Bell + Arc

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1971)
- Graham Bell (RIP 2008) -- vocals, harmonica

- Tommy Duffy -- bass

- Mickey Gallagher -- keyboards

- Rob Tait -- drums, percussion

- John Turnbull -- vocals, lead guitar


  line up 2 (1971)
- Graham Bell (RIP 2008) -- vocals, harmonica

- Tommy Duffy -- bass

- Mickey Gallagher -- keyboards

- John Turnbull -- vocals, lead guitar

NEW - John Woods -- drums, percussion, replaced Rob Tait)


  backing musicians:

- Buddy Beadle -- horns

- John Condon -- cornet

- Ken Craddock -- guitar

- Steve Gregory -- sax

- Alan White -- drums, percussion


  line up 3 (1971)
- Graham Bell (RIP 2008)-- vocals, harmonica

- Tommy Duffy -- bass

- Mickey Gallagher -- keyboards

- John Turnbull -- vocals, lead guitar

NEW - Alan White -- drums, percussion (replaced John Woods)


  line up 4 (1971-72)
- Graham Bell (RIP 2008) -- vocals, harmonica

- Tommy Duffy -- bass

- Mickey Gallagher -- keyboards

- John Turnbull -- vocals, lead guitar

NEW - Ian Wallace -- drums, percussion (replaced Alan White)


  line up 5 (1972)
- Graham Bell (RIP 2008) -- vocals, harmonica

- Ken Craddock -- keyboards (replaced Mickey Gallagher)

- Tommy Duffy -- bass

- Mickey Gallagher -- keyboards

- John Turnbull -- vocals, lead guitar

NEW - Ian Wallace -- drums, percussion





- 21st Century Schizoid Band (Ian Wallace)

- Arc (Tommy Duffy,  Mickey Gallagher, Rob Tait, and John Turnbull)

- Ginger Baker's Air Force (Ken Craddock and Alan White)

- Balls (Alan White)

- Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come (Rob Tait)

- Pete Brown and His Battered Ornaments (Rob Tait)

- Pete Brown and Piblokto (Rob Tait)

- Graham Bell (solo efforts)

- The Graham Bell Trend

- The Blockheads (Mickey Gallagher and John Turnbull)

- Every Which Way (Graham Bell)

- Frampton's Camel (Mickey Gallagher)

- Glencoe (John Turnbull)

- Gong (Rob Tait)

- Griffin (Graham Bell, Ken Craddock, and Alan White)

- Happy Magazine (Alan White)

- Heavy Jelly  (Graham Bell, Mickey Gallagher, John Turnbull, and

  Alan White)

- Jackson Heights (John Woods)

- Jody Grind (John Woods)

- Junco Partners (John Woods)

- King Crimson (Ian Wallace)

- Lindisfarne

- Loving Awareness (Mickey Gallagher and John Turnbull)

- Parrish and Gurvitz (Mickey Gallagher)

- The Plastic Ono Band (Alan White)

- Sect (Tommy Duffy)

- Skip Biffery (Graham Bell, Mickey Gallagher, and John Turnbull)

- Dave Stewart and the Spiritual Cowboys (John Turnbull)

- Vinegar Joe (Rob Tait)

- Alan White (solo efforts)

- Snowy White's Blues Agency (Graham Bell)

- Wonderwheel (Tommy Duffy)

- World Party

- Yes (Alan White)




Genre: blues-rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Bell + Arc

Company: Columbia

Catalog: C 31142

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG

Comments: timing strip on front sleeve; minor cover wear; vinyl plays well

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 244

Price: $30.00


Singer Graham Bell, keyboardist  Mickey Gallagher, and guitarist John Turnbull had all been in the band Skip Biffery and the follow-up Heavy Jelly.  When Biffery broke up in 1970 Bell headed briefly hooked up with the band Griffin (releasing a couple of singles) and the The Nice's Brian Davidson which saw the release of surprisingly enjoyable album under the name Every Which Way.  That project only lasted one album before Bell headed out in pursuit of a solo career.  In the meantime Gallagher and Turnbull formed Arc along with bassist Tommy Duffy and drummer Rob Tait.   The story is that Bell asked his buddies to help out on some of the demos he was recording for a planned solo album, but  the resulting sessions were so impressive, Bell decided to ditch the solo project and combine their collective talents under the Bell + Arc nameplate.  


Signed by Tony Straton-Smith's Charisma label (Columbia acquired US distribution rights), the band's 1971 self-titled debut teamed them with producer Bob Johnston.  Original drummer Tait quit during the recording sessions (but was listed in the performance credits) and was quickly replaced by former Jackson Heights/Jody Grind/Junco Partners drummer John Wood.  Musically "Bell + Arc" was fairly diverse with Graham and company taking on blues-rock, country, jazz moves, blue-eyed soul, and conventional rock; sometimes all at once.  Strong grades for the willingness to be so dynamic.  Instrumentally there were a couple of standouts in the lineup.  Keyboardist Gallagher was consistently engrossing, turning jazz-inflected riffs into some of the album's most entertaining moments.  Guitarist Turnbull was also good, though his spotlight moments were far and few between.  The overlooked hero was bassist Duffy whose playing was simultaneously melodic and rock solid (check out his work on 'Yat Rock').   At the other end of the spectrum were the two tracks with brass arrangements ('Let Your Love Run Free' and 'She Belongs To Me').  The horns added nothing to the mix.  And then came Graham's chronic over-singing.  He certainly had a great, soul-inflected voice, but like Joe Cocker (who he occasionally recalled), Bell didn't seem to understand that less could be more which meant otherwise impressive tracks like 'High Priest of Memphis' and their cover of Leonard Cohen's 'So Long Marianne' came off as overly shrill and just outright irritating.  


