Capability Brown

Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1971-76)

- Tony Ferguson -- vocals, guitar, bass 
- Dave Nevin -- vocals, keyboards, guitar, bass
- Kenny Rowe -- vocals, bass, percussion
- Grahame White -- vocals, guitar, bass 
- Joe Williams -- vocals, percussion 
- Roger Willis -- vocals, drums, keyboards


- Christie (Tony Ferguson, Graham White and Roger Willis)

- Fuzzy Duck (Grahame White)

- The Gremlins (Roger Willis)

- Harmony Grass (Tony Ferguson, Joe Nevin, Kenny Rowe, and 

  Joe  Williams)

- Krazy Kats (Tony Ferguson, Grahame White and Roger Willis)

- The Moments (Kenny Rowe)

- Kenny Rowe (solo efforts)

- Storm Warning (Roger Willis)





Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  From Scratch

Company: Charisma

Catalog: CAS 1056

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+

Comments: punch hole top right corner; lyric insert

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5487

Price: $50.00



Before coming together as Capability Brown (named after the famed 18th century British landscaper/gardener Lancelot Capability Brown), these guys had a rather impressive pedigree,  At different times Tony Ferguson, Joe Nevin, Grahame White and Roger Willis had all been members of Harmony Grass.  White had also been a member of Fuzzy Duck.  Kenny Rowe had been in The Moments (not the US soul outfit), while Roger Willis had been a member of The Gremlins.



The six members came together in 1971, eventually signing with Charisma which showed immense faith in the group's commercial potential (I'm saying that in a sarcastic way), releasing their debut single the same year; a cover of Russ Ballard's 'Liar' (Charisma catalog number BCP 7).  Ironically the flip side wasn't even a Capability Brown track, rather featured label mates Spreadeagle and their song 'Nightmare'.  That was followed by another single - this time out they were represented on both the 'A' and 'B' sides:

- 1972's 'Wake Up Little Sister' b/w 'Windfall' (Charisma catalog number CB 193)


Produced by Steve Rowlands, 1972's "From Scratch" featured an interesting blend of musical genres; occasionally layered in the same composition.  The lead off track 'Beautiful Scarlet' served as a perfect example of their dynamic approach, blending bits of top-40 pop with CSN&Y styled vocal harmonies (along with a wandering David Crosby-styled jazz lead guitar), and a modest progressive feel and structure (particularly the sci-fi inspired closing suite 'Sole Survivor').  The CSN&Y influences were even stronger on the rocker 'Do You Believe', 'I Will Be There' and the beautiful country-rock ballad 'Redman' (one of two Rare Bird covers).  At the other end of the spectrum the power pop ''No Range' sounded like something Chinn and Chapman would be writing for The Sweet in a couple of years.  While all of the original numbers were good, the standout tracks were various covers.  Though clocking in at over seven minutes it was a little too long, their version of 'Liar' crushed the Argent original and though it wasn't as poppy as the Three Dog Night version, has always struck me as being the best version.  Elsewhere while they were a little too fey for my tastes, even the ballads 'Garden' and 'Day In Day Out' (the latter sounding like something David Crosby would have written), were worth hearing for their gorgeous melodies and for the killer group harmonies.  Most bands would sell their drummer to be able to come even close and every time I hear those harmonies I can see where Freddie Mercury and Queen took much of their inspiration from.   All hyperbole aside, this is a lost 1970s classic.  Having listened to it dozens of times over the years I'm at still at a complete loss to explain why it tanked.  


"Scratching the Surface" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Beautiful Scarlet   (Rare Bird) - 4:53

Not drastically different from the Rare Bird original, 'Beautiful Scarlet ' opened up the album with a progressive vibe, but with a distinctive commercial edge (check out the killer harmony vocals).  Always loved Grahame White jazzy guitar fills on this one.  Strange comparison, but imagine a British CSN&Y and you'd get a feel for this one.   For some reason the song was released as a single in Portugal:

- 1972's 'Beautiful Scarlet' b/w 'The Band' (Philips catalog number 6073 318)    rating: **** stars

2.) Do You Believe   (Dave Nevin) - 4:25

If you love CSN&Y-styled harmonies, then 'Do You Believe' will be right up your alley.  Add in an infections melody and this was one of the album highlights.  rating: **** stars
3.) The Band   (Tony Ferguson) - 3:39

Always loved the guitar on this apparent autobiographical number.   Great vocals.   rating: **** stars
4.) Garden   (Tony Ferguson) - 3:18

The first disappointment, 'Garden' was a pretty, slightly country-tinged ballad that sounded like a third teir 10CC effort.  rating: *** stars
5.) Liar   (Russ Ballard) - 7:13

Stretched out and toughened up, but still instantly recognizable, their cover of Russ Ballard's 'Liar' was certainly better than the Three Dog Night hit version.    Charisma tapped the tune as the album's leadoff single:

- 1973's 'Liar' b/w 'Keep Death Off The Road' (Charisma catalog number CB 217) 


(side 2)

1.) No Range   (Dave Nevin) - 4:05

The flute sounded a but fey, but the rest of the song actually rocked pretty hard.  Again, these guiys had some wonderful group harmony skills.   rating: **** stars
2.) I Will Be There   (Tony Ferguson) - 3:18

Written and sung by Tony Ferguson, 'I Will Be There' changed paces, offering up a country-tinged acoustic number.   Not my favorite performance, but it still had a low-keyed charm.   rating: *** stars
3.) Redman   (M. Hall - S. Gould - F. Kelly) - 3:21

