Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1969-70)
- John Gustafson -- vocals, bass
- Peter Robinson -- keyboards
- Mick Underwood -- drums, percussion
- The Big Three (John Gustafson)
- Brand X (Peter Robinson)
- The Chaps (Mick Underwood)
- Episode Six (Mick Underwood)
- Gillian (John Gustafson and Mick Underwood)
- The Herd (Mick Underwood)
- The Merseybeats (John Gustafson)
- The Outlaws (Mick Underwood)
- Quartermass II (Mick Underwood)
- Raw glory (Mick Underwood)
- Sammy (Mick Underwood)
- Strapps (Mick Undewood)
- Sun Treader
- Mick Underwood (solo efforts)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Country/State: London, UK
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: small cutout hole top right corner; gatefold sleeve; minor ring wear
Catalog ID: 6103
This one may have set a record for me - I owned it for a staggering four years before it finally got to the top of my 'to-listen-to' stack and I actually played it. Shame I waited so long ...
Quatermass was yet another one of those talented late-1960s English bands that simply got lost in the tidal wave of talent that started recording. Singer/bassist John Gustafson had been a member of The Big Three and also The Merseybeats. No idea what keyboardist Pete Robinson's background was, though drummer Mick Underwood had previously played in an early line up of The Herd, as well as The Outlaws. The three seemingly started their musical collaboration as late inning members of the band Episode Six. When that entity collapsed they continued their partnership, signing with Harvest Records where they made their debut with 1969's Anders Henriksson produced "Quatermass". With all three members contributing material to the album (Longtime Robinson friend Steve Hammond contributed three tracks), the results were enjoyable, if not particularly original. All three members were proficient musicians. Gustafson had a likable, if slightly anonymous voice while he got a cool, thick sound out of his bass. Robinson was a first-rate keyboardist, easily as good as Uriah Heep's Ken Hensley or other better known competitors, while drummer Underwood served as the band's overlooked secret weapon. You'll see lots of descriptions centering on progressive and comparisons to the likes of Deep Purple, ELP, and Uriah Heep. At least to my ears, with the exception of the instrumental segment of 'Make Up Your Mind' there wasn't a great deal of progressive material on the album which eliminated the ELP comparison. On the other hand, tracks like 'Black Sheep of the Family' and 'Gemini' opted for more of a bluesy hard-rock attack. Combined with the fact Robinson's Hammond served as the lead instrument, the Deep Purple and Uriah Heep comparisons made for pretty good benchmarks. Obviously how you feel about those bands will determine what you think about this one.
left to right: Gustafson - Robinson - Underwood
"Quatermass" track listing:
1.) Entropy (instrumental) (Peter Robinson) - 1:13 rating: ** stars
The instrumental 'Entropy' got the album off to a slow start with keyboardist Robinson doodling around on his Hammond B3 followed by some Atari-styled computer sound effects. To my ears the pseudo-classical influences were similar to showing up early for a Catholic mass and listening to the organist warm up.
2.) Black Sheep of the Family (Steve Hammond) - 3:31 rating: **** stars
The keyboard-propelled 'Black Sheep of the Family' sounded much like a Uriah Heep rocker. By that I mean a good Uriah Heep rocker ... quite beguiling and easy to see why it was tapped as a single in Germany and Sweden and why Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow covered it as a single a couple of years later.
- 1970's 'Black Sheep of the Family' b/w 'Good Lord Knows' (Harvest catalog number 1C 006-91667)
3.) Post War Saturday Echo (instrumental) (Peter Robinson - John Gustafson - Andy Ross) - 9:47 rating: **** stars
'Post War Saturday' started out as a slow bluesy rocker that would have been better had Gustafson vocals not been subjected to studio effects - he sounded like he was at the far end of a long distance phone line. Elsewhere, Robinson's unexpected jazzy piano interlude was surprisingly melodic and enjoyable. Unfortunately, the song then detoured into a weird, discordant stew of synthesizer bleeps and blurbs, before returning to the original bluesy melody (Gustafson's vocals even more distorted this time around).
4.) Good Lord Knows (John Gustafson) - 2:53 rating: *** stars
Complete with fragile Harpsichord interlude and a tasteful string arrangement, Gustafson's ballad ''Good Lord Knows' was probably the album's most straightforward and commercial composition. Very pretty.
5.) Up On the Ground (John Gustafson) - 2:05 rating: ** stars
Hum, ever wonder what Uriah Heep would have sounded like had they tried to get a touch funky? Well, 'Up On the Ground' served up the answer. Kudos to Robinson who managed to keep his keyboards interesting throughout most of the two minutes. The downside of this one came in the form of Gustafson's shrill and screechy lead vocals. Nice drumming from Underwood ...
'Gemini' started side two with the collection's best rocker. Yeah, the start and stop song structure was a bit irritating, but Robinson's spastic organ solo was worth hearing and when the song was going it was pretty good. It was tapped as a single in Italy:
- 1970's 'Gemini' b/w 'Black Sheep of the Family' (Harvest catalog number 3C 006-92382)
2.) Make Up Your Mind (Steve Hammond) - 8:43 rating: **** stars
Easily my choice for standout performance, 'Make Up Your Mind' found the band trying to clone their blues-rock and progressive moves into a unified package. The song started out with a great hard-rock melody and some surprisingly attractive group harmonies. Unfortunately the song then went off on an extended tangent with the band apparently having decided they could out-ELP in the field of pompous progressive-rock moves. Luckily, the song ended with a return to the original melody. The song would have been even stronger had they judiciously edited that segment out. 'Course this was the early 1970s so I guess it can be forgiven.
3.) Laughin' Tackle (instrumental) (Peter Robinson) - 10:41 rating: ** stars
Opening up with a nice Gustafson bass pattern and some surprisingly tastily synthesizer from Robinson, 'Laughin' Tackle' turned into an extended instrumental that reminded me of something written as incidental music for a movie chase scene. Heavily orchestrated and quite atmospheric it was actually pretty entertaining until you reached the needless Underwood drum solo.
4.) Entropy (reprise) (instrumental) (Peter Robinson) - 0:36 rating: ** stars
The reprise of 'Entropy' continued the incidental movie soundtrack feel. Not something you had to hear ...
There was also one non-LP German 45:
- 1970's 'One Blind Mice' b/w 'Punting' (Harvest catalog number 3C 006-92383)
And that was it for the group with the three members going their separate ways.
- Gustafson ended up playing on a couple of early-1970s Roxy Music albums and later with Ian Gillian.
- Robinson played with the jazz-rock band Brand X and became an in-demand sessions player.
- Underwood played with a string of bands including Sammy, Strapps, Gillian, and Raw Glory. He has an extensive website at: http://www.mickunderwood.com/
For hardcore fans, in 1975 as part of it's Harvest Heritage budget series EMI reissued the album with different artwork (Harvest catalog number SHSM 2002).
For anyone interested, hardcore fans Bad Mollenkramer and Carolyn Hynson have an excellent Quatermass website at: http://www.carolhynson.co.uk/quatermass/index.htm
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