- With Gallagher kicking the song along with a jittery keyboard riff, it took awhile for 'High Priest of Memphis' to kick in gear and when it finally did, it displayed an interesting soul flavor, though the  screechy female backing singers didn't add much to the results.  rating: *** stars

- Opening up with a nifty Gallagher piano riff and some chunky Turnbull guitar, 'Let Your Love Run Free' had a cool jazz-rock flavor and a great rollicking hook.  Even Bell came off as restrained on this one, turning in what sounded like his best Joe Cocker impression, and when the song shifted gears into rock territory, it got even better (and blessedly the horns didn't kick in until about half way through the track).   For anyone interested, the version recorded by Arc was even better.    rating: **** stars

- English blues-rockers are usually advised to stay away from country-tinged numbers.  And while 'Keep a Wise Mind' wasn't anything spectacular, it could have been far, far worse.  As it was, Bell and company actually turned the track into a rollicking, fun, throwaway number that showcased Bell's own talents on harmonica.  rating: *** stars

- It's probably Bell and Arc's best known effort and fans rave about the performance, but their cover of Leonard Cohen's 'So Long Marianne' has never done a great deal for me.  Reduced to a plodding, horn-driven slice of blues-rock, Bell certainly had a powerful enough voice, but here he just came off as needlessly harsh and shrill.  YouTube has a clip of the band performing the song on the Dutch BeatClub television show.  You can judge for yourself:   rating: ** stars

- I'm guessing it was producer Bob Johnston's idea to have the band cover a Dylan tune.  Unfortunately, as bad as I thought the Cohen cover was, their version of Dylan's 'She Belongs To Me' sounded like it was going to be even worse - Bell literally bleating over a half-hearted attempt by the band to find a melody.  Luckily they eventually got their act halfway together and turned the song into something akin to an English version of Al Kooper covering a Dylan track.  Can't say I thought much of it, but that didn't stop Charisma from tapping it as a single.   rating: *** stars

- Complete with Alan White playing vibes, I clearly remember wondering if I'd mistakenly put on a Paul Carrack album the first time I heard the jazzy, supper-clubbish 'Yat Rock'.  The song actually wasn't bad with Bell avoiding some of his standard histrionics and the second part of the song gave Turnbull a rare opportunity to showcase his talents.   rating: **** stars

- 'Dawn' was a stark, country-blues flavored ballad - just Bell playing an acoustic guitar.   Pretty, and another isolate example where Bell showed some vocal restraint, but ultimately it was forgettable.    rating: ** stars

- 'Children of the North Prison' started out as another stark acoustic ballad, but luckily developed to reveal a full band arrangement.  Bell's pinched vocals reminded me of Ritchie Havens on this one.  Not a big fan ...     rating: ** stars

- With Duffy's bass taking center stage, the bluesy 'Everyday' may have been my choice for standout performance.  Bell never sounded as soulful and about half way through the song added some funky Turnbull guitar and Woods percussion.      rating: **** stars


The album spun off a single in the form of:



- 1970's 'She Belongs To Me' b/w 'Dawn' (Charisma catalog number CB 170)


Is it  a "must own" album ?  No.  Is it a great album ?  No.  Is it a good album ?  Yes.  Would I spend a fortune on it ?  Nope,  but if I found it at the right price, definitely.



"Bell + Arc" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) High Priest of Memphis   (Graham Bell) - 3:30

2.) Let Your Love Run Free   (Graham Bell - Arc) - 6:00

3.) Keep a Wise Mind   (Graham Bell - John Turnbull - Gibson) - 3:18

4.) So Long Marianne   (Leonard Cohen) - 3:42

5.) She Belongs To Me   (Bob Dylan) - 4:30


(side 2)

1.) Yat Rock   (Graham Bell) - 6:07

2.) Dawn   (Graham Bell) - 2:54

3.) Children of the North Prison   (Graham Bell) - 4:16

4.) Everyday   (Graham Bell) - 3:57



Shortly after the album was completed drummer Woods joined Vinegar Joe.  In time for a US tour he was replaced by Alan White.  White didn't even make it through the end of the tour before being replaced by ex-King Crimson drummer Ian Wallace who managed to last until the band's breakup in early 1972 (very Spinal Tap-ish).  Keyboardist Gallagher almost made it to the end, but was replaced for a couple of months by ex-Ginger Baker's Air Force member Ken Craddock.


For hardcore fans, the original English release sported different cover art:



Charisma catalog number CAS 1053


Only 60, Graham died in May 2008.  So far I haven't been able to locate an obituary, or something that provides more details.