Natural Gas


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1968)

Dave Berman -- sax, vocals 

- Dave Classic (RIP 2019) -- trombone, vocals 

- Graham Lear -- drums, percussion 

- George Olliver -- vocals, organ

- Dave Tamblyn -- guitar, vocals

- Carl Watral -- trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals 

 

  line up 2 (1969-70)

Dave Berman -- sax, vocals 

- Dave Classic (RIP 2019) -- trombone, vocals 

- Graham Lear -- drums, percussion 

- George Olliver -- vocals, organ

- Dave Tamblyn -- guitar, vocals

NEW - Brian Wray -- keyboards, vocals, flute

- Carl Watral -- trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals 

 

  line up 3 (1969-70)

Dave Berman -- sax, vocals 

- Dave Classic (RIP 2019) -- trombone, vocals 

NEW - Leon Feigenbaum -- bass 

- Graham Lear -- drums, percussion 

- George Olliver -- vocals, organ

- Dave Tamblyn -- guitar, vocals

- Brian Wray -- keyboards, vocals, flute

- Carl Watral -- trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals 

 

 

 

 

 

- Five of a Kind (Brian Wray)

- The Five Rogues (George Olliver)

- Freedom North (Graham Lear)

- Gangbuster (George Olliver)

- The Illusion (Leon Feigenbaum)

- Mandala (George Olliver)

- Motherlode (Dave Berman and Brian Wray)

- Ocean (Dave Tamblyn)

- George Olliver (solo efforts)

- George Olliver & The Soul Children

- REO Speedwagon (Graham Lear)

- Riverson (Graham Lear)

- The Royals (George Olliver)

- Santana (Graham Lear)

- Truck (Graham Lear and Brian Wray)

- Young (Leon Feigenbaum and Carl Watral)

 

 

 


 

Genre: horn-rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Natural Gas

Company: Firebird

Catalog: FB18
Year:
 1970

Country/State: Toronto, Canada/UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $25.00

 

Call them one of Canada's answers to Blood, Sweat and Tears horn-rock ...  Okay, two of the members were English.

 

Calling Montreal, Canada home, Natural Gas formed in 1968.  Having enjoyed earlier successes with the band Mandala and obscurity with the follow-on entity George Olliver & The Soul Children, Greg Olliver's next project was the Natural Gas.  In addition to handling lead vocals and organ, he was responsible for most of the six album originals.  By the time the band recorded their self-titled 1970 debut album the line-up had expanded to an eight piece featured former Olliver, ex-The Illusion bassist Leon Feigenbaum, English drummer Graham Lear, guitarist  Dave Tamblyn, former Five of a Kind keyboardist  Brian Wray and a three piece horn section consisting of Dave Berman, Englishman Dave Classic and Carl Watral. 

 

(By the way, don't confuse them with the mid-'70s English band featuring former Badfinger singer/guitarist Joey Molland.) 

 

Over the next couple of years the band cut their teeth touring wherever they could find a gig - local high schools, small clubs including Montreal's Boulevard de Paris, The Boulevard and The Laugh, New York's Trude Heller club, even UAW banquet halls.  Signed by George and Sam Goldner's New York City-based Firebird label, 1970's "Natural Gas" was recorded at sessions in Montreal's RCA Studios and New York's Broadway Recording Studios.  Band managers managers Pat Jacques and Fran White produced the set. 

 

This is one of those album's that didn't initially strike a chord with me. The fact I've never been a big horn-rock fan might have played a role in my early assessments.  Olliver's attempts to be a soul singer also ran astray with me.  Whereas some people heard dedication and enthusiasm on tracks like 'What Do You Want From My Life' and their single 'The All Powerful Man' I heard shrill and fragile attempts to power-through songs.  Don't even get me started on their cover of The Beatles' 'Eleanor Rigby.'  And, not to sound like a broken record, but there were the horns. Clocking in at over nine minutes, the instrumental 'Rameses I' was a real slog to get through.  I played this one a couple of times and then it went into my "revisit" pile where it eventually got lost.  A couple of years went by and I was actually listening to the Joey Molland Natural Gas album and remembered this one.  I decided to pull it out and give it another shot.  Guess what?  Nah, it wasn't a miraculous reappraisal, but I was surprised to discover my dislikes were not as intense as they had been.  No, I still didn't like the hardcore jazzy moves like 'Rameses I' and I still thought Olliver had a tendency to over-sing.  Still, the album had a couple of tracks that were quite good.  Olliver's 'Live And Learn' homage to James Brown may have been the standout performance.  Yeah the spoken word vamps were over-the-top, but who thought a Canadian band couldn't be funky?  And then there was the band's secret sauce - bassist Feigenbaum was great throughout.  Checkout his performance on 'What Do You Want From My Life.'  So my reassessment - buy it if you like horn-rock.  Buy a copy if you are curious and can find a cheap copy.

