added: 25 Aug 2014
// release date: 25 Aug 2014 // label: Esoteric
reviewer: Andy Snipper
Help Yourself was a band with many faces, sounds and line-ups. There are touches of country-rock, some West Coast psychedelia and more than a touch of Grateful Dead style jamming but they were British – very – and the legacy in this anthology is remarkable.
They were never less than good to listen to and they occasionally hit some real high spots.
The first album saw the band made up of Malcolm Morley, (guitars/keyboards/vocals) who also wrote all the songs on the album, Dave Charles (drums/percussion/vocals) ex Sam Apple Pie, an ex member of Monday Morning Glory Band, Richard Treece (guitars/vocals/harmonica) and Ken Whaley (bass) who was previously with Growth. The sound is strongly influenced by the Grateful Dead and CSN&Y but the songs are strong and some of the playing, especially on ‘Old Man’ and ‘Deborah’ is delightful. ‘Deborah’ is a plaintive and rather lovely folk number and if memory serves, it was a standout number live.
Their second album saw Ken Whaley ejected from the band and Ernie Graham and Jojo Glemser join, both guitarists so Treece moved to bass, and the album recorded in The Grange using the same kit that Led Zeppelin had used to record IV just before. The sound is lighter and the jaunty piano on title number ‘Strange Affair’ definitely seems to indicate a new direction, away from the West Coast sounds of the first album and more into British rock territory. ‘Brown Lady’ seems almost to have a British Folk tinge to it coupled with the West Coast harmonies while ‘The All Electric Fur Trapper’ is a psychedelic gem albeit very mannered and tightly structured.
The ability of the band to change styles and create unexpected sounds was one of their strengths although not necessarily a great help in sales terms.
By the time of their third album they were stripped down to Morely, Charles, Treece and Paul Burton playing bass but by now Morley was suffering from depression (the title of the album was ‘Beware The Shadow’, the shadow being the dark mood swings Morley was suffering from). ‘Reaffirmation’ is beautiful and dark, expansive but still constrained while ‘She’s My Girl’ has a wistful quality.
The rest of the tracks on the anthology feature odds and ends but the final track is probably worth the cost of admission on its own – a live version of ‘Eddie Waring’ from the ‘Christmas at the Patti’ album featuring Deke Leonard from Man and BJ Cole as well as Help Yourself and as perfect a jam as you could wish for.
An underrated band but one with many good songs and some sublime playing.
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