Saturday, November 7, 2015

Brand X - 1982 [2013] "Is There Anything About"

Is There Anything About? is the seventh album by British jazz fusion group Brand X. It is the last album to feature longstanding members Robin Lumley and Phil Collins. It was assembled from outtakes from the "Product" sessions. These sessions produced around twenty tracks which became Product, Do They Hurt and Is There Anything about."Modern, Noisy, and Effective" is the backing track to "Soho" with a new keyboard line overdubbed over the top of it.A Longer April is just an extended version of April from Product with a bit of synth noise added in the middle."TMIUATG" is taken from an old cassette tape running in the studio when the band were improvising.

Brand X was another one of those bands who were beloved of other musicians and the more discerning of critics but which despite everything, never had the commercial success that it deserved.
They were a jazz fusion band active 1975–1980. Noted members included Phil Collins (drums), Percy Jones (bass), John Goodsall (guitar) and Robin Lumley (keyboards). Not long after jazz/rock fusion greats Brand X put out their 1980 album, Do They Hurt?, the band members went their separate ways (until their comeback in 1992, which only featured Goodsall and Jones).
However, they still owed their record label one more album. The solution? Release a rarities album! The problem, though, was that Brand X hardly had any unreleased material in the vaults at all; about three or four tracks at the most. But with a little doctoring & remixing of tapes, keyboardist Robin Lumley extended that number to six tracks (still scant, but better than four), and released Brand X's appropriately-titled collection, Is There Anything About?, in 1982.

It is the last album to feature Phil Collins on drums and includes some absolutely gorgeous slices of Brand X at their very best. This is a peculiar album; at the time many critics panned it, often because it didn't sound anything like the anodyne pop music that Phil Collins was making elsewhere in his career. However, in my opinion and that of thousands of fans worldwide, it acts as a satisfying coda to a body of work that has very few paralells in the world of Jazz fusion.

 The album has been panned ever since the day it was released (and judging by the previous Amazon reviews, it's STILL being panned), but honestly, people, this album is nowhere near as bad as you've been led to believe. Is it a masterpiece? No. But is it bad? Absolutely not. "Is There Anything About?" DOES contain some very cool Brand X nuggets. Even the "filler" tracks, in my opinion, are enjoyable. Let's check out the material, shall we?:"Ipanemia": written by guitarist John Goodsall, this piece is an excellent jazz/rock popper. Very cool and breezy."A Longer April": this track is exactly what it says it is---a longer version of "April," from 1979's "Product." Either this is how Brand X originally recorded the tune before having to edit it down for the "Product" album, or Robin Lumley extended the track by doing some re-mixing on it. Either way it's a very dreamy, pleasant piece, and I like it. I also like the spacey little bridge section that's been added to it. "TMIU-ATGA": as the liner notes say, the title stands for "They're Making It Up As They Go Along." Lumley, fellow keyboardist Peter Robinson and bassist John Giblin improvised this short piece in one take, and Lumley stuck it onto the album. Filler? Perhaps. Instrumental noodling? Perhaps. But it's interesting."Swan Song": a fun, poppy, keyboard-heavy instrumental, with a big "Ohh-ohh" chorus at the finale. Some fans reacted to this track with, "Oh my God, they've gone pop!" Chill out, you guys. I think there's always been an oh-so-subtle pop influence to a *little bit* of Brand X's music (just a little bit, mind you), so I don't mind if the band go whole hog and do a rare, full-on pop-music piece. And "Swan Song" IS a very good pop-music piece."Is There Anything About?": Now here is a Brand X instrumental no one should have any complaints about. I can't tell when the band actually recorded it, but it is a smokin' hot, jammin' piece, just as great & funky as anything Brand X have recorded in the past. Brilliant."Modern, Noisy, And Effective": Brand X go pop again (gasp!) with a re-mixed, pop-flavored instrumental rendering of the song "Soho," originally from "Product." Extra keyboards and handclaps are tossed into the mix. Again, I don't have a problem with it. It's a fun piece with a good groove.And, to top off the album, the band's performances are juuuust fine, thank you very much, with Lumley, Giblin, Goodsall and ace drummer Phil Collins all getting in some tasty licks (as well as bassist Percy Jones on the outstanding title track). So, if Brand X's "Is There Anything About?" must be considered a throwaway album, it is a great throwaway album. I'm happy to have it sitting alongside classic Brand X albums like "Unorthodox Behaviour," "Moroccan Roll," and their excellent comeback release from 1992, "X-Communication." I give "Is There Anything About?" 3 1/2 stars, thus, 4 stars on the average curve. I know it's a pretty darn difficult CD to get a hold of these days, but do seek it out. If you are a Brand X fan, PLEASE have an open mind with "Is There Anything About?", and I hope you like it. I do!

Notes

    This album is outtakes from the Product (1979) sessions.
    TMIU-ATGA means "they're making it up as they go along".
    "A Longer April" is a re-engineered version of "April" from the Product (1979) sessions.
    "Modern, Noisy, and Effective" is a recycling of the backing track of "Soho" from the "Product" album; that track had been engineered by Collins, who was described as "modern, noisy, and effective." This phrase, in fact, first appears in the film "Three Dates with Genesis" (1978); the narrator describes the scene in which the stage has been torn down and all the equipment loaded into trucks thus: "Like the rock band they service, the trucks are noisy, modern, and effective; at 2:30 on a Friday morning, they leave Mannheim to drive halfway across Europe to the Dutch border."

Tracks Listing

1. Ipanaemia (4:30)
2. A Longer April (7:00)
3. Tmiu-Atga (5:07)
4. Swan Song (5:30)
5. Is There Anything About? (7:52)
6. Modern, Noisy, and Effective (3:56)

Total Time: 33:55

Line-up / Musicians

- Phil Collins / drums and concussion (1-3)
- Percy Jones / bass (5)
- John Giblin / bass, Whitbread, vocal (1-4,6)
- Robin Lumley / keyboards and vocal
- Peter Robinson / keyboards (6)
- John Goodsall / guitar (1-5)
- Raf Ravenscroft / saxophone (2)
- Stephen Short / syndrums and vocal (4)

2 comments:

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