“I am everything you see and what is more/You will never see me in around at anybody’s door/I am positioned to the wind and what is more/I am father of a thousand children mother/Of a thousand million more.” The opening line from Locomotive’s Mr. Armageddon from their only debut album, We Are Everything You See released in 1970, illustrates the views of the political violent protests and the civil rights movement in the late ‘60s with the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, it was a difficult time and for a band that could have been huge and adding structures of Jazz, Classical Music, and an homage to Mussorgsky’s epic Pictures at an Exhibition, it goes to show how Locomotive and Norman Haines were one of the most unsung bands of the late ‘60s.
41 years later since it was released in February 1970, it is considered one of the most hidden gems of the progressive music scene and Haines should be very proud of the work he has done creating this unbelievable mind-blowing album that deserves the attention and the recognition it finally deserves. Since it was out of print as the reissue label Eclectic Discs had filed for bankruptcy in 2007, Mark Powell decided it was time to give the album another chance with Esoteric Recordings and marking the 40th anniversary of Locomotive’s We Are Everything You See. This is an album that you need to take notice and take a few listens to hear and why this band was ahead of their time.
Originally released in the Parlaphone label which was home to the Beatles in 1970, We Are Everything You See is a again a mix of Psych/Prog mixed in the Orchestral Jazz Fusion format and you got yourself an album that renders of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper-era as if it was the early beginnings of symphonic prog. Beginning with the beautiful Beethoven-sque Overture as it segues into the single Mr. Armageddon. The mixture of Jazz and Soul is perfect combinations for Norman Haines as he creates a psych-soul sound on the organ while the band members including the saxophonists, bring a dramatic structure to the piece. Mick Hincks doesn’t get enough credit for his amazing bass lines including the introduction on Now is the End / The End is When as he is doing an early reminiscent of Greg Lake and Paul Jackson of Herbie Hancock fame while the booming sax section comes in with the insanity of the disorder on the tritone with Lay Me Down Gently.
The driven composition of Nobody Asked You to Come is a powder keg that features Haines and Hincks creating a moody and dark atmosphere with some cryptic passages which are hypnotic and could keep on going for only 5-minutes more. You Must Be Joking, which was released as a B-side to Mr. Armageddon features some of the dark elements to the A-side. It deals with taking your own life not to mention the lyric “What a peculiar twist/when she cut her wrist.” You have to admit Haines had balls and pushed the envelope to deal with this topic on the suicide watch, but this is a powerful and emotional number that is a wake-up call to people who are thinking of taking their own lives.
A Day in Shining Armour has the elements of Stax and Motown funk as if they created a soul-prog rocker that features a wah-wah organ, funky bass rhythm, and Bob Lamb’s driven drum section not to mention the eerie Mellotron that creates a sinister atmosphere in the finale. Now we come to the epic on the story of the Loves of Augustus Abbey. The first part is Haines and Organ singing as if he’s giving a message to the service in the gothic cathedral while telling about Augustus as it segues into the crystal string quartet beauty Rain which features Mick Hincks taking the lead vocals over. It’s quite interesting to hear this track as if it was written for the movie Bullitt starring Steve McQueen, but it packs a wild punch and dynamic while melodically eclectic.
The second part of Augustus Abbey has a pounding percussion and homage to the Move’s psychedelic-era while seguing to their cover tribute to The United States of America, a psychedelic experimental band that released their only debut album in the late sixties, Coming Down / Love Song for the Dead Che is very much in the realm of The Moody Blues song Peak Hour as the late Chris Wood of Traffic comes in to give a beautiful Flute passage. It’s very twisted, but normal at the same time as it gives a flourish finale as the third and closing part of Augustus Abbey gives us a dance carousel horn section for a quick second and then closing the service off with a bang as we come to the finale, Time of Light and Darkness.
In the closing song, the piece has a time signature of 4/4 and ¾ while very much upbeat-tempo jazz rock as if Mike Pinder was a session musician for Locomotive and created a swirling vertigo sound on the mellotron as Haines lets it rip for a bluesy organ solo for one big closing while Hincks and Lamb follow Norman with some magnetic touch and power. The booklet which features liner notes by Sid Smith and an interview with Norman Haines, it has unseen photos and how the band started and broke up. It’s an improvement that Esoteric went back and set the record straight and this time they got it right.
The bonus tracks are a real treat as the mono version of Mr. Armageddon features a new introduction than what was on the album itself while There’s Got To Be a Way could have the prom and homecoming dancers go batshit crazy. The last three tracks: I’m Never Gonna Let You Go, Movin’ Down The Line, which has an early reminiscent of Free, and Roll Over Mary, sees Locomotive going into a pop direction as John Peel played these tracks for his radio show. You could tell and hear that Norman Haines was getting a little tired of the pop sound and moving away from that into what was become of the debut album.
It wasn’t until Norman left the band to start The Norman Haines Band releasing Den of Iniquity while the others formed The Dog That Bit People. Should you have a quick understanding on how Locomotive were one of the most underrated bands to come out before fading away. An underground independent record yet unsung and superb reissue done by Esoteric Recordings and let’s hope they get a chance to reissue Aphrodite’s Child’s 666.