Baker Gurvitz Army


Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1974-75)

- Ginger Baker -- drums, percussion, vibes, vocals
- Adrian Gurvitz (aka Adrian Curtis) -- guitars, vocals
- Paul Gurvitz  (aka Paul Curtis) -- bass, vocals
- John Norman B. Normal -- keyboards, syntheesizer, 
  vibes
 
  line up 2 (1975-76)
- Ginger Baker -- drums, percussion, vibes, vocals
- Adrian Gurvitz (aka Adrian Curtis) -- guitars, vocals
- Paul Gurvitz  (aka Paul Curtis) -- bass, vocals
NEW - Peter Lemer -- keyboards (replaced  John Norman B. Normal)
NEW - Steve Parsons (aka Snips) -- lead vocals
 
  line up 3 (1976)
- Ginger Baker -- drums, percussion, vibes, vocals
- Adrian Gurvitz (aka Adrian Curtis) -- guitars, vocals
- Paul Gurvitz  (aka Paul Curtis) -- bass, vocals
- Steve Parsons (aka Snips) -- lead vocals
 
  backing vocals (1975)
- Madeline Bell -- backing vocals
- Irene Chanter -- backing vocals
- Brian Chatton -- synthesizer
- Ken Freeman -- synthesizer
- Kay Gardner -- backing vocals
- Rosetta Hightower -- backing vocals
- Ann Odell Piano -- organ
- Barry St. John --  backing vocals
- Lisa Strike -- backing vocals
 
 

 

- Baker, Bruce and Moore (BBM(

- Ginger Baker (solo efforts)

- Ginger Baker's Air Force (Ginger Baker)

- Blind Faith (Ginger Baker)

- The Graham Bond Organization (Ginger Baker)

- Cream (Ginger Baker)

Gun (Adrian Gurvitz and Paul Gurvitz)

- The Graeme Edge Band

- Adrian Gurvitz (solo efforts)

- Paul Gurvitz (solo efforts)

- Seventh Wave (Peter Lemer)

- Sharks (Snips)

- Snips (solo efforts)

- The Three Man Army

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Elysian Encounter

Company: ATCO

Catalog: SD 37-123
Year:
 1975

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: 5982

Price: $9.00

 

Pulling together a group of musical also-rans/has-beens is a longstanding music industry concept for squeezing money out of the buying public.  And at least to my cynical eyes, that sure seemed to be the concept behind The Baker Gurvitz Army.  

 

By the time the band formed in 1974 drummer Ginger Baker had gone from international stardom as a member of Cream and Blind Faith to being little more than a musical footnote.  For their part, brothers Adrian and Paul Gurvitz had played in a number of competent, but little known outfits including The Gun and The Three Man Army.

 

1975 saw the band undergo a pair of personnel changes with former Seventh Wave keyboardist Peter Lamer replacing original member John Norman B. Normal and the addition of former Sharks lead singer Steve Parsons (aka Snips).  With the new line up in place, the revamped band released 1975's self-produced "Elysian Encounter".  Musically the sophomore album wasn't a major change from the debut's mixture of Baker's instantly recognizable drums (I still wonder how they captured that deep, guttural sound) and the band's penchant for crushing, bluesy hard rock.  At least to my ears Snips was kind of an odd addition to the band since his ragged and occasional shrill voice wasn't all that different from Adrian Gurvitz - in fact if I wasn't paying attention, it was almost impossible for me to tell who was handling lead vocals.  Still, Parsons certainly didn't hurt the band's chemistry and this time out they actually sounded more comfortable playing together.  While none of these tracks were particularly original. the band did have a somewhat unique sound, though after all these years I still can't adequately describe that characteristic ...  I can tell you it's one of the few albums I've heard where the drums have continually captured my attention.  As for the continual comparisons you'll see to Cream; well I'd suggest ignoring them since the two bands sound nothing alike.  

