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

 


 

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 $350.00

 

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 Wagget 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 egaging 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.) Willowed Trees   (Keith Riley - Len Riley - Brian Wood - Tag Waggett) - 

Propelled by some of the album's best slide guiatr work, 'Willowed 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 guiatr 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 seen 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)

 

 

 



Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  The Shape of the rain (1966-1975)

Company: Hi-Note Music

Catalog: 123/14

Year: 1971

Country/State: Eckington Parish, Sheffield UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/ VG+

Comments: --

Available: --

Catalog ID: --

Price: --

 

This CD was released by "Hi-Note Music" two months ago and consists of the songs that have been recorded in various years from 1966 to 1973, yet never before released.

 

This is quite a nice collection of tunes (rehearsals and demos, mainly) from '60s British psyche group Shape of the Rain, though the term "psychedelic" should be considered in a more generic '60s context that mirrors the bluesy, folk/country tack of the American West Coast groups from the same period as opposed to anything overtly acid-oriented. Having never heard their original-album counterparts, I can't give any comparisons, but this should be very useful for completists as well as an introduction to the group, though the recording quality of the tunes are adequate, so I don't feel that compelled to seek out all the alternate takes.

"Broken Man" kicks off the disc from a '67 session, a great blues-rock stomp perhaps comparable to something early from Welsh group Man; less quirky, but catchy and with an interesting change-up at the chorus. Jumping right ahead to '73, "I Don't Need Nobody" is solid white-boy blues, but no one could have ever convinced me that this was recorded in the '70s. Strangely, the group must have never changed their gear or recording equipment, because all the '70s material on this disc could easily fool the listener as being '60s recordings, and certainly their style never deviated from the original course.

"We're Not Their Boys" is again from a '73 session, but retains a freewheeling folksy '60s naivete that is whistful and endearing. "Hello 503" freaks out a bit more toward the end with appropriately fx'd vocals complimenting the theme of the roboticisation of human beings in the technological age. The next bunch of tunes are from the earliest sessions ('66), reflected in the hissy tape quality - something I've actually grown to enjoy, as the tunes are still perfectly coherent, while giving their sound a more obscure dimension. This session is definitely a high point, at times reminiscent of the Stalk-Forrest Group recordings (precursor to the brilliant '70s phenomenon Blue Oyster Cult), though the latter came later. Especially cool is "Whillowing Trees", dreamy '60s "garden-psyche" at its best. From the same session, "Spring" has classic wah-guitar, a lovely folky vocal melody and that wonderful '60s bulbous bass sound. From here, the quality of tunes seems to drop off a bit, though "Big Black Bird" and "Everyone the Fool" are stand-out tunes.

 

Prologue. Shape Of The Rain had existed from 1966 to the middle of the 1970s. Although the band had recorded Many songs during those years, until now they had the only official album "Riley, Riley, Wood, and Waggett", which was released by RCA in 1971. This CD was released by "Hi-Note Music" two months ago and consists of the songs that have been recorded in various years from 1966 to 1973, yet never before released.

The Album. So, the Shape Of The Rain's self-titled album turned out to be their second and last. On the whole, it appears to be created within the frame of a unified stylistics where solos of electric guitar play a prominent role. Though, of course, since the songs that are featured on the CD were recorded in different years, they are different by some parameters among themselves as well. In that way, the album can be divided into six parts. The first two divisions will include the most progressive songs that, musically, represent either an early Art-Rock or kind of a progressive Hard Rock. These are the representatives of the first of them: I Doubt If I Ever Will, Willowing Trees, Canyons, Spring, and Words (tracks 7, 8, 9, 10, & 11). Two of the best of the 'heavy examples' are the next: Big Black Bird and Everyone the Fool (tracks 16 & 17). All of these songs contain at least a few different vocal themes, changes of tone and mood, and rather diverse instrumental arrangements. The proto-Prog Art- and Hard Rock songs will form the third and fourth parts. Respectively, these are I'll Be There, We're Not Their Boys, Hallelujah, and Hello 503 (tracks 3 to 6), and It's So Good Here, You Just Call, and It's My Life (tracks 15, 18, & 19). The most accessible songs of both of the Art-Rock and Hard-Rock genres will feature the fifth and sixth parts. Broken Man and Look Around (tracks 1 & 12) are very simplistic songs, while the heavier, I Don't Need Anybody, Advertising Man, Go Around And See It (tracks 2, 13, & 14) are featured at least by some interesting guitar riffs.

Summary. This being an excellent document of the band's history, "The Shape of the Rain" album can, however, be highly recommended only to those who are really fond of the early manifestations of the Art-Rock and Hard Rock genres. If you're into such bands as Arc, Pussy, The Five Days Rain, etc, you should like most of the contents of this album as well. Taking into account that all five of the best songs on "The Shape of the Rain" (tracks 7 to 11) were composed, performed, and recorded in 1966, this album can't be rated lower than four 'good' stars. In that far year, only Pink Floyd were also thinking and working progressive.

 

Apparently the biggest influence on this Sheffield band were Arthur Lee/et all`s Love,although it`s only really slightly apparent on "Willowing Trees".This is also,in my opinion,the best track on this album.Other highlights include the psychadelic jamming of "Yes" and the hit single that never was,"Dusty Road".The latter track contains some gorgeous,chiming steel guitar and a great chorus and bridge.Whether or not it was ever released as a single I don`t know,but it should have been.
The opening track,"Woman" is a good track if not quite in the same league as the aforementioned ones and the 12 string acoustic guitar of "Castles" and the closing song "Broken Man",are of a similiar standard.It`s only the plodding "I`ll Be There" that doesn`t really do it for me.
Most of the playing on this c.d is of a good standard,although the rhythm section(especially the bass)could be better in places.
This c.d is a Radioactive release,and while they must be applauded for releasing it,it does suffer occasionally from a slightly distorted sound.You may not notice this unless you listen to it in headphones though,and it`s cheap price may offset that detail for some.There are also a couple of slight popping sounds on it that make me think it has been ripped from vinyl,but you may not notice.
All in all,this is an interesting release and if you`re into early 70`s pop/rock with a psychadelic edge that slightly recalls bands such as Love and The Beatles amongst others,buy it.

 

I hope that you and yours are well.

 

 

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