I have a good memory of hearing Pavlov’s Dog’s music in 2005. I kept thinking that this was not just Progressive music, but interesting to hear as this vocalist had a voice similar in the mind of Rush’s Geddy Lee. Not to offend him, but it was a surprising listening experience, being drawn into a band that could have been bigger than Styx. And that was when I was completely hooked into the music of David Sukramp.
Thankfully, these two reissues of Pavlov’s Dog’s albums are lot more interesting as they were originally released in the mid ‘70s. You couldn’t describe the surprise of the beautiful covers in your arms feeling like you’re going back in time, even though they are given a second chance, their music is arguably more hard rock than you can ever expected. Pampered Menial and At the Sound of the Bell released in 1975 and 1976 show at the time when progressive music was coming out of the woodwork into the cult status from St. Louis. They were out of print and hard to find, but thanks to the indie reissue label, Rockville, these albums still sound fresh to this day – a band that could have hit the big time, but never got the recognition they deserved.
Pampered Menial, their first album, came out on the Dunhill label in 1975, was a dynamic record that couldn’t be beaten. At the time, it was championed thanks to ZigZag magazine writer Max Bell who considered them, the “future of rock”. But today, the combination of Rush and Uriah Heep is a lot more considered. You have the calm-like introduction of Julia, the dazzling up tempo mellotron-violin rockers of; Late November, Natchez Trace, and Song Dance while the romantic harder theme song of Theme from Subway Sue set the standards of AOR. The strong melodic structures are featured as Sukramp’s vocals soar into the sky with Episode as for the renaissance intro Preludin gets geared up for the atmospheric segue centerpiece 5-minute closer Of Future and Kings.
At The Sound of The Bell added a strong melodic melody to the core. Thanks to new session players including King Crimson/Yes drummer, Bill Bruford. This is a great follow up to PM, with the songs having a Yes-like sound on She Came Shining while Valkerie and Standing Here with You (Megan’s Song) could have been a sequel to Julia with a classical orientated lukewarm ballad as well as the Lindsey Buckingham-era of Fleetwood Mac homage on Mersey with a magnificent jazzy sax solo fitting the profile.
Try to Hang On is an upbeat tempo in the mind of Paul McCartney’s Wings-era as Gold Nuggets sounds like an eerie acoustic folksy sound reminiscent of Trees meets pre-Marillion. It all becomes very Prog-pop with the brass section as She Brekas Like Morning Sky could have been the dance hit of the ‘70s as the saxes give it a ‘50s rock feel throughout the album and Early Morning On has a pastoral angelic church-like choir sound as for the climatic finale, Did You See Him Cry gives it a suspenseful mellotronic jazz fusion finale like no other. The bonus tracks feature rare live recordings of these numbers in Detroit and at the Herzberg festival in ’76 and 2007 including Sukramp’s early days with Touch.
You can take influential backgrounds raging from; Rush, ELP, and Led Zeppelin and make it a grand festivity of a weekend. Pavlov’s Dog live on the cult status in the past, present, and the future as Prog keeps on shining on forver.