 

"Elysian Encounter" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) People   (Ginger Baker - Adrian Gurvitz) - 4:10

A driving rocker, 'People' served to showcase the band's multiple strengths including Baker's hyperactive drumming (yes there was a brief solo), Adrian's muscular guitar chords, and Parson's throat tearing voice.  This was hardly the most original song you'd ever heard, but it had quite a bit of energy and was a nice way to start the album.   rating: *** stars

2.) The Key   (Ginger Baker - Adrian Gurvitz)  -6:25

Kicked along by Adrian Gurvitz's slide guitar (including a fantastic mid-song solo) and Parson's ragged voice, 'The Key' was a surprisingly commercial mid-tempo number.  Co-written by Baker and Adrian, this one had a hypnotic rhythm and displayed the band's unexpectedly smooth harmony vocals.  Very nice and one of my favorite performances.   rating: **** stars

3.) Time   (Adrian Gurvitz) - 4:03

Adrian handled lead vocals on most of the debut set, but with the addition of Snips to the line up, he was only given two shots at the spotlight this time out.  If you could get through the weird sci-fi spoken word introduction 'Time' morphed into one of the album's better and most commercial rockers.  This one would have sounded great on top-40 radio.   rating: **** stars 

4.) The Gambler   (Adrian Gurvitz) - 4:15

Once again showcasing Adrian's guitar, 'The Gambler' was a Southern rock-styled ballad (yeah, I know that sounded odd coming from a British band).  Built on a beautiful melody that would have made The Allman Brothers proud, Parson's best performance, and some nice harmony vocals made this one of the album's standout performances.  For hardcore fans, the song was tapped as a single in England and other European countries:

 

- 1975's 'The Gambler' b/w 'Time' (Mountain catalog number TOP 4)    rating: **** stars

 

(side 2)
1.) The Dreamer   (Adrian Gurvitz) - 5:38

Side two's 'The Dreamer' was the first disappointment.  The song itself seemed to have been slapped together for a bunch of different fragments including Adrian's country-flavored solo runs.  That said, the bigger problem came in the form of Parson's vocal.  Up to this point he kept the arch and shrill characteristics of his voice in check.  Not so on this one.  Not good ...    rating: ** stars

2.) Remember   (Ginger Baker - Adrian Gurvitz) - 5:23

An atmospheric ballad, 'Remember' also served as the second and final song to showcase Adrian Gurvitz on lead vocals.  This one always reminded me of something the band Charlie might have recorded, though I have to admit that I liked Lemer's unexpected jazzy keyboard solo.   rating: **** stars

3.) The Artist   (Adrian Gurvitz) - 5:15

'The Artist' was an unexpected change in direction - imagine Cream deciding to do a pretentious English folk-rock number.  Luckily the song's sensitive singer/songwriter opening quickly gave way to a more conventional rock structure with Adrian turning in what may have been the album's best guitar solo.    rating: *** stars

4.) The Hustler   (Ginger Baker - Adrian Gurvitz - Paul Gurvitz) - 6:40

Kicked along by Lamer's bubbly synthesizers, 'The Hustler' ended the album with a hyper-speed slice of bar rock.  The performances were technically quite good, giving each member a chance to showcase their virtuosity, but the overall sound was just anonymous.   They would have done better to bury this one somewhere in the middle of the album.    rating: ** stars

 

 

So much for preconceived notions, but I've got to admit that this album was way better than I expected ...  

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Hearts On Fire

Company: ATCO

Catalog: SD 36-137
Year:
 1975

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: promo sticker on cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2395

Price: $10.00

 

 

1975's "Hearts On Fire" found The Baker Gurvitz Army down to a quartet featuring namesakes Ginger Baker, Adrian and Paul Gurvitz,  and lead singer Snips (aka Steve Parsons).   Produced by Eddie Offord, about a third of the album featured a decent collection of blues-rockers baring more than a passing nod to Free and Bad Company.  On material like the title track, 'Neon Lights', and 'Mystery', the album's big surprise came in the form of Snips voice.   The man could belt it out, pulling off a more than decent Paul Rogers impression.   But then you had to deal with the other two thirds of the record.  Marking their creative nadir, the dreadful disco-tinged 'Dancing the Night Away' left you wondering if ATCO management was blackmailing the band to churn out something for the dance market.  'Tracks of My Life' may have been written as the album's radio friendly tune, but it was horrible.  'Thirsty For the Blues' may have underscored their credibility as serious blues-rockers, but was ultimately plodding and dull.    

