Brainchild - Healing of the Lunatic Owl. 1970 England

Brainchild's Healing of the Lunatic Owl is perhaps the single best album to have emerged from the late 1960s brass rock movement that had gained immense popularity due to Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Chicago Transit Authority's chart topping hits. Brainchild definitely falls on the Chicago side of this equation from a musical perspective. I've long felt that Chicago is somewhat under-appreciated in today's world for how groundbreaking they truly were - mixing carefully crafted pop songs, with complex horn charts, and insane unhinged psychedelia. The latter two elements eventually fell off the train (so to speak), and all that most anyone remembers today is an old boring pop band for middle aged housewives who spend all day on Facebook. The English septet Brainchild is the embodiment of everything that was good about Chicago - without any of the excess or trivial moments. Brainchild's ability to pen a beautiful pop song is jaw dropping in its execution. The horn charts are complicated, perfectly played, and yet still tuneful. There's an element of psychedelic rock, but it's not the main focus - but rather a powerful ingredient to the overall stew. There's also one other aspect to Brainchild, that most horn rock bands did not pursue back then, and that's an absolute appreciation of progressive rock. The latter element shows up repeatedly in how each composition develops - the constant changing of moods, dynamics, and meters. The title track perhaps is the best example of everything mentioned above: A stunning pop melody, great vocals, psychedelic interludes, and a progressive rock structure. Other superior tracks include 'She's Learning' which features a grungy organ, gravelly vocals, psych guitar, and an ominous brass section; 'A Time and Place', a progressive oriented track clocking in at 9 minutes, which starts with melancholy flute, before launching the Latin percussion, organ, jazz rhythm guitar, and hard hitting trumpet/trombone charts; 'Sadness of a Moment' is the kind of song that Greg Lake could have penned for King Crimson in his prime - complete with soft echoed vocals, acoustic guitar, and flute. Goosebump inducing music right here!; 'To "B"' closes the album, after a brief but beautiful flute opening, as it started with 'Autobiography' - a powerful horn rock song in the Chicago Transit Authority tradition. For me, the best horn rock album ever. Unless the style reemerges in our lifetime, it's hard to imagine anything ever besting it.

Personal Collection
LP: 1970 A&M
CD: 1991 Pony Canyon/A&M (Japan)

Originals are stored in a single sleeve, and features that rather goofy - but wonderful - cover. As for reissues, yep - that's it - the CD from A&M's parent company in Japan. It's direct from the masters, and comes in a standard jewel case with an insert in Japanese, and nothing else. Esoteric has talked in the past of reissuing it, but nothing has come of it to date. It was by pure chance I received the CD in the first place. It was literally a throw-in to a larger deal I made about 20 years ago. I was curious about it, but didn't have much hopes that it was anything special. Not to be too dramatic here, but it damned near changed my life! Needless to say, it remains one of my favorite albums ever. By now, you've probably discerned that picking up an original LP was of paramount importance to me. That day finally came over two years ago. Of course, it wasn't cheap, but there are just some things where it's worth paying top dollar for - and this was one of those things. They'll be throwing this LP in the grave with me.

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