 

"Natural Gas" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Tribute To Rubber Boots (instrumental) (Joey Chirowski - George Olliver) (instrumental) - 4:50 rating: *** stars

One of two instrumentals, from the opening 'Tribute To Rubber Boots' sounded different from the rest of the album.  Gone were the band's soul influences, replaced by more traditional horn rock pomposity.  The good news is that about ninety-seconds into the performance the rediscovered melody.  The horns were prominent, but this time around Olliver and Wray's keyboards got some spotlight time.

2.) Live And Learn (George Olliver) - 6:29 rating: **** stars

Having just told you Olliver didn't have a soulful voice, along comes the James Brown styled 'Love and Learn.'  So what was the difference on this one?  Well, overlooking the cheesy spoken word vamp, the song was way better.  Never thought I'd say something like this, but who would have ever expected a group of young Canadian kids to come close to capturing the funk intensity of some of Brown's work?  Next, the horn arrangement was great; an integral part of the tune, and finally there was Leon Feigenbaum ...  Check out the man's stunning bass work on this one.

3.) I Donít Want To Be Left Outside (Mike Rashkow - Ellie Greenwich) - 3:20 rating: *** stars

The lone cover, their arrangement of Rashkow-Greenwich's 'I Donít Want To Be Left Outside' provided the album's most commercial offering.  With an "ear candy" title refrain, this one would have been the obvious single.  

4.) The All Powerful Man (George Olliver) - 6:04 rating: *** stars
Anyone skeptical of the Canadian Blood, Sweat & Tears comparison should check out the opener 'The All Powerful Man.'  Written by lead singer Olliver, this was a standard slice of early-'70s horn rock, complete with some "socially relevant" lyrics.  Admittedly Olliver wasn't a David Clayton-Thomas (okay, I know Clayton-Thomas was born in Canada).  In fact, when he pushed his voice towards the end of the song his delivery turned brittle and shrill.  Still the melody wasn't bad, allowing the horns to showcase their chops.  Always wondered what the weird "air" sound was that cropped in around the three minute mark ...   Edited down to three-minutes (goodbye horn solos), the track was released as a Canadian single where it peaked at # 76 on the charts:

 

 

 

 

- 1970's 'The All Powerful Man' b/w 'What Do You Want from My Life' (Firebird catalog number FR 1806) 

 

 

 

 

 

(side 2)
1.) Rameses I (instrumental)  (Carl Watral) - 9:09  rating: ** stars

Given it was written by horn player Watral, it shouldn't have come as a surprise to discover the instrumental 'Rameses I' was one of the album's jazziest and most experimental offerings.  Clocking in at over nine minutes, the track gave keyboardist  Wray an opportunity to trot out some Vince Guarald-styled moves.  Drummer  Lear  and the other members all got an opportunity to solo. Let me just warn you this one goes on for a long time.

2.) Eleanor Rigby (John Lennon - Paul McCartney) - 3:56  rating: ** stars

Admittedly every late-'60s/early-'70s album seemingly required at least one Beatles cover.  That didn't excuse their decision to cover 'Eleanor Rigby.'  I guess we should be happy it wasn't a cover of 'Yesterday.'  Unfortunately their sped-up jazzy arrangement was a mess and Olliver's attempt to power through the song was painful.  Anyone know what cheesy synthesizers were featured on the track?

3. Leaders Of The World  (George Olliver) - 4:45  rating: *** stars

Well, there was nothing wrong with the hopeful lyrics that permeated 'Leaders Of The World'...  nice to have a pipe dream.  A slow, rather tuneless ballad, this one's always reminded me of a third-rate Young Rascals tune that was mistakenly slowed down by the tape engineer.  Always wondered what instrument was featured on the solo - was it a theremin?

4.) What Do You Want From My Life (George Olliver) - 3:12 rating: *** stars

'What Do You Want From My Life' found Olliver and company upping the "soul" content.  I liked the "you bring me nothing but heartbreak" lyrics and the couplet "you're like a slot machine babe, you take and give nothing in return ..." always makes me smile.  Unfortunately I don't think Olliver had the right kind of voice for soul music.  Once again, his performance struck me as shrill.  That said, I liked Feigenbaum busy bass line. The track was picked as the "B" side to their 'The All Powerful Man' single.

 

 

  • In support of the album the band toured Canada, but within a couple of months they'd broken up with Berman and Wray joining a late-inning Motherlode.

 

  • Berman, Lear and Wray then found themselves in the band Truck.

 

  • Lear then reappeared supporting Gino Vanelli, followed by a longtime stint as Carlos Santana's drummer.

 

  • Feigenbaum and Watral joined the band Young.

 

  • Over the years Olliver has released various solo projects.  He's still active on the Canadian music scene, working with two bands - George Olliver & Gangbuster and reflecting his religious faith, the Gospel-oriented Caught Away

 

  • Tamblyn turned up in the one-hit wonder band Ocean.

 

 

 

 

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