Angel Air Records (label)
21 January 2013 (released)
21 January 2013
Another much sought-after classic album from AA Records, this British output was called into life by drummer/vocalist Bobby Harrison, and guitarist Micky Moody. The result gave us one of the finest and most soulful, American-inspired funk/R&B acts of the mid-70s.
It was 1972 when Bobby Harrison (previously involved with Procol Harum) had freshly departed from blues-rock outfit Freedom to start record his first solo album ‘Funkiest’. Among the many ace musicians featured on said album was Micky Moody, then lead guitarist with Juicy Lucy. The musical chemistry between the two artists was so dynamic, they decided to form their very own group – a short while later, SNAFU was born.
With Harrison churning out grade-A vocals, and Moody discovering his love for slide guitar, the joint produce saw them strongly dabbling in country rock, before becoming heavily influenced by US bands such as The Allman Brothers, The Doobie Brothers, and – in Harrison’s case – particularly Little Feat. At the same time, SNAFU (an unofficial military abbreviation for ‘Situation Normal All F****d Up’) were keen to maintain their own musical heritage and identity instead of simply playing the copycat game. Although more of a critic’s band than mega-successful commercial darlings, the fruits of their labour paid off and in early 1974, SNAFU returned to the UK from touring the world supporting The Doobie Brothers and The Eagles. Not content with resting on their laurels, the band went straight into the studio to record their second album 'Situation Normal'.
However, during a later tour of Germany, Moody was invited by David Coverdale and accepted. Busy playing solo with Coverdale, as well as with Coverdale’s band Whitesnake, Moody’s versatility made him a much-in-demand session player and as a result, his commitment to SNAFU suffered.
Harrison, meanwhile, tried to keep his band going with Humble Pie Clem Clemson on axe duties, but it didn’t really work. When their manager died a couple of years later, it proved to be the last nail in SNAFU’s coffin.
Finally, connoisseurs of quality music are able to find out for themselves what all the fuzz was about. This re-release comes re-mastered and apart from Harrison and Moody, the rest of the talent is comprised of Colin Gibson on bass, Pete Solley on keyboards and backing vox, and Terry Popple on drums.
Opener ‘Long Gone’ is dominated by punctuated riffing and an overall choppy blues-rock sound, then mixed with the right level of funk to turn this typically 70’s sound into a timeless and punchy groover.
‘Said He the Judge’ starts on a slower pace and kinda startles due to its peculiar country-folk vibe a la Dylan. It picks up on the pace though, and slides between a soul-infused backing chorus and hard-grinding guitar solos throughout the track, before gradually fading out (opting for the instrumental route).
On a very different plane is ‘Monday Morning’ – a track with a blend of Cajun-country, Celtic folk and solid rock all thrown together. Strongly domineering are the fiddle and mandolin sounds - nicely rounding up this curious hotchpotch.
We’re back again in more familiar SNAFU territory with ‘Drowning In A Sea Of Love’ (bit of a daft title to be honest). It’s a fabulous number, albeit not written by members of the band, but by Philly-sound pioneers Gamble and Huff. SNAFU’s edgier take on it - complete with backing vox – works a treat mind you.
‘Country Nest’ is an atmospheric country-rock ballad, paced just right (i.e. not too mellow and not too fast) to get