Riley, Riley, Wood and Waggett (Shape of the Rain)


Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1966-71)

- Keith Riley -- vocals, guitar 
- Len Riley -- bass 
- Ian 'Tag' Waggett -- drums, percussion
- Brian Wood -- vocals, guitar, pedal steel 

 

  supporting musicians:

- Eric Hine -- keyboards

 

  line up 2 (2012)

- Pete Dolan --bass (replaced Len Riley) 

- Keith Riley -- vocals, guitar 
- Ian 'Tag' Waggett -- drums, percussion
- Brian Wood -- vocals, guitar, pedal steel 
 

 

 

 

- Devilhead (Brian Wood)

- Fire Ants (Brian Wood)

- Hater (Brian Wood)

- Shape (Keith Riley, Len Riley, Ian 'Tag' Waggett, & Brian Wood)

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Riley, Riley, Wood and Waggett

Company: Neon

Catalog: NE 7

Year: 1971

Country/State: Eckington Parish, Sheffield UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: UK pressing; gatefold sleeve

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD 1028

Price: SOLD $400.00

 

Born and raised in Sheffield (as the debut album liner notes pointed out, Sheffield was also Joe Cocker's stomping grounds), brothers Keith (vocals/guitar) and Len (bass) Riley, cousin/guitarist Brian Wood and friend/drummer Tag Waggett were Shape of the Rain.  Keith and Brian started out as an Everly Brothers inspired duo, eventually adding Len to the line-up and switching their musical interests.  Originally known as The Gear followed by a stint as The Reaction, they eventually added Waggett to the line-up,. Years of dances, club, and university performances helped the quartet generate a regional audience.  Finding a supporter in the form of David McPhie, who'd served as Joe Cocker's initial manager, they started opening for then rising bands like Fleetwood Mac, Free, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd, eventually attracting the attention of several English labels, before signing with RCA's short-lived Neon subsidiary. 

The business partnership proved short - one obscure album, but what a set !  A true undiscovered treasure. 

Co-produced by Tony Hall and Eric Hine (who also played keyboards on the set), 1971's cleverly-titled "Riley, Riley, Wood and Waggett" showcased a wonderful collection of English-flavored folk-rock.  I'm not talking about conventional Fairport Convention, or Steeleye Span styled moves, rather their sound was seemingly influenced by American folk-rock bands like The Byrds and The Buffalo Springfield.  How many UK bands do you know that embraced 12 string guitars and pedal steel with as much enthusiasm as these guys ?   While it wasn't the year's most original offering, group-penned material such as 'Woman', 'Wasting My Time' and the psych-influenced 'Willowed Trees' boasted an impeccable mix of strong melodies, great harmonies and some stunning guitar (check out 'Yes'). Elsewhere, 'Patterns', 'Dusty Road' and 'I'll Be There' found the quartet aptly displaying that they were just as good in a folk-rock vein.  The degree of tastefulness and care shown across these dozen tracks was simply stunning.   It's one of the few albums in my collection that doesn't have a single bad performance.   Yeah, that sounds like BS hype, but this is one of those LPs that sounds better every time you listen to it and after copying it over to my iPhone, I've heard it dozens of times.  Over the years I've sold about a half dozen copies to folks and it's one of those albums where not a single customer has ever complained about the quality of the music.  In fact one person bought a second copy for a friend (when's the last time you spent $350 to buy an album for a friend ?).  

"Riley, Riley, Wood and Waggett" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Woman   (Keith Riley - Len Riley - Brian Wood - Tag Waggett) - 

I'm a sucker for a song that starts with a good guitar introduction, so 'Woman' had me from the opening chords.  A nice introduction to the band's mixture of sweet harmony vocals and nifty folk-rock, the track managed to find a sweet spot between radio-friendly commerciality and FM credibility.  Add in a tasteful lead guitar solo and you had a great way to start the album.  That also probably explains why Neon tapped it as a single.   rating: **** stars
2.) Patterns   (Keith Riley - Len Riley - Brian Wood - Tag Waggett) - 

English folk-rock tends to be dreary (guess it has something to do with the climate), but 'Patterns' broke the pattern with a glistening slice of jangle rock.   Roger McGuinn and company would have killed for access to a song like this one and the group vocals were simply too-die-for.   rating: **** stars
3.) Castles   (Keith Riley - Len Riley - Brian Wood - Tag Waggett) - 

Pretty acoustic number that took a little time to kick into gear, but was worth the wait, if only for the blended vocals and  imaginative acoustic guitar work.  rating: *** stars
4.) Wasting My Time   (Keith Riley - Len Riley - Brian Wood - Tag Waggett) - 

