English Gypsy

Band members                             Related acts


  line up 1 (1969) as Legay

- John Knapp -- vocals, guitar, keyboards

- David McCarthy -- vocals, bass

- Robin Pizer -- vocals, guitar

- Rod Read (RIP) -- vocals, guitar

- David "Moth" Smith -- drums, percussion


  line up 2 (1969-73) as Gypsy

- John Knapp -- vocals, guitar, keyboards

NEW - Ray Martinez -- vocals, guitar (replaced Rod Read)

- David McCarthy -- vocals, bass

- Robin Pizer -- vocals, guitar

- David " Moth" Smith -- drums, percussion





- Airwaves (Rod Read)

- Butler - Knapp (John Knapp)

- Diesel Park West (David " Moth" Smith)

- Billy Finnegan & Stagecoach (Robin Pfizer)

- Flicks (John Knapp)

- Legay

- Never Seems Happy (John Knapp)




Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  English Gypsy

Company: Decca

Catalog: DL 75299

Country/State: Leicester, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: US pressing; gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $50.00


Poking around the internet these guys have the misfortune of routinely being confused with the Minnesota-based Gypsy.  Amidst the confusion, some of the resulting comments are hysterical.  A typical example: "Twelve years ago I found several tracks by "Gypsy" from other albums later in the 70s, however they sound dull, bland & mainstream - are they a different band?"  Short answer - yes.  Different band.


The band's roots trace back to the mid-'60s Leicester psych band Legay.  Formed in 1965, the original line-up featured keyboardist John Knapp, bassist David McCarthy, guitarist Robin Pizer, singer Rod Read and drummer Legay Rogers.  They managed to release one 1968 single for Fontana:


- 1968's 'No-One' b/w 'The Fantastic Story of Steam Driven Banana' (Fontana catalog number TF-904)





By the time they called it quits in 1969, David "Moth" Smith was handling drums.  Renaming themselves Gypsy just in time for an appearance at the Isle of Wight festival, the band signed a deal with United Artists; Decca acquiring US distribution rights.  Confronted with the existence of a Minnesota based Gypsy they were forced to adopt "English Gypsy" for American audience.  Clever decision there Decca. I'm sure it did wonders for sales.  Their label debut came in the form of a 1971 single.  



- 1970's 'Changes Coming' b/w 'Don't Cry On Me' (United Artists catalog number UP 35727)


Helped by an appearance on the BBC's Top of the Pops television program, the single actually started attracting radio play, but the BBC supposedly stopped rotation for fear the lyrics were too political.  Always loved the label note "listen loud or don't play at all."  (The band Nutz did a nice cover of the sing on their second album - "Nutz Too ...")


Produced by the late Peter Swaines (best known for his work with The Action's Reg King and B.B.. Blunder), 1971's "English Gypsy" (aka "Gypsy" everywhere but the States), was recorded at dates in Olympic and Island Studios. With Knapp, McCarthy and Pizer separately responsible for the songwriting chores, this is simply one of my favorite '70s debut albums. Let me warn you that I see criticisms to the effect these guys were nothing more than West Coast psych wannabes.  No originality period.  Well, these ten tracks might be a little short on originality, but with three talented lead guitarists, song-for-song they're a guitar player's delight.  Sure, the West Coast influences are there. The sweet ballad 'I Don't Care, Do You Mind? effortlessly showcased the band's knack for harmony-rich melodies. CSN&Y would have approved, while 'Let Me Take You Home' demonstrated they could handle psychedelic without any problems. Not sure which guitarist it was, but one clearly had been listening to more than his share of Neil Young.  Exemplified by material like the opener 'What Makes a Man a Man?', the blazing 'Turning Wheel' and 'Standing Alone, Feel So Bad', this was hard rock that was bright and melodic, but still packed a punch ...  hard not to be impressed.  Listening to the Southern-rock tinged 'Keep on Trying' it was hard to believe these guys weren't from Macon, Georgia.  It's one of a handful of albums I've sold, only to regret it and then gone out and found a replacement copy (for more than I sold it).  Worth tracking down.  


