Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1970-73)
- Brian Harrison -- vocals, keyboards, bass
- Kai Olsson -- vocals, guitar
- David A. Stewart -- vocals, guitar, bass, mandolin
- Steve Sproxton -- vocals, guitar, harmonica
line up 2 (1973-74)
- Brian Harrison -- keyboards, bass, vocals
NEW - Matt Irving -- keyboards
- David A. Stewart -- vocals, guitar, bass
NEW - Charlie Smith -- drums, percussion
- Steve Sproxton -- vocals, guitar
- Blue (Charlie Smith)
- The Catch (David A. Stewart)
- The Dransfield Band (Brian Harrison)
- Eurythmics (David A. Stewart)
- The Flyers (Kei Olsson)
- Lords of the New Church (Matt Irving)
- Kai Olsson (solo efforts)
- Dave A. Stewart (solo efforts)
- The Tourists (David A. Stewart)
- The Traveling Wilburys (David A. Stewart)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: If It was So Simple
Company: Rocket / MCA
Grade (cover/record): VG+. VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve; textured cover; cut top right corner
Catalog ID: 2301
If this early-1970s obscurity has any recognition factor, it almost certainly stems from the fact a young, pre-Eurythmics David A. Stewart was a member ... yeah I can just imagine the number of you dropping everything as you run out to your local thrift store searching for a copy.
Still in their teens, performing as Stewart & Harrison, multi-instrumentalists Brian Harrison and Stewart spent a couple of years on the English club circuit. Their legacy came in the form of an obscure 1971 EP ('Girl' b/w 'Green, She Said') released on the small Multichord label (catalog number MULT-SH-1A/B). Frustrated by their lack of recognition and success, the pair decided a full band might work better, adding singer/guitarists Kai Olsson and Steve Sproxton to the line up. Under the name Longdancer the quartet continued plugging away on the club circuit before catching a break when they were one of the first acts signed to Elton John's newly formed Rocket Records imprint. No idea what was behind the band getting signed to Rocket, but Olsson's brother Nigel happened to be Elton John's touring band drummer. Regardless, the band made their debut with the release of a 1973 single:
- 'Silent Emotions' b/w 'If It was So Simple' (Rocket catalog number PIG 1)
Co-produced by former Fairport Convention alumnus Ian Matthews, Sandy Robertson, and the band, 1973's cleverly titled "If It was So Simple" was one of those albums that didn't make an immediate impact, but if given an opportunity, parts of it gradually snuck up on you. Longdancer clearly had its share of talents - witness all four members were decent singers and all four contributed to the writing chores. What they lacked was a particularly distinctive sound, or a breakout song. The result was kind of a warmed over collection of sounds and influences that was occasionally quite good, but other times simply plodding and dull. Musically it was kind of hard to peg them with the album including a broad array of influences ranging including America-styled pop ('Silent Emotions'), Crosby, Stills & Nash harmonies ('Trivialities'), Fairport Convention-styled English folk-rock ('Time To Pay') and even Neil Young-ish singer/songwriter numbers. It was seldom less than listenable, but by the time you hit side two, started to suffer from a certain degree of anonymity.
It was So Simple" track listing:
1.) Silent Emotions (Kai Olsson) - 4:14 rating: **** stars
Courtesy of Stewart, 'Silent Emotions' opened up with some rocking mandolin. Built on a catchy acoustic and some nice group harmonies, this one sounded like an early America single (which in turn sounded a bit like early Neil Young) and was probably the album's most straight forward commercial offering. As mentioned above, Rocket tapped it as a single.
2.) Hold Up the World (Kai Olsson) - 3:34 rating: *** stars
'Hold Up the World' melded sensitive singer/songwriter lyrics with CS&N harmonies and some Dylaneaque harmonica. Perhaps not a great recipe, but it grew on you.
3.) Don't Turn Out the Lights (David A. Stewart) - 3:14 rating: **** stars
The lone Stewart original, 'Don't Turn Out the Lights' was also one of the album highlights. With a pounding country-rock base, this one actually sounded a bit like Allan Clarke and the Hollies copping a tougher rock attitude. Always loved Stewart's slashing guitar and the band's sneering backing vocals. This is the one I would have tapped as a single.
4.) Trivialities (Steve Sproxton) - 5:06 rating: *** stars
Opening up with an Indian-flavored instrumental segment, 'Trivialities' then morphed into a pseudo-jazzy number that recalled one of those songs David Crosby contributed to CSN&Y. Full of dark, ominous backing harmonies, there are times I've totally despised this one, and times it's been one of my favorite performances. You'll have to decide for yourself.
5.) Time To Pay (Brian Harrison - Steve Sproxton) - 4:34 rating: *** stars
To my ears 'Time To Pay' reflected a distinctive Fairport Convention edge. Probably a bit too English for most American listeners, given Ian Matthews was one of the producers, that English folk-rock influence may not have been a complete surprise.
Another one of the standouts, 'Too Much Too Soon' was a pocket rocker (short and sweet) built on a solid bass line and a nifty repeating guitar riff that was quite simple, but quickly wormed its way into your head and wouldn't leave. This was another one that I would have tapped as a single. For anyone interested, YouTube has a nice in-studio video of the band performing the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVVqhdh3RWk
2.) Take a Man (Steve Sproxton) - 2:32 rating: *** stars
Complete with anti-war lyrics and complex vocal harmonies and 'Take a Man' found the band dipping their toes firmly back into CSN&Y territory.
3.) Crying Out Loud (Steve Sproxton) - 4:37 rating: ** stars
'Crying Out Loud' was an okay, heavily orchestrated ballad, but other than some nice harmony vocals, never really kicked into gear.
4.) Ballad To Hillary (Kai Olsson) - 3:37 rating: *** stars
'Ballad To Hillary' was probably the best of the album's ballads.
5.) If It was So Simple (Brian Harrison) - 4:17 rating: ** stars
'If It was So Simple' ended the album with one of those anthemic, socially relevant ballads that you either adore, or find cringe inducing. Regretfully I'm in the latter category.
In support of the album the band opened up for Elton John on segments of his 1973 tour, but the album did little commercially.
Rocket catalog number PIGL 6
The standard and dreaded clashes in musical direction subsequently appeared with Olsson and Stewart clashing with respect to their visions for the band's future. After some personnel changes that saw Olsson replaced by Matt Irving and the additional of drummer Charlie Smith, the revamped band recorded an equally obscure album - 1974's "Trailer for a Good Life". They struggled on for a couple of years before called it a day in 1977.
Olsson went on to record a couple of solo LPs and an album with The Flyers. He has a web presence at: http://kaiolsson.com/
Stewart went on to form The Catch, which morphed into The Tourists. He then continued his collaboration with Annie Lennox in The Eurythmics and has become an in-demand writer and producer.
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