Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rare Bird. - Sympathy (1970)

Rare Bird came together in October 1969 when organist Graham Field, keyboardist Dave Kaffinetti, drummer Mark Ashton, and vocalist Steve Gould envisioned a two-keyboard rock sound without guitars. They released their debut before the end of the year, featuring the minor radio hit "Sympathy." The next year they released As Your Mind Flies By, a dark and heavier album that put further emphasis on Gould's melodramatic singing style. Field and Ashton left the group before Epic Forest, which saw new drummer Fred Kelly bring in guitarist Andy Curtis to revamp their sound into a more folk-oriented direction. Gould also picked up the guitar at this point, and the music became much more about their guitar interplay than anything else. By 1973's Somebody's Watching, interest had waned in their efforts, leaving the group with a dwindling fan base. Still, they managed to release one more album, 1974's Born Again, which featured an entirely different sound than the progressive rock of their first two albums. The band's demise was followed by a collection, Sympathy, which took its material from the first two albums only.
Mark Ashton / drums, vocals
Kevin Lamb / organ, vocals
Graham Field / organ, keyboards
Steve Gould / bass, guitar, guitar (bass), saxophone, vocals
Dave Kaffinetti / synthesizer, keyboards, piano (electric)
Rare Bird's unpolished but sturdy brand of early progressive rock was built on their heavy keyboard implementations, as they were one of the few bands to produce music without the employment of an electric guitar. Using only a couple of keyboards, a bass guitar, and drums, Rare Bird represented the simplest form of synthesizer prog, but their music ranged anywhere from busy and rambunctious to light and delicate sounding. Sympathy is a compilation that takes five songs from their 1969 self-titled debut album and four tracks from 1970s As Your Mind Flies By and unites them conveniently on one disc. Starting off with the modest, elementary organ runs in "Sympathy," the album moves on to more layered pieces like "Bird on a Wing" and "What You Want to Know," highlighting the sometimes strained vocals of Steve Gould. Hippie-esque grooves and portions of '60s psychedelia surface time and again throughout the music, but are soon drenched with the electronic surge of Graham Field's organ. Without the complexity or the multi-layered intricacies that other progressive bands were fusing into their music, Rare Bird stuck to a format that singled out the workings of each instrument so that overlapping very rarely occurred. As a result, their inherent musical methods were easy to appreciate as this type of raw prog began to deteriorate among a busier-sounding group of bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and King Crimson, as well as the advent of German progressive music and Krautrock. Sympathy is a fine example of this band's unembellished style of progressive rock.
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