It's Only Money Part II    (Russ Ballard) - 5:12
4.) Losing Hold   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 5:31

 

(side 2)
1.) Be Glad   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 8:39
2.) Christmas for the Free   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 4:17
3.) Candles on the River   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 7:05
4.) Rosie   (Russ Ballard) - 3:41

 




Genre: progressive

Rating: 2 stars **

Title:  Nexus

Company: Epic

Catalog: EPC 65924

Year: 1974

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG /VG

Comments: minor wear bottom left corner; UK pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5386

Price: $10.00

 

Genre: progressive

Rating: 2 stars **

Title:  Nexus

Company: Epic

Catalog: KE 32573

Year: 1974

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: US pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 390

Price: $10.00

 

 

Co-produced by Rod Argent and Chris White 1974's "Nexus" was an album that probably didn't please most Argent fans. It's also one of the most schizophrenic albums I've ever heard; frequently sounding like it was recorded by two separate bands with totally different musical interests and styles.  To be honest, that was actually a pretty apt description of 1974-era Argent.  Exemplified by tracks like the extended instrumentals 'The Coming of Kohoutek', 'Once Around the Sun' and 'Music from the Spheres' Argent and White were clearly interested in pursuing a more 'serious' progressive sound.  Complete with banks of synthesizers, highly orchestrated arrangements, and complex time signatures the tracks were technically impressive, but too my ears sounded like they'd been poking around Brian Auger and ELP outtakes.  At the other end of the spectrum, singer/guitarist Russ Ballard remained firmly committed to a more commercial pop/rock sound.  Tracks like 'Thunder and Lightening' and the martial 'Man for All Reasons' may have lacked the experimental edge of the Argent/White selections, but were far easier on the ear.  Sure, 'Love' was pretty lame, but 'Gonna Meet My Maker' was a nice rocker that recalled something off of one of their earlier albums.  Regardless, the shift in styles was occasionally quite jarring (check out 'Infinite Wanderer' followed by the Ballard ballad 'Love').  While those comments weren't particularly enthusiastic, I will admit that the album tends to grow on you if you give a chance.  Even something like 'Music from the Spheres' had it's moments.  While the album lacked a clear choice for a single, Epic tapped 'Thunder and Lightening' b/w 'The Coming of Kohoutek' for release (Epic catalog number 8-50025).  Needless to say it flopped.  That was followed by the equally unsuccessful 'Man For All Reasons' b/w 'Music From The Spheres' (Epic catalog number 5-11137).  Curiously Epic also chose to slap a different cover on the US release.

 

    

 

"Nexus" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) The Coming of Kohoutek (instrumental)   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 

2.) Once Around the Sun   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 

3.) Infinite Wanderer   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 

4.) Love   (Russ Ballard) - 

5.) Music from the Spheres   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 

 

(side 2)
1.) Thunder and Lightening   (Russ Ballard) - 

2.) Keeper of the Flame   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 

3.) Man for All Reasons   (Russ Ballard) - 

4.) Gonna Meet My Maker   (Russ Ballard) - 

 

Within a matter of months Ballard was gone, striking out in pursuit of a solo career.

 

 

 

 


Genre: progressive

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Encore: Live In Concert

Company: Epic

Catalog: PEG-33079

Year: 1974

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve; double LP

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5387

Price: $15.00

 

 

Having discovered the band via 'Hold Your Head Up', I bought their live set expecting to hear similar pop/rock material.  I can clearly remember being somewhat puzzled to discover these guys had a strong progressive streak.

 

back - Rod Argent

front right to left - Jim Rodford, Russ Ballard, Bob Henrit

 

