Gas Mask


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1970)

- Ray Brooks -- bass
- Bill Davidson -- lead guitar
- Richard Grando -- reeds
- David Gross -- sax
- Nick Olivia -- keyboards
- Bobby Osborne -- vocals
- Enrico Raja -- trumpet
- James Strassburg -- drums, percussion

 

 

- Steve Baron Quartet (Bill Davidson)

- Earth Opera (Richard Grando)


 

Genre: rock

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Their First Album

Company: Tonsil

Catalog: T-4001

Year: 1970

Country/State: New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5474

Price: $15.00

 

So what's the story with this New York-based octet?  Plain and simple, they apparently felt they were Blood, Sweat and Tears ...

Signed to the small New York Tonsil label, the band's 1970 debut "Their First Album" teamed them with producer Teo Macero. Musically the comparison with BS&T simply couldn't be missed. Backed by a BS&T-styled horn section (Richard Grando, David Gross and Enrico Raja), singer Bobby Osborne's growl came off as a David Clayton-Thomas wannabe.  That wasn't to imply the man was without chops, rather he simply didn't have a great deal of originality to show on the eight non-instrumentals.  With Olivia responsible for the majority of the material (Gross contributing two selections), tracks such as 'If You Just Think of Me', 'Light the Road' and 'Just Like That' weren't bad (particularly if you liked early BS&T). They were certainly better than a horn band like Chase, or Chicago when they started selling their collective souls for top-40 success, but  why bother with a wannabe band when the original was readily available?  

 

"Their First Album" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) If You Just Think of Me   (Nick Olivia) - 4:14   rating: ** stars

'If You Just Think of Me' started out with a nice, funky bass line and was even acceptable when the horns kicked in, but when Osborne's David Clayton-Thomas-styled vocals kicked in it lost direction and just started to implode, bouncing aimlessly across genres, including ballad, jazz-rock, and funk genres.  Yeap, this was one big mess ...   

2.) Light the Road   (Nick Olivia) - 2:42  rating: ** stars

Propelled by James Strassburg's frenetic drums, 'Light the Road' was a hyper-speed rocker that could have been quite good were it not for the busy horn arrangement.   

3.) The Immigrant (instrumental)   (David Gross) - 5:34   rating: ** stars

One of two tracks penned by sax player Gross, the instrumental 'The Immigrant' was one of the set's more jazz-oriented numbers.  Not a big surprise, the set focused on Gross' sax with the track sounding a bit like something Maynard Ferguson might have released in the mid-1970s.  

4.) Just Like That   (Nick Olivia) - 4:35  rating: ** stars

'Just Like That' was another track that bore an uncanny resemblance to BS&T.  The ballad had an okay melody, but was a bit on the MOR side; certainly nothing particularly exciting.   

5.) Thank You My Dear   (Nick Olivia) - 3:35   rating: ** stars

'Thank You My Dear' was the album's most straightforward and commercial offering.  Even with the horns, this one had some commercial potential, though the mid-section horn solos could have been dropped without any loss.  

 

(side 2)

1.) I'll Go Blind   (Nick Olivia) - 4:43    rating: *** stars 

With one of the most conventional rock arrangements on the set  (complete with some nice Bill Davidson fuzz guitar and one of the better prro-environmental lyrics you'll hear out of the early '70s), 'I'll Go Blind' stood as one of my  favorite performance. 

2.) The I Ching Thing   (David Gross) - 5:31  rating: * star

Ah, time to get ethnic ...  The second Gross composition, 'The I Ching Thing' started out with some experimental, oriental flavored meanderings before (who put on the Phillip Glass album ?), before  moving into a breezy pop-tinged flute segment.   If you liked Herbie Mann, then this was probably going to palatable to you.  I dislike Herbie Mann, so draw your own conclusions. 

-3.) Watch Myself Grow Tall   (Nick Olivia) - 3:21     rating: *** stars 

Watch Myself Grow Tall' signaled it was time for a 'big' ballad.  I'll give the credit and admit this one wasn't half bad with some commercial potential.   

4.) Nothing To Do Today   (Nick Olivia) - 3:15  rating: ** stars

With a herky-jerky song structure and a hyperactive bass line, 'Nothing To Do Today' was actually mildly interesting.   

5.) Young Man   (Nick Olivia) - 4:02     rating: *** stars 

Powered by Davidson lead guitar and a horn arrangement that actually improved the song, 'Young Man' returned to a more commercial orientation and could have provided the band with some radio play.  Probably the best overall tune on the album.

 

Sales proved non-existent; certainly not helped by a dumb name and one of the year's ugliest album covers and as far as I know this is their entire discography.

 

 

As of 2015  Osborne was living in Florida and still active in music.



 

 


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