It's Hard


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  (1969-71)

- Mick Carless -- drums, percussion

- Michael "Mick" Dolan (RIP 2014) -- vocals, guitar, harmonica

- Steve Dolan (RIP 2000) -- bass, guitar backing vocals

 

  supporting musicians (1969)

- Phil Jump -- keyboards

- Pete Westbrook -- flute

 

  supporting musicians (1970)

- Bruce Howard -- piano

- Phil Jump -- keyboards

- Pete Westbrook -- flute

- Ian Whiteman -- piano, flute

 

 

 

- Big Front Yard (Michael Dolan)

- Cock-a-Hoops (Michael Dolan and Steve Dolan)

- The Ebony Combo (Michael Dolan and Steve Dolan)

- Jimmy Powell and the Five Dimensions (Michael Dolan and 

  Steve Dolan)

- Roscarrock (Michael Dolan)

- Spirit of John Morgan (Michael Dolan)

 

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Hard Meat

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: WS 1852
Year:
 1969

Country/State: Birmingham, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: foil gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2222

Price: $40.00

 

I'm not sure why, but a couple of on-lined references show this short-lived trio as being American.  Drummer Mick Carless, and brothers Michael (lead vocals, guitar) and Steve (bass, guitar) Dolan were from Birmingham, England.

 

By the time Hard Meat came together in 1969, brothers Michael and Steve Dolan were already seasoned musical veterans having played in a series of Birmingham outfits including The Ebony Combo, Jimmy Powell and the Fifth Dimension, and the Cock-a-Hoops.   With the addition of drummer Mick Carless the trio adopted the Hard Meat nameplate, spending several years grinding it out on the English club circuit, opening for a slew of nationally known acts including Chuck Berry, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and Jethro Tull.  Signing a recording deal with Chris Blackwell's Island Records and promptly debuted with a slowed-down, but equally lysergic cover of The Beatles' 'Rain':

- 'Rain' b/w 'Burning Up Years' (Island catalog number WIP 6066)

 

Dropped by Island, later in the year they reappeared on Warner Brothers

 

Produced by Sandy Roberson, 1969's "Hard Meat" featured all original group compositions.  Musically quite  varied, all seven tracks were powered by Michael's likeable voice and his surprisingly impressive lead guitar and Carless' Keith Moon -styled percussion.  The album certainly wasn't the year's most original offering, bouncing around the musical spectrum  including dollops of folk-rock, conventional rock, psych, and even a bit of progressive influences.  I really liked every one of these seven tunes.   The opener 'Through a Window' (which curiously became the title of their sophomore LP) offered up an enthralling mixture of all of those earlier genres which should have become and FM classic.  'Time Shows No Face' showed the band could do conventional and commercial rock.  With a sunny, lysergic feel, 'Universal Joint' sounded like something recorded in the mid-'60s  - I'm a sucker for this stuff.   The funny thing was that as good as the individual tunes were, sitting down and listening to the album as a full set the results were even better.   Well worth tracking down.

 

"Hard Meat" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Through a Window  (Mick Carless - Michael Dolan - Steve Dolan) -    rating: **** stars

Opening up with some pretty Dolan acoustic guitar, 'Through a Window' quickly shifted into an attractive melody that's always reminded me of a mash-up between and English folk-rock outfit and Hendrix at his most progressive.  There was a lot going on here but it was all drive by Carless frenetic drumming and Dolan's guitar and sweet voice.  

2.) Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow  (Mick Carless - Michael Dolan - Steve Dolan) -    rating: **** stars

'Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow' was a beautiful acoustic ballad that sounded anything but acoustic.  Showcasing Dolan's wonderful acoustic guitar work, it was one of those songs that picked up speed and energy as if went along and ended way too soon ...  

3.) Space Between  (Mick Carless - Michael Dolan - Steve Dolan) -    rating: **** stars

'Space Between' was built on what sounded like a native American rhythm with a touch of lysergic influences thrown in for good measure.   Different, but engrossing and the  tune  showcased Mick on electric guitar.   

4.) Time Shows No Face  (Mick Carless - Michael Dolan - Steve Dolan) -    rating: **** stars

The album's prettiest and most radio-friendly  tune, for some reason on this one Dolan's vocal has always reminded me of Paul McCartney.   Phil Westbrook provided the jazzy flute solo.   

 

(side 2)
1.) Run Shaker Life
  (Mick Carless - Michael Dolan - Steve Dolan) -    rating: **** stars

The album's longest track, 'Run Shaker Life' found the trio showing off their hardest rock orientation and complete with a bit of raga influence,  the results were stunning.   Guitar rock for people who don't like guitar rock.      

2.) Universal Joint  (Mick Carless - Michael Dolan - Steve Dolan) -    rating: **** stars

Another tune powered by Carless' powerhouse drumming and percussion, 'Universal Joint' was a bit different than the rest of the album,  sounded like something the band might have recorded a couple of years earlier than the rest of the album.  I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff so this one was a personal favorite.    

