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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Blonde on Blonde - Rebirth

This fellow blogger first heard this album after reading about the reissue eight years ago in Prog Magazine by Rise Above Records/Cathedral’s Lee Dorrian back when I was at Houston Community College. That band is Blonde on Blonde. Taken their name from Bob Dylan’s seventh studio album released 51 years ago, this was the band’s second album released in 1970 on the Ember label, which was their follow up to their debut album, Contrasts on the Pye label in 1969.

Ralph Denyer, who was the original lead singer, left the band to form Aquila which released their only sole self-titled debut album on the RCA label in 1970. But I’m getting off-topic. David Thomas replaces Ralph on vocals as soothing and heartfelt at times, shows in the steps between Roy Orbison and Love’s Arthur Lee. It was a step forward from their debut album as they were moving into the Progressive Rock direction at the beginning of the golden-era of the ‘70s.

You have these psychedelic pop and the uplifting gems including the dreamy organ/piano landscape introduction of Castles in the Sky, which was released as a single including the B-side with essence bringing to mind the introduction of the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black as David sings “Leaves of green/are turning brown/this silent world/keeps turning round.” The haunting rhythm sections between Les Hicks’ drumming and Gareth Johnson’s rhythm/lead guitar, and the heavy fuzz bass by Richard John, shows the power and the thunderous energy they bring.

The raga-rock of growing up to start a new life and a new chapter, has these catchy riffs and the scratching noises of the pick going up on the heavy E string as Gareth leads through the shining candle burning brightly for a Heart Without a Home. Time is Passing feels like something straight out of the sessions for Love’s Forever Changes while the 12-minute and 07 second epic on Colour Questions is the kicker on the album.

It begins with a traditional Asian form of music then delving into the night with a galloping rocker between Richard, Leslie, and Gareth. I love the dynamics and brilliant shrieking noises that Johnson does on his guitar while David sings in various sections of the song. Then near the last five minutes of the piece, it almost reminded me of the Underture from The Who’s 1969 rock opera, Tommy.

Richard and Gareth really go into town as they hammer it down between Bass and Guitar and then it suddenly turns into a whirlwind followed by the drumming going up, up, and way up in the air. The three bonus tracks contain the single version of Circles and alternate versions of the two songs including a mid-feel Elton John-type of Castles in the Sky and homages of String Driven Thing’s The Machine That Cried-era on Time is Passing.

When I heard that Esoteric was going to reissue this, I thought this peaked my interest. And it did. It contains liner notes by Malcolm Dome with interviews of Gareth Johnson and David Thomas about reflections about the history of the band. It includes the original sleeve notes including champions of the group including the late great DJ Tommy Vance and Rolling Stone writer John Mendlesohn, and little biographies about the band.

Rebirth still sounds fresh to this day since I’ve heard back in 2009. And with the Esoteric reissue they have done another great job. I have to admit the alternate versions didn’t click with me. It was a little too grandiose as I prefer the original. But I digest, Blonde on Blonde’s second album, is worth exploring. If you are in the search for more lost treasures in the sierra madre, this is one of the albums to dig deeper into.

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