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Friday, July 22, 2016

Junior's Eyes - Battersea Power Station

This 2-CD set contains the re-mastered and expanded edition release of Junior’s Eyes only debut album, Battersea Power Station. Originally released in the summer of 1969 on the Regal Zonophone label and reissued by Esoteric Recordings last year, the band was formed by guitarist Mick Wayne in early 1968 after the break-up of the psychedelic band, The Tickle. He brought along John “Candy” Carr on Drums, John “Honk” Lodge on Bass, and Steve Chapman on Drums. And then, lead vocalist Graham “Grom” Kelly on Lead Vocals and Organist John Redfern.

And the band recorded their debut with Tony Visconti on the production level at Trident Studios in which they recorded their debut. Listening to the suite of Battersea Power Station, it is an overlooked and underrated achievement that Mick Wayne’s concept based on the inspirations of the talismans and the Tibetan Book of the Dead with a dosage of dealing with dystopian atmosphere of War, Peace, and Corruption.

With a dosage of The Fugs to go with it. You have the swirling psychedelic adventure into the abyss thanks to Mick’s Guitar heading towards the spiral vertigo of terror of essence of Status Quo’s psych-beginnings with Playtime while the organ-mellotron shuffling 12-bar blues delves into the Graham Bond Organization and obscure prog band, Gracious for So Embarrassed.

You can hear the folky inspirations thrown in for an acoustical ballad for the beaches of sandy gold turned heavy rock following by the thumping bass and acoustic/electric guitars that both Mick and John do when they go into a harder sound for a couple of seconds and then back into the dreamy beauty of My Ship. Opener, Total War starts off with a toast and applause before crashing into a hysteria of insanity as Mick gets the guitar heading into insanity as John Carr follows him with a mind-blowing crescendo.

It segues into Circus Days with a mysterious bass riff, jaw harp, and the psychedelic childhood of going to the big tent and seeing the greatest show and reaching adulthood that it’s all gone for all the years that went away. And the lyrics deal with that you can’t let go of the past and while there’s nothing you can do about it, the memories of going to see the Clowns, Acrobats, and Animals are inside your head and never forgetting them.

Then Junior’s Eyes go into outer space with a mind-blowing improvisation featuring a clapping rhythm section, tambourine, lead solos, and thunderous percussion work for a short little minute to end with the styles of the Syd Barrett-era of Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive of the Freak In. The second disc contains the singles, demos, and sessions they did for John Peel’s Top Gear on October of 1968.

There are two tracks of Mick’s original band, The Tickle. They released singles both the A & B sides in November of 1967. Subway (Smokey Pokey World) and Good Evening are psychedelic nuggets of hidden treasures that bring to mind of both the Sgt. Pepper-era of The Beatles and The Pretty Things. Junior’s Eyes debut single featuring pianist Rick Wakeman of Yes and The Strawbs, goes into a humoristic pop brass adventure for the morning with Mr. Golden Trumpet Player.

Black Snake is an eerie composition featuring pounding piano rhythm, alarming vocals and sinister guitars and spooky organ work, gives it a peculiar effect. The two tracks for the BBC Sessions of Top Gear contains the killer roar of Hang Loose and the upward rocking punch of By The Tree, it shows how much not just Junior’s Eyes were amazing, but why they were so far ahead of their time.

The band would later be a backing band for David Bowie with the release of his breakthrough hit in honor the Moon Landing, Space Oddity in 1969 and for one of his BBC Sessions which was released in 2000 2-CD set entitled, Bowie at the Beeb. The band broke up after their performance at the Marquee Club on February 3, 1970 and it was on the same night John Cambridge introduced Bowie to Mick Ronson and the rest is history.

Mick would later be a backing guitarist for Joe Cocker and then became a painter. After doing session work in America, he returned to London to be added with the proto-punk band The Pink Fairies and then left the music industry. He would be later a guitar teacher and continued his work with his painting. It wasn’t until 1994 when he was about to do a comeback album, but it never happened. He died tragically in a house fire while he was staying with his producer.

The 20-page booklet contains sleeve notes about the history of the band by David Wells and Mick’s daughter Sarah Wayne about the legacy her father was doing and talking to people on what Mick had done to lend support. As she says in the end of her notes “One of the best things about the music is that it reflects the musicians behind it – it has great presence and lots of energy!

And believe me, when you listen to the expanded edition of Battersea Power Station, there is a lot of energy and power that Junior’s Eyes brought with their only debut release. Ahead of its time, and psychedelic heavy rock power at its best,  it would have been very interesting if they had continued to move forward and release a few more albums up their sleeve.

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