3.) Most Likely You Go Your Way I'll Go Mine  (Michael Carless - Mick Dolan - Steve Dolan) -    rating: **** stars

With another killer melody and one of Michael's best vocals, the rollicking 'Most Likely You Go Your Way I'll Go Mine' has always reminded me of a good Thunderclap Newman tune (and that was meant as a big compliment).  For anyone interested in seeing the band live, YouTube has a 1970 performance on the German television Beat Club show.  You'll have to wade through about a minute of introductory material to get to the actual performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0V93A5D2vI 

 

After an equally overlooked sophomore album the group split up.  Michael opened up a mobile sound system business and worked as a house engineer at Millstream Studios.  He also hooked up with John Copping and then did some studio work, including supporting Spooky Tooth guitarist Luther Grosvenor.  His later years were split between the UK and Turkey where he died of cancer in  August 2014.

 

Steve collaborated with numerous artists, including Pete Sinfield.   Steve died in 2000.

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Through a Window

Company: Warner Brothers

Catalog: WS 1879
Year:
 1970

Country/State: Birmingham, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: white label promo copy

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2

Price: $40.00

 

I loved the Dolan brothers' 1969 debut so when I stumbled across a copy of their sophomore released in a dollar bin, I grabbed it.

 

Produced by Sandy Robertson, 1970's "Through a Window" was a modest departure from the debut.  On a song-for-song basis the sound wasn't as "rock" oriented, which might prove a turnoff to some folks.  I'd suggest the band made up for that with a more varied and dynamic sound.  This time out you also got to hear plenty of Mick Dolan's dexterity on acoustic guitar (check out 'Freewheel' and 'A Song of Summer'). Featuring another set of largely original material co-written by the three band members, these guys were one of the tightest trios I've ever heard.  Very few wasted notes on any of these tracks.  All hyperbole aside, Michael Dolan was one of rock's most overlooked singers and lead guitarists.  Similarly, brother Steve and drummer Carless made for a dynamic rhythm section, capable of way more than the standard hard rock trio repertoire.  This was one of the few albums in my collection where I love virtually each and every track (I even have the album on my iPhone).  Hard to pick out favorites, but if pinned in a corner, my top three would include the rocking opener 'On the Road', the sweet ballad 'Smile As You Go Under' (always loved the backward tapes that close it out), and the stunning acoustic instrumental 'Freewheel'.

 

Needless to say, since I loved the debut, I was equally impressed by this one.  

 

"Through a Windom" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) On the Road   (Mick Carless - Michael Dolan - Steve Dolan) - 5:58   rating: **** stars

I've always loved their ability to come up with highly commercial and catchy melodies, while retraining their FM credibility. Opening up with some ear catching Mick Carless percussion, 'On the Road' served as a perfect example of those talents.  Built on a nifty little guitar figure the buried itself into your head and wouldn't leave, the song managed to included an extended "jam" section that never became boring.  Quite an accomplishment.  An edited version should have been released as a single.

2.) New Day   (Mick Carless - Michael Dolan - Steve Dolan) - 5:08   rating: **** stars

'New Day' was a pretty, acoustic ballad that showcased their sweet harmony vocals.  I didn't even mind Pete Westbrook's flute washes.  The track improved considerably around the 1:40 mark when it dived headlong into an extended instrumental jam session that spotlighted Michael's tasteful acoustic guitar work.

3.) Freewheel (instrumental)  (Mick Carless - Michael Dolan - Steve Dolan) - 3:32   rating: **** stars

So, the instrumental 'Freewheel' was recorded in 1970.  Except for the fact it crushes most of the material that gets played on today's adult contemporary/lite jazz stations, it wouldn't sound out of place on a 2017 adult contemporary album.  Darn, wish I could play half way as good.  Always loved Steve Dolan's acoustic bass on this track.

4.) Smile As You Go Under   (Mick Carless - Michael Dolan - Steve Dolan) - 3:04   rating: **** stars

Wonderful ballad (the title always makes me smile), showcasing Michael Dolan's great voice and fantastic guitar chops.  The ending got a little strange and trippy thanks to some backwards tapes - but actually quite cool.  Imagine Badfinger on a really good day ...   How was this one overlooked as a single?  

 

(side 2)

1.) I Want You  (Graham Bond) - 7:00   rating: **** stars

'Rock jams tend to blur into one extended aural mess, but their cover of Graham Bond's 'I Want You' was an exception to the rule.  All three members shined throughout the performance with the secret sauce turning out to be Steve's highly melodic bass lines.

2.) From the Prison   (Jerry Merrick) - 4:18  rating: *** stars

Stark ballad - just Michael on acoustic guitar.  I actually like this version better than the Richie Havens cover.

3.) A Song of Summer   (Mick Carless - Michael Dolan - Steve Dolan) - 5:21  rating: *** stars

Breezy tune that would sound perfect sitting around a deck drinking some white wine.

4.) Love  (Bob Whale) - 5:03  rating: **** stars

Worth hearing for Dolan's lead guitar.  It sounded like it was multi-tracked, but made for a killer performance.

5.) The Ballad of Marmalade Emma and Teddy Grimes   (Mick Carless - Michael Dolan - Steve Dolan) - 3:00  rating: **** stars

Wasn't expecting lead mandolin, let alone a bluegrass flavor.   Initially quite disconcerting and unlike anything else in their repertoire, it sounded more like The Band than a Hard Meat tune.   Luckily, like a good Band song, this one quickly grew on you.   The song was tapped as their final single in the UK and Germany:

- 1970's 'The Ballad of Marmalade Emma and Teddy Grimes' b/w 'Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow' (Warner Brothers catalog number WB 8010)

 


 


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