Another folk-rock effort featuring a different (slightly more fragile) lead singer on this one and the country-tinges (Brian Wood's pedal steel), took a little getting accustomed to, but after a couple of spins, I warmed up to this one as well and the dueling pedal steel and slide guitar segment was one of the album highlights.  YouTube has an engaging clip of the reunited band performing the track:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FesXBD5fxGY   rating: **** stars
5.) Rockfield Soul   (Eric Hine) - 

Named after the studio they were recording in.   rating: **** stars

(side 2)

1.) Yes  (Keith Riley - Len Riley - Brian Wood - Tag Waggett) - 

Side two found the band adding a lysergic tinge to their patented folk-rock sound.  Kicked along by Len Riley's hypnotic bass line and some of the album's best  jangle guitar work, this was easily one of the album standouts (although, it sure sounded like the chorus was singing 'yeah' rather than 'yes').   rating: **** stars
2.) Dusty Road   (Keith Riley - Len Riley - Brian Wood - Tag Waggett) - 

Opening up with some nice Woods pedal steel guitar and what sounded like guest keyboardist Eric Hine on harpsichord, 'Dusty Road' was one of the album's prettiest ballads.   Few bands do lonesome as well as these guys.  rating: **** stars
3.) Willowing Trees   (Keith Riley - Len Riley - Brian Wood - Tag Waggett) - 

Propelled by some of the album's best slide guitar work, 'Willowing Trees' has always reminded me of the kind of tune Donovan wanted to write when he was in his prime mid-'60s psych stage.   Mesmerizing melody that sticks with you long after the album's finished.   rating: **** stars
4.) I'll Be There   (Keith Riley - Len Riley - Brian Wood - Tag Waggett) - 

Sporting what was probably the album's more commercial tune, 'I'll Be There' was another album highlight.  Glowing melody with a guitar riff I'd kill to learn.  I've asked my guitar playing son to see if he can figure the progression out.  Again, you had to wonder how radio missed these guys.  rating: **** stars
5.) Broken Man
   a.) Every One a Gem (Keith Riley - Len Riley - Brian Wood - Tag Waggett) - 
   b.) After Collapsing At Kingsley's (Keith Riley - Len Riley - Brian Wood - Tag Waggett) - 

 

 

Neon pulled at least one from the LP, though I've never run across a copy:

 

  

 

- 'Woman' b/w 'Wasting My Time' (Neon catalog number NE 1901)

 

In England the set vanished without a trace and unfortunately never saw an American release. 


Following Neon's collapse the quartet briefly struggled on releasing an instantly forgotten 1971 single credited to Shape:

 

- 1971's 'My Friend John' b/w 'Yes' (RCA catalog number 2129)

 

 

 

Interesting how fate works.   I recently sold another copy of this album and took the opportunity to revisit the album and update my comments.  With the holidays and family events, I just hadn't gotten around to uploading the revised write-up.   And out of the blue came the following two emails:

 

I'm an Administrator of the Shape Of The Rain Facebook Page and also Cousin of Ian (Tag) Waggett, the drummer of the band.   Would you care to search on Google for their Facebook Page and 'Like'? Two members of the Band are also Administrators and the others read the Page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shape-Of-The-Rain/144648272268908

 

All of us connected with the Band would like to send our thanks for your very positive reviews of Riley, Riley, Wood and Waggett and the CD 'Shape Of The Rain', usually known by fans as the 'Red Album'. It means a great deal to members of the band that their work - song writing and music, after all this time, is still so warmly appreciated all over the world. They have been through some hard times and experienced disappointment. If they had initially signed with Harvest, rather than the short lived RCA/NEON, their name and work may have become more widely known.

 

Yes, they were ahead of their time somewhat in the middle 60s, with as you say only a few other bands such as Pink Floyd, producing similar imaginative, self penned work. SOTR were using light shows along with their music in the mid 60s, which was very unusual for the time. They had no idea then about what Pink Floyd were doing, 150 miles or so away near to London, where there were more contacts and opportunities etc. Members of Pink Floyd were also upper middle class, had an excellent education and were generally more sophisticated. Shape Of The Rain were all working class boys from a mining village near to Sheffield, UK and went to local schools. Their fathers were ordinary men, so what they were trying to do at an early age, in the provincial heart of England with no guidance, is I feel even more to be admired. 

 

Those of us connected with the Band are not now concerned with success or money, but more with their lasting legacy. It would be more than nice if you would continue to help in anyway possible with this, as you have already, by promoting their music and history.

SOTR's manager in the 60s was David McPhie, who was also involved with Joe Cocker's early career and helped him to land his first recording contract.

 

Thanks once again.

Regards, Roy Middleton (February 2014)

 

Thank you for the review. You are spot on with your assessment of how the band progressed. Nobody was playing songs that came near to what we were doing. Next was the melodic phase. The album reflects that but we were never happy with it. Phase three was all about rock. The addition of Pete Dolan who played bass and guitar changed our entire outlook. We never neglected melody. But boy we could rock ...

 

Keith Riley (February 2014)

 

 

 


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