"English Gypsy" track listing: 

(side 1) 

1.) What Makes A Man A Man? (Robin Pizer) - 3:05 rating: **** stars 

The opener 'What Makes A Man A Man?' takes what would have been a standard blues-rocker in the hands of any other band and transforms it into something far better. I think John Knapp is handling the lead vocals, but combined with three lead guitars (each with a distinctive style), a crushing melody and some dazzling harmony vocals the results made for an irresistible single. It's also one of the songs where the band's West Coast psych fascination is clearly heard (think prime Moby Grape). 

 1971's 'What Makes A Man A Man?' b/w 'Let Me Take You Home' (Decca catalog number 32881) 

2.) Keep on Trying (Robin Pizer) - 4:31 rating: **** stars 

'Keep On Trying' offered up a mournful, Southern-rock flavored ballad that managed to mix a great melody, pretty harmony vocals, Knapp's barrelhouse piano and some Allman Brothers-styled lead guitar. The featured guitar sound has always intrigued me - acoustic run through a speaker so that it fed back through the speakers?? Someone out there will know ... 3.) I Don't Care, Do You Mind? (David McCarthy) - 3:24 rating: **** stars 

Shifting gears, 'I Don't Care, Do You Mind?' was a pretty acoustic ballad. Propelled by strumming guitars and patented "I'm a loser" lyrics, the song's best feature came in the form of the glistening harmony vocals. Check out the song ending acapella section. CSN&Y would have been impressed by these guys. 

4.) Turning Wheel (David McCarthy) - 8:00 rating: **** stars 

Speaking of CSN&Y, the atmospheric opening electric guitars on 'Turning Wheels' sounded like something Stephen Stills and Neil Young might have written and recorded for "Deja Vu." The album's longest and heaviest rocker, powered by twin lead guitars, the song was simply awesome. Seriously, these guys were from Leicester and not Macon, Georgia? 

5.) Feel About The Country Fine (David McCarthy) - 2:30 rating: *** stars 

Sloppy CCR? Not sure who was handling vocals on 'Feel About The Country Fine' but he sounded a little shaky. Shame since the song bordered on Fogerty-styled swamp rock. Gawd those lead guitars were awesome.


(side 2) 

1.) Standing Alone, Feel So Bad (John Knapp - 5:55 rating: **** stars 

I'm in love with their heavy blues-rock guitar sound and 'Standing Alone, Feel So Bad' is amongst the album's best performances since it adds in great vocals and a tasty melody. As good as the individual guitar work was, the real highlight came in the form of drummer David "Moth" Smith's performance. He keeps the four guitars under control, making sure nobody strays too far from the melody. Too get the full effect this is one you want to hear on a good pair of headphones. 

2.) I Want To Be Beside You (Robin Pizer) - 5:30 rating: *** stars 

'I Want To Be Beside You' was a pretty ballad, but overspent it's welcome, dragging on far too long. That said, powered by Knapp's vocals and his tasteful B-3, the song was interesting as another tune with a Southern rock flavor. 

3.) Please Don't Stay (John Knapp) - 5:15 rating: *** stars 

The combination of slide and jazzy guitar chords always reminds me of something David Crosby might have written. Another track with CSN&Y-styled harmonies. 

4.) Let Me Take You Home (Robin Pizer) - 4:50 rating: **** stars 

Full of ringing, lysergic-tinged jangle guitars and a Knapp Hammond B-3 solo, 'Let Me Take You Home' was the album's most psychedelic-tinged performance. The switch in genres was effortless and it's one of my favorite album performances. You Tube has the audio from an appearance on John Peel's BBC show and they sound pretty impressive live: John peel radio sessions prt 4 Let Me Take You Home (youtube.com) 

5.) Pony Ride (John Knapp) - 4:50 rating: ** stars 

The album's first disappointment, 'Pony Ride' was a pedestrian slice of boogie-rock. Imagine a throwaway Foghat, or Savoy Brown performance. Forgettable way to end the album.



For anyone interested, the band have a small FaceBook site:: http://www.badcatrecords.com/ENGLISHgyosy.htm