Armageddon


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1974-76)

- Bobby Caldwell -- drums, percussion, keyboards

- Louis Cennamo -- bass

- Mike Pugh -- lead guitar

- Keith Relf (RIP 1976) -- vocals, harp

 

  line up 2 (1976-77)

- Bobby Caldwell -- drums, percussion, keyboards

- Louis Cennamo -- bass

NEW - Jeff Fenholt -- vocals (replaced Keith Relf)

- Mike Pugh -- lead guitar

 

 

Black Cat Bones (Keith Relf)

- Captain Beyond (Bobby Caldwell)

- Chicago Line (Louis Cennamo)

- Jody Grind (Louis Cennamo)

- Keith Relf (solo efforts)

- Renaissance (Louis Cennamo and Keith Relf)

- Steamhammer (Louis Cennamo and Martin Pugh)

- Yardbirds (Keith Relf)

 

 

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Armageddon

Company: A&M

Catalog: SP 4513
Year:
 1975

Country/State: UK / US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 16

Price: $30.00

 

The mid-1970s saw an explosion in corporate super groups - most of' them not particularly impressive, or memorable.  One of the better, but largely overlooked outfits, was the short-lived Armageddon.  Showcasing the talents of former Captain Beyond drummer Bobby Caldwell, ex-Jody grind bassist Louis Cennamo, Steamhammer guitarist Mike Pugh and Yardbirds singer Keith Relf, these guys had the business credentials and the talent to have made it big had fate not intervened and cut their recording career short.

A&M promotional photo

 

Supposedly signed by A&M based on a referral from peter Frampton, their 1975 debut was a self-produced affair showcasing writing contributions from all four members.  Exemplified by tracks like 'Paths and Planes and Future Gains' and 'Last Stand Before' the majority of "Armageddon"  featured a hard rock edge that wasn't all that far removed from Free and other mid-1970s English blues-rockers.  Yeah, the songs were longer than what you'd normally find and there was an occasional flicker of jazz-rock thrown in for good measure ('Buzzard').  Add to that the pretty folk-rock inspired 'Silver Tightrope' bore more than a passing resemblance to Relf's earlier Renaissance catalog and you had a band with enough unique attributes to separate themselves from much of the competition. Relf was clearly the band's front man and he sounded quite impressive in the surroundings.  The Caldwell - Cennamo rhythm section was similarly efficient with the latter's bowed bass techniques making for some intriguing tones.  Perhaps not the most showy rhythm section you've encountered, the were nevertheless solid throughout.   That left Pugh as the band's secret weapon.  His scorching performances simply had to be heard to be believed and unlike many of his contemporaries. he could play fast and furious without wasting a lot of energy just for the sake of complexity.

 

"Armageddon" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Buzzard   (Mike Pugh - Bobby Caldwell - Keith Relf) - 8:16   rating: **** stars

Opening up with some skitterish, wah-wah powered Mike Pugh lead guitar, 'Buzzard' got the album off to an impressive start.  The first half of the song was all instrumental which managed to successfully find a mix of hard rock and jazz moves.  It was the kind of thing that Jeff Beck tried in vein to accomplish for years and years.  To be honest, initially Relf's workman-like vocals really didn't add a great deal to the set, but as the song rambled on it began to take a blues-rock sheen, complete with extended harmonica solo that gave Refl's work a little more appeal.   Kudos to Pugh since he was clearly the star on this one.   

2.) Silver Tightrope   (Mike Pugh - Bobby Caldwell - Keith Relf) - 8:23   rating: **** stars

Propelled by some pretty Pugh chords, 'Silver Tightrope' found Relf steering the group toward a gorgeous Renaissance-influenced folk-rock feel.  Unlike anything else on the album, this one really did sound like it might have been a Renaissance-meets-Zeppelin outtake.  Hard to believe this was the same guy that handled all of those Yardbirds rockers ...  with this performance Relf demonstrated he really could sing it all !!!   

3.) Paths and Planes and Future Gains   (Mike Pugh - Bobby Caldwell - Keith Relf) - 4:30   rating: *** stars

'Paths and Planes and Future Gains' found the band returning to hard rock with a vengeance.  This time around Relf's snarling vocals and Cennamo's pounding bass were the song's key elements.  If you were looking for rock and roll subtly, this wasn't the place to be poking around.    

 

(side 2)
1.) Last Stand Before   (Mike Pugh - Bobby Caldwell - Keith Relf - Louie Cennamo) - 8:23
  rating: **** stars

'Last Stand Before' started side two with the album's most conventional and commercial tune.  Built on an irritatingly catchy Pugh riff, this one's slinky melody burrowed its way into your head and wouldn't leave.  Elsewhere anyone who didn't think there was a place for harmonica in rock and roll should probably check this one out.   It was also one of drummer Caldwell's standout performances.   

2.) Basking in the White of the Midnight Sun  rating: **** stars

    i.) Warning Coming On - 1:00

    ii.) Basking in the White of the Midnight Sun   (Mike Pugh - Bobby Caldwell - Keith Relf) - 3:03

    iii.) Brother Ego   (Mike Pugh - Bobby Caldwell - Keith Relf - Louie Cennamo) - 5:10

    iv.) Basking in the White of the Midnight Sun (Reprise)  (Mike Pugh - Bobby Caldwell - Keith Relf) - 2:18

'Basking in the White of the Midnight Sun' found the band introducing a progressive element to the mix.  Broken out into a four segment suite, while it only lasted a minute, the instrumental 'Warning Coming On' was the album's most progressive segment with the composition suddenly taking off in the direction of a Zeppelin-styled rocker when it hit the title track section (and never looked back).   Main complaint on this one stemmed from the fact Relf's vocals were buried way down in the mix - it sounded like he'd been recorded in a shower stall a mile away from the rest of the band.  Pugh's frenetic lead chatter simply had to be heard with these guys giving Plant and Page a run for their money on this extended piece of bombast.  I love it !!!   

 

While the album attracted favorable reviews from the critics and became a minor seller in the States, Relf's poor health (emphysema) limited their ability to tour in support of the album.  Relf subsequently returned to the UK (the band had been based in L.A.).  His departure saw everything come to a grinding stop and the final nail in the band's coffin came with he unexpectedly died in May 1976.    Refl seemingly accidentally electrocuted himself while playing an ungrounded electric guitar in his home basement.  Ignore the stories that have him playing an electric guitar in his bathtub ...  its simply one of those ugly urban myths that seemingly will not go away.


 

In 1998 the album was reissued in CD format by the  Repertoire label (catalog number PMS-7089-WP. The CD included an extensive band history by Chris Welch and can be found online at:

http://www.alexgitlin.com/npp/armauk.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

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