Saturday, March 11, 2017
Gravy Train - s/t. 1970 England
LP reissues: 1970/71 Vertigo (worldwide); 1990 Repertoire (Germany); 1993 Si-Wan (Korea);
CD reissues: 1990 Repertoire (Germany); 2005 Repertoire (Germany mini-LP);
Gravy Train's debut is often compared to as a mix of Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull, and honestly that's not an unfair assessment. Starting with the former, Gravy Train gives the Sabs a run for their money in the heaviness sweepstakes. The feel of the music isn't as doomy, and the heavy fuzz tones aren't as pervasive, but for 1970 Vertigo Swirl albums, Gravy Train gets a 2nd place ribbon. Concerning the Jethro Tull influence, that generally comes about because Tull are (by far) the most famous of the English blues based bands with flute in the lead. However, students of the genre can point to at least a couple dozen bands where flute was a predominant instrument, if not the main focus entirely. As with any rock album coming from the 1970 UK landscape, blues is the primary theme. The hard rock and progressive elements that are added in is what makes the scene so special, even to modern ears. Personally, I was a bit late to board the Gravy Train, not having heard them until the Si-Wan LP (not listed here) arrived around 1994 or so. It was a sound that I found immediately likable. I'm not one to toss around phrases like "underrated", as that would imply that I'm the gold standard for which all things are rated , but I do feel this album is definitely overlooked and underappreciated. It does surprise me a bit it didn't catch on with the hipster crowd as other, perhaps lesser such albums, have.
Gravy Train didn't pursue the "heavy" beyond this, softening their sound for their next - also excellent - album. From there they lost the plot entirely, and disappeared without a trace. One wonders what would have happened had they followed in Black Sabbath's footsteps instead.
The album was originally released around the world, including the US. As such finding LP copies isn't too difficult, but of course UK Vertigo Swirls are expensive as usual. In addition to the Si-Wan reissue LP mentioned above, I also own the 2005 Repertoire CD, that is housed in a fine mini-LP cover and comes with excellent liner notes from long time music writer Chris Welch. CDs are plentiful in the market.
Gravy Train - The New One / Think of Life. 1970 Vertigo (France)