This is a hidden lost treasure of both in the genres between Progressive and Folk music in the early 1970s. Originally released on the Ember label in 1972, 9.30 Fly brought these two sounds of music in a rare gem that is going through the looking glass and seeing what mysterious beauty lies beneath in the magical mirror. With the help of Esoteric Recordings reissuing this unearthed gem, I delved at the chance to sink into the waters of 9.30 Fly.
The origins of the band’s music came through The Arthur Hinge Speed Band. They were known for their flash and their antics while receiving the awards in Gloucester at the Slough Arts Festival. Mike Wainwright, who wasn’t a musician, decided it was to write original music. Someone gave him an acoustic guitar, a Bob Dylan songbook, and he was a songwriter. The Hinge band faded away as 9.30 Fly was born.
The band considered Lyn Oakey on Guitar, Gary Chairman on Bass, Mike Clark on Drums, Mike Wainwright on Vocals, and Barbara Wainwright on Vocals. The band worked during their rehearsals in a village outside at Cheltenham and with influences raging between Yes, Beatles, and Family, the band were signed to Ember Records which was home to Blonde on Blonde’s last two albums, Blue Beard, and Davey Payne and the Medium Wave to name a few.
Recorded at Rockfield Studios in February 1972 and with Mike Smith of the Amen Corner in the production level along in the countryside at Monmouthshire which is a part of south east Wales, the band worked hard and fast to complete the album. While the album is now considered a cult classic and ahead of its time, this album itself deserves some light at the end of the tunnel.
You have the opener, Life and Times with flamenco guitar sections, galloping beats, and both Mike and Barbara singing into the skies above. It has this Ennio Morricone drive that you can close your eyes and imagine the Spaghetti Western genre is making a comeback as the son of the Man with No Name is honoring his father’s legacy to give him his last wish.
September comes to mind of Country-Folk music with some of the 12-bar chords with a straightforward style of sound that was very different from the other tracks. Elsewhere, the riding and thunderous drums and electric keyboards followed by Oakey’s stargazing guitar work into the stars and makes the ship excited for Mr. 509. It changes into a moody and watery atmosphere before dynamic rhythm sections from the guitar and melodic moments from the keyboards.
Charman’s bass creates this walking bluesy-jazz melody as Barbara helps her out to lay down the tempo in a slowed-down groove on Summer Days before going into a pumping style as Lyn and Barbara share the same melody on their instruments with fuzz-tone style and clean Rhodes techniques. I love how they always twist and turn with 9.30 Fly’s work.
Brooklyn Thoughts reminded me of Uriah Heep’s Lady in Black and Barbara’s voice resembling Annie Haslam as it a prog-folk journey into the streets of New York set to the tones of the Mellotron. It gives you chills down to the spine and hair on the back of your necks going up from this chilling composition of what is happening beyond the faces of the people in the city.
The 8-minute finale, Time of War which deals with the First World War and the subject of Jingoism of patriotic extremism, is a very difficult subject matter, the music itself is a chilling situation of what is happening in the what was happening in that time period that there is a dark side to the war itself. Lyn’s guitars just paint the picture of hell, brutality, and nightmarish views.
He lays it down the subject through his Guitar and it’s an eye-opener as the music changes into the styles of Blonde on Blonde’s Rebirth-era. Mike’s voice at times brings to mind of Roy Orbison and the echoing effects on his arrangements give power and emotion. It then changes into a militant vocalization in the styles of Celtic Folk between Mike and Barbara themselves near the end of the piece.
It’s a surreal ending, but knowing that the battle is far from over. The two bonus tracks contains the West Coast sound a-la Gordon Lightfoot textures of Song for L.A. and the first version of September. When the album was released in 1972, it didn’t do well and the band broke up. Mike and Barbara parted company. Mike now lives in California and retired from the industry while Barbara is now a coaching and guidance consultancy in California also.
The 16-page booklet contains liner notes by Sid Smith who wrote about the history about the band and includes interviews with both Mike and Barbara about the making of the album and the history of the band. It’s a very good reissue that Esoteric had done and I highly recommend checking out this album if you admire the Ember Records label and delving into the obscure gems of the progressive rock-era.