Recorded during a UK tour, 1974's "Encore: Live In Concert" was apparently intended to buy the band some breathing time in the wake of singer/guitarist Russ Ballard's unexpected departure.  Co-produced by Rod Argent and Chris White, the 11 track concert set offered up a career-wide retrospective covering everything from pre-Argent (The Zombies' 'Time of the Season') up through 1974's "Nexus" (represented by 'The Coming of Kohoutek', 'Thunder and Lightening' and 'Music from the Sphere').  Like their last studio set "Nexus" the collection had a strange split personality with the band divided between Rod Argent and Chris White's progressive moves and Russ Ballard's more commercial repertoire.   As you'd expect, the concert setting allowing the band to stretch out across both genres.  In some cases the results surpassed the studio originals ('Thunder and Lightening' and '' quickly came to mind).  In other cases the extended live versions did nothing to improve on the originals. That criticism was particularly true for the band's progressive-oriented numbers.  Extending 'The Coming of Kohoutek' to ten minutes did nothing to make it more listenable.  Similarly, turning 'It's Only Money Part 2' into a stage for seemingly endless solos made what had been a good rocker into aural sludge.  So what were the highlights?   Ballard's pretty ballad 'I Don't Believe In Miracles' was interesting (and provided fellow Zombie Colin Blunstone with a hit).  'Dance of Ages' was a decent progressive effort.  The extended "Hold Your Head Up' was worth hearing.  Finally, even without Colin Blunstone on vocals, the up-tempo 'Time of the Season' was a classic song that stood up to Argent's keyboard solos and the rest of the band's in-concert pounding.  Certainly not the greatest concert set you've ever heard - the sound was occasionally flat and tinny, but there were a surprising number of enjoyable performances.  Another one that's better than I originally remembered.

 

I'm not sure if it's the same one as on the LP, but courtesy of YouTube here's a live 1974 performance of 'Hold Your Head Up High'

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vM0Tdp3ZZyg

 

 

"Encore: Live In Concert" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) The Coming of Kohoutek (instrumental)   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 10:24

2.) It's Only Money Part 1   (Russ Ballad) - 3:48

3.) It's Only Money Part 2   (Russ Ballad) - 4:58

 

(side 2)
1.) God Gave Rock and Roll To You   (Russ Ballard) - 6:45

2.) Thunder and Lightening   (Russ Ballard) - 6:10

3.) Music from the Sphere   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 9:09

 

(side 3)

1.) I Don't Believe In Miracles   (Russ Ballard) - 3:26

2.) Dance of Ages   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 9:08

3.) Keep On Rollin'   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 5:20

 

(side 4)
1.) Hold Your Hear Up   (Rod Argent - Chris White) - 10:45

2.) Time of the Season   (Rod Argent) - 6:25

 




Genre: progressive

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Circus

Company: Epic

Catalog: PE-33422

Year: 1975

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5387

Price: $10.00

 

With the addition of singer/guitarist John Grimaldi and lead guitarist John Verity to the line up, 1975's "Circus" marked the band's first post-Russ Ballard release.  Also noticeably absent from the proceedings was Chris White who this time around limited his participation to co-producing the set with namesake Argent.  With Argent picking up the songwriting responsibilities (bassist Rodford credited with one track), the result was an out-and-out concept piece.  Want to guess what the theme was?  Grimaldi lacked the Ballard's flexibility and vocal chops, but overall he wasn't a half bad replacement.  As a concept piece the album wasn't half bad either.  Sure, there were some meandering progressive sections ('Highwire' and the Rodford-penned 'Trapeze'), but a surprising amount of the collection was quite commercial - the title track, 'Clowns' and 'The Jester' all had radio potential though nobody was paying attention.  Sure it wasn't their best album, but still made for a nice late-inning creative comeback.

"Circus" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Circus   (Rod Argent) - 

2.) Highwire   (Rod Argent) - 

3.) Clown   (Rod Argent) - 

 

(side 2)
1.) Trapeze   (Jim Rodford) - 

2.) Shine On Sunshine   (Rod Argent) - 

3.) The Ring   (Rod Argent) - 

4.) The Jester   (Rod Argent) - 

 

 

 


Genre: progressive

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Counterpoints

Company: United Artists

Catalog: UA-LA560-G

Year: 1975

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap (opened)

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 814

Price: $10.00

 

Dropped by long time record label Epic, the band signed with United Artists (RCA in the UK), releasing 1975's  Chris White, Rod Argent, and Tony Visconti produced "Counterpoints".    The band's second post-Russ Ballard album was apparently recorded under trying circumstances which included drummer Bob Henrit coming down with a nasty case of hepatitis which required Genesis' Phil Collins to step in for most of the recording sessions.  As on earlier albums, Rod Argent was responsible for most of the material with bassist Jim Rodford and singer/guitarist John Grimaldi contributing the remaining material.   Musically the band seemed to be trying to navigate the thin line between artistic integrity and record label pressure to generate commercial viable material.   The problem was they seemingly couldn't figure out where that sweet spot was.  The end result was an album that was too commercial for progressive fans, and too progressive for their pop fans.   Add the absence of any standout number ('Rock and Roll Show' was probably the most readily commercial tune), and you had an album that disappeared in a heartbeat.   The band toured in support of the LP, but needless to say, within a year Argent itself was history.