The album's second Rare Bird cover (off of 1974's "Born Again"), there was something slightly ironic hearing a bunch of Englishmen singing a tune from an American Indian's perspective.   There cover was quite nice and you couldn't argue with the bittersweet sentiments.  Not one of America's proudest moments.   rating: **** stars
4.) Day In Day Out   (Dave Nevin) - 3:46

Imagine David Crosby being able to write a tune with something having a semblance to a melody and you might have the beautiful acoustic ballad 'Day In Day Out'.   maybe it was just me, but I swear Dave Nevin's voice sounded like 10CC's Eric Stewart.    rating: **** stars
5.) Sole Survivor   (Tony Ferguson) - 9:46

    a.) Escape

The band at their heaviest and surprisingly enjoyable.    Would have made a dandy single.   rating: **** stars

    b.) Sole Survivor

Still heavy, but enter the patented five part harmonies, complete with some scat singing moves.   rating: **** stars

    c.) Cosmic Ride

Bck to the CSN&Y sound, complete with the Stephen Still-styled jazzy guitar and those Eric Stewart-esque vocals.    rating: **** stars

    d.) Time Machine (instrumental)
Showcasing twin lead guitars,
'Time Machine'  ended the album with a rollicking instrumental segment.   rating: *** stars






Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Voice

Company: Passport

Catalog: PPSD-98004

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: promo sticker on cover; gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1551

Price: $40.00


Overlooking the hideous Hipgnosis designed album cover (you can just hear feminist groups screaming in the background), 1973's "Voice" offered up a side pf wonderful British power pop coupled with a sidelong progressive opus. 



Charisma originally released the album in the UK, with the Passport label released the collection in the States a year later.)  Exemplified by tracks like 'I Am and So Are You' and 'Keep Death Off the Road (Drive On the Pavement)' side one was packed with insidiously catchy melodies, interesting lyrics, and killer group vocal harmonies (wonder if  Terry Thomas and Charlie ever listened to 'So Are You' ...)  As commercial and catchy as anything in the Nicky Chinn-Mike Chapman catalog, virtually any of the four side one tracks would have made a dandy 45.  Clocking in just short of 20 minutes, the side two opus 'Circumstances (In Love, Past, Present, Future Meet)'' found the band touching base with their progressive roots.  Ever heard Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody'?  Well check out the first segment of side two and guess where Freddie Mercury and company appear to have gotten their inspiration ...  Elsewhere the inclusion of 'Midnight Cruiser' made them one of the first bands to cover a Steely Dan tune.  Passport also tapped it as a US single.  Perhaps a bit too eclectic and diverse to be a true classic, but still in engaging album from start to finish.   Bet the cover didn't win them a lot of fans in the feminist community.


"Voice" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) I Am and So Are You   (Alan Hull) - 4:09

The first time I played this album I clearly remember wondering if I'd mistakenly put on a progressive album by mistake.  'Course the gorgeous harmonies eventually kicked in and I felt back on know territory.   Kicked along by a thunderous bass line, it was one of their hardest rocking tunes and quite a pleasure.  rating: **** stars

2.) Sad Am I   (Tony Ferguson) - 3:33

Anyone who thought these guys were a throwaway pop band, would probably be surprised at how varied they could be on a track lack 'Sad Am I'.  Pop, country-rock, CSN&Y harmonies, killer bass line  - it was all embedded in this wonderful tune.   rating: **** stars

3.) Midnight Cruiser   (Donald Fagen - Walter Becker) - 3:59

There's a reason there aren't a lot of bands that will taken on a Steely Dan cover.  The Dan's simply a tough act for anyone to handle.  Still, kudos to these guys for giving it a shot.  Musically they tried to toughen the tune up a tad (particularly on the chorus, while retaining most of the original melody and structure.   It won't make you forget the original, but was an enthusiastic remake.  The tune was tapped as a US single:



- 1974's Midnight Cruiser' b/w 'Silent Sounds' (Passport catalog number PPA-1903)

  rating: **** stars

4.) Keep Death Off the Road (Drive On the Pavement)   (Dave Nevin) - 6:41

You simply had to smile at the title ...  Musically 'Keep Death Off the Road (Drive On the Pavement)' found the band taking a stab at what sounded a bit like a cross between Sweet-styled glam rock and Free-styled blues-rock.   It probably didn't sound like a great combination, but was actually surprisingly enjoyable with some energetic twin lead guitar from Tony Ferguson and Grahame White   rating: **** stars


(side 2)
1.) Circumstances (In Love, Past, Present, Future Meet)  (
Tony Ferguson - Dave Nevin - Kenny Rowe - Grahame White - Joe Williams - Roger Willis) - 21:05

'Circumstances (In Love, Past, Present, Future Meet)' found the band turning in a side long suite. Opening up with a host of interesting instrumentation - synthesizers, harpsichord, what sounded like a Japanese koto, the first three minutes sported kind of a world music flavor.  The electric guitars then took over and the group harmonies kicked in shifting the tune into a progressive-meets-dickensian direction.   I've always wondered if Freddy Mercury and Queen had borrowed some of their inspiration from this section of the tune.  From there the tune dipped it's toes into English folk, hard rock, pop, and true progressive genres.  Interestingly, around the 13 minute mark the song even sounded a bit like a James Gang tune.  At the 15 minute mark it recalled something out of the Crosby and Nash catalog.  It may have sounded like a bit of an aural mess, but was surprisingly coherent and enjoyable.   rating: **** stars


The band called it quits in 1976 at which point Tony Ferguson, Grahame White and Roger Willis continued their partnership in Krazy Kats.  The three then joined a late-inning version of Christie.


I've never bothered to track down a copy, but the posthumous 'Liar' was a compilation of material pulled from the two earlier studio sets.  Not sure why it is so sought after ...


Charisma catalog number CS 5