 

Call it a second tier not-quite-super-group that sounded like they were out of creative steam and going through the contractual obligation motions.

 

"Hearts On Fire" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Hearts On Fire   (Ginger Baker) - 2:32   rating: **** stars

Damn !!!  A band that managed to out performer the original thing - in this case out blues-rocking Bad Company.   With Snips pulling out his best Paul Rogers impression, the title track was a fine slice of '70s corporate blues-rock.   Simultaneously slinky and radio-ready, it would have made a dandy FM single.  Always admired the "big" sound they captured on Baker's drums.

2.) Neon Lights   (Mr. Snips) - 4:39   rating: **** stars

One of two Snips compositions, 'Neon Light' didn't stray too far from their blues-rock path, though Parson's arched vocals sounded a bit like Fred Schneider trying to channel Paul Rogers. Once you got over the strange vocals and the weird mid-song "soundtrack" synthesizers the song was actually quite good with one of Adrian Gurvitz's nicest solos.

3.) Smiling   (Paul Gurvitz) - 3:16   rating: *** stars

Paul Gurvitz's lone contribution to the album's writing chores, 'Smiling' found the band taking a shot at sounding funky.   I won't lie and tell you it was great, but complete with Brian Chatton's cheesy '70s synthesizers and Paul's rumbling bass line, it wasn't bad.   

4.) Tracks of My Life   (Adrian Gurvitz) - 4:30   rating: ** stars

'Tracks of My Life' found the band abruptly shifting gears.  Unfortunately, the heavily orchestrated, heavy-handed ballad brought out the worst characteristics in Snips' voice - a high, shaky sound that I found  almost as irritating as Roger Chapman's delivery.  The shrill female backing chorus didn't really make things any better.  Naturally it was released as the leadoff UK single:

- 1976's 'Tracks of My Life' b/w 'The Artist' (Mountain catalog number TOP10)

5.) Flying In and Out of Stardom   (Adrian Gurvitz) - 2:21   rating: *** stars

After the previous ballad, the autobiographical bar band rocker 'Flying In and Out of Stardom' was a modest return to form.  Judging by the lyrics, I guess Gurvitz was a bit disappointed with his audiences ....  Always liked his interesting chord sequences on this one.    

 

(side 2)

1.) Dancing the Night Away   (Adrian Gurvitz) - 3:26   rating: ** stars

Hearing Brian Chatton's chattering mini-Moog opening I can clearly remember wondering if I'd mistakenly put on an Average White Band, or Ohio Players album.   Geez, never would have expected these guys to dip their collective toes into a disco tune.    Dance, dance, dance, dance ... Not something they should be proud of, though that didn't stop their English label from tapping at as the album's second single:

- 1976's 'Dancing the Night' b/w 'Night People' (Mountain catalog number TOP 15).  

2.) My Mind Is Healing   (Adrian Gurvitz) - 3:54

At least momentarily 'My Mind Is Healing' has always reminded me of something recorded for a Who concept piece ...   

3.) Thirsty For the Blues   (Adrian Gurvitz) - 5:18   rating: ** stars

'Thirsty For the Blues' was a plodding, bland, and conventional blues number.   You've heard stuff like this dozens of times over the years.   

4.) Night People   (Adrian Gurvitz) - 3:21   rating: *** stars

'Night People' showcased some of Adrian's prettiest lead work, but then lost its way trying to decide it it wanted to be a pop song, or a Southern rocker.   Call it an interesting stumble.

5.) Mystery  (Snips) - 4:04   rating: **** stars

Snips second composition, 'Mystery' was my favorite tune.  Another blues-rocker, but with a great melody, some of Adrian's most tuneful playing, and one of those songs where Parsons didn't try to get goofy, rather sang it straight and true.   

 

 

 

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