Eyes of Blue

Band members               Related acts

Ray Bennett -- bass (replaced Ray Williams) (1969)

- Ritchie Francis -- guitar (1966-69)

- Gary Pickford-Hopkins -- vocals (1966-69)

- Phil Ryan -- keyboards (1966-69)

- Wyndham Rees -- drums (1966-68)

- John Weathers -- drums (replaced Wyndham Rees) (1969)

- Ray Williams -- bass (1966-68)




Big Sleep

- Pete Brown and Piblokto (John Weathers)

- Flash (Ray Bennett)

- Ritchie Francis (solo efforts)

- Gentle Giant (John Weathers)

- Buzzy Linhart

- Man (Phil Ryan and Ray Williams)





Genre: progressive

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  In Fields of Ardath

Company: Mercury

Catalog: SR 61220

Year: 1969

Country/State: Neath, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: --

Available: 1

GEMM catalog ID: 5263

Price: $40.00


Formed in Neath, Wales, Eyes of Blue initial line up consisted of guitarist Ritchie Francis, singer Gary Pickford-Hopkins, keyboardist Phil Ryan, drummer Wyndham Rees, and bassist Ray Williams.  The quintet apparently started out as a soul-oriented cover band, eventually attracting the attention of Decca’s progressive-oriented DERAM label, which signed them to a recording contract and releasing a pair of hard-to-find singles:


- 1966’s ‘Heart Trouble’ b/w ‘Up and Down’ (DERAM catalog number DM 106)

- 1967’s ‘Supermarket Full of Cans’ b/w ‘Don’t Ask Me’ (DERAM catalog number DRM 114).


The band’s big break came when Mercury’s London based A&R man Lou Reizner played one of the group’s tapes for American producer Quincy Jones.  Jones was in London starting work on a score for the film “The Toy Grabbers” (renamed “Mother” when released in the States).  Deciding he needed a more contemporary sound for the movie, he subsequently recruited the band to help score the film 


The resulting publicity led Mercury to sign them, resulting in the release of 1968’s “The Crossroads of Time”.


Following another movie project; they scored music for “Connecting Rooms” and even had a brief role in the film, they returned to the studio for the second album. 


Following a series of personnel changes that saw Rees and Williams replaced by drummer John Weathers and bassist Ray Bennett, the band released 1969’s “In Fields of Ardath”.  Produced by Reizner (Quincy Jones furnished the liner notes), the album was apparently meant as a concept piece, the title track and several of the songs built around the theme of reincarnation.  To quote the liner notes:


The title of the album stems from the interest of Eyes of Blue in the supernatural and the occult.  Ardath is the title of a book by Marie Corelli published in 1897.  The theme of the novel is based on the story of reincarnation.  According to the book the field of Ardath is located near the ruined city of Babylon. Corelli’s characters find evidence for this presumed location in the Book of Esdras.” 


Featuring a mixture of covers and original material, material like ‘Ardath’ and ‘Door (The Child That Is Born On the Sabbath Day)’ found the band exploring a more progressive and keyboard dominated sound.  Not particularly focused, this time around they attempted to broaden their horizons adding a host of influences including country-rock (‘Chances’), English blues (‘After the War’), pop (‘Little Bird’), and even a scratchy tribute to jazz guitarist Django Renhard (‘Souvenirs (Tribute To Django)’).  As lead vocalist Pickford-Hopkins raspy voice remained an acquired taste, though to be perfectly honest, he was frequently all but drown out by the elaborate arrangements.  While nowhere near as much fun as the debut, the collection wasn’t a complete wash out.  Perhaps not a big surprise, they were at their best when sticking with more mainstream rock oriented material – in this case ‘The Light We See’ (featuring a killer backward guitar solo), their cover of Graham Bond’s ‘Spanish Blues’, and the closing instrumental ‘Apache ‘69’ (with some nice Francis lead guitar) serving as the LP highlights.  Elsewhere the leadoff track ‘Merry Go Round’ was lifted from their earlier “Toy-Grabbers” soundtrack.  Pleasant but hardly a forgotten classic. ..


"" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Merry Go Round (From the Film Toy-Grabbers)  (Ritchie Francis) – 9:05

2.) The Light We See   (Gary Pickford-Hopkins) – 2:12

3.) Souvenirs (Tribute To Django) (instrumental)   (Django Reinhard – S. Grapelly) – 2:39

4.) Ardath   (John Weathers) – 2:35

5.) Spanish Blues   (Graham Bond) – 3:48


(side 2)

1.) Door (The Child That Is Born On the Sabbath Day)   (Rhil Ryan) – 6:45

2.) Little Bird   (Ritchie Francis) – 2:35

3.) After the War   (Gary Pickford-Hopkins) – 3:27

4.) Extra Hour   (Phil Ryan) – 2:2

5.) Chances   (Ritchie Francis) – 2:59

6.) Apache ’69   (J. Lordan) – 4:27


For Eyes of Blue fanatics, the band backed Buzzy Linhart on the album “Buzzy” (see separate entry).  They also recorded a 1971 album under the pseudonym Big Sleep and provided backup to fellow Welshmen Ancient Grease.  Following the band’s breakup various members reappeared in other project:


- Ray Bennett joined Flash.

- Ritchie Francis released a solo album.

- Phil Ryan became a member of Man.

- John Weathers hooked up with Pete Brown and Piblokto, followed by a stint in Gentle Giant.





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