added: 11 Mar 2013
// release date: 11 Feb 2013 // label: Angel Air Records
reviewer: Claudia A
Music-News readers may recall my SNAFU review from a few months ago. ‘Situation Normal’ is the follow-up album (originally released in 1974) and musically, it takes a different direction from its predecessor.
Drummer/vocalist Bobby Harrison
(previously involved with Procul Harum
), and guitarist Micky Moody
(ex-guitarist for Juicy Lucy
) found their joint musical chemistry so strong, they decided to form their own group and SNAFU was born. Apart from Harrison and Moody, the rest of the talent was comprised of Colin Gibson
on bass, Pete Solley
on keyboards / backing vox, and Terry Popple
While the original SNAFU album is as funk- and blues influenced, as it is country orientated, ‘Situation Normal’ is leaning much more towards country rock. That’s good news for country rock worshippers like me, but not such good news for all those who expected the second album to be in the same vein as the first.
Also, it’s Solley who plays first fiddle on the album, though we definitely get to hear Moody’s magic touch on slide guitar, especially on the exquisite ‘Lock And Key’. A hotchpotch made up of grass-roots folk, organic blues and hearty country make for a particularly tasty track.
As for opener ‘No More’, the finely woven soft rhythm suddenly jumps between typical country rock characteristics, heavy slide guitar solos, slick harmonies and wah-wah keys (which shouldn’t work well with the arrangement you’d think, but somehow it does).
‘No Bitter Taste’ arrives in the guise of a classic country-style ditty, but the added bluesy touches (courtesy of slide guitar licks) and a soulful chorus lift this way above the ordinary.
‘Brown Eyed Beauty & The Blue Assed Fly’ sounds like a novel by Nick Cave, come to think of it. Alas, it’s an upbeat fiddle-diddle jig number, and I’m sure they still play similar tunes at local barn dances down Texas and other corners. Harrison’s vocals are superb and perfectly match every song and every mood on the album – here they sound like he was born to be a cowboy, blessed with a God-given singing voice!
A little honky-tonk is mixed with catchy country-rock rhythms in ‘Big Dog Lusty’, and the harmonica sits neat. As for the song’s finale, we’re talking saloon theatrics blended with Grand Ole Opry kitsch!
‘Playboy Blues’ has plenty of jangly jazzy elements incorporated; in fact, the impromptu and experimental feel make it sound anything but a strong blues number. It’s a gem, and once again Harrison’s voice (although broken up by numerous and lengthy instrumental solos) is the real winner here. Despite the song’s misleading title, this is the standout track on the album – literally!
What I like about ‘Jessie Lee’ is that it’s a composition lending itself to various interpretations. You just know it will always seduce no matter how it’s played: full-on, acoustic, more country/less country, more jazzy/less jazzy, more bluesy/less bluesy, slow, fast… This version has a bit of everything, and rest assured you won’t get bored with it at any given time.
My favourite is closing track ‘Ragtime Roll’ – a slow piano intro turns into an electrifying boogie-woogie love affair. Same goes for the vocals which reach climax point, and are complemented by a blasting saxophone throughout. This one rolls fast alright, and you’ll be hard-pushed getting any breaks to work!
It beggars belief that the album didn’t do well, an unfortunate fact further soured by the decision to book SNAFU as the opening act for Emerson, Lake & Palmer
during a US promo tour. Indeed, how could fans of Emerson & Co possibly relate to the musical offering of SNAFU? They couldn’t, and sadly it spelled the beginning of the end for the band.
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