"Counterpoints" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) On My Feet Again   (Rod Argent) 3:12

Geez, where do start with 'On My Feet Again' ?   With the span of just over three minutes the band managed to touch on lounge act, jazz-rock, orchestrated pop, progressive, and rock elements.   Strange in a 10cc-meets-Queen-meets-Styx kind of fashion.   Can't say I particularly enjoyed the results the first couple of times, though over the years it's grown on me a bit.  rating: *** stars

2.) I Can't Remember, But Yes (instrumental)   (Rod Argent) 3:15   

Seamlessly merging into the first song, the instrumental 'I Can't Remember, But Yes' featured a jazz-rock flavor, though John Verity's bright guitar kept the emphasis on rock, rather than jazz.   Nice band interplay throughout and it avoided the usual yawn factor associated with the genre.  rating: *** stars  

3) Time    (Jim Rodford) - 7:16

One of the album's longest compositions, Jim Rodford's 'Time' started out sounding like a bad acid trip, or an equally hideous slice of experimental musique concrete.   Things improved a bit once the song moved past the intro, though the resulting mash-up of funky Rodford bass line and progressive, slightly discordant melody (complete with lots of needless soloing), ultimately saw the track collapse under its own weight.   rating: *** stars

4.) Waiting for the Yellow One   (John Grimaldi) - 2:48

'Waiting for the Yellow One' was a  pretty, but enigmatic ballad which managed to showcase the band's nice harmony vocals.   rating: *** stars

5.) It's Fallen Off (instrumental)  (John Grimald) - 2:42

With Grimaldi turning in some lightening fast guitar runs that left the rest of the band holding on for dear life, 'It's Fallen Off' sounded like a Jeff Beck jazz-rock fusion move.   Technically it was stunning, but I can't say it was particularly enjoyable.   rating: *** stars

 

(side 2)
1.) Be Strong   (Rod Argent) - 4:12

Geez, given Argent's high pitched, shrill vocals, for a minute I thought I'd mistakenly slapped a Sparks album on the turntable ...    Come to think of it, the song's goofy, but somehow engaging structure actually did sound a bit like a Sparks cut.   Grimaldi again turned in some nice fret work, but it wasn't enough to save the track.   rating: *** stars

2.) Rock and Roll Show   (Rod Argent) - 4:00

Nice title and the opening power chords gave you hope this might be a Kinks-styled rocker.  Instead it came off as an attempt to remake 'God Gave Rock n' Roll To You'.  Not nearly as good, but compared to the rest of the album it was quite commercial and actually generate a bit of energy and enthusiasm.  Probably the best tune on the album (which admittedly isn't saying a great deal) and probably explains why it was released as a UK single.   rating: **** stars

3.) Butterfly   (Rod Argent) - 4:03

Opening up with an unexpected trumpet segment, 'Butterfly' sounded like Donovan doing his best to sound hyper--fey.   Argent's lounge act keyboard solo certainly didn't help the song, but this one was so bizarre as to be quite interesting with a distinctive '60s toy-town feeling.    rating: *** stars

4.) Road Back Home   (Rod Argent) - 7:34

'Road Back Home' ended the album with a long, plodding ballad that offered up little in the melody department.   Giving credit where due, the song did showcase some of the band's nice harmony vocals and Grimaldi kicked in a nice solo, but again it couldn't rescue the overall song.   rating: *** stars

 

As mentioned, the album spun off one UK single:

 

  

 

- 1976's 'Rock 'n' Roll Show' b/w 'It's Fallen Off' (RCA victor catalog number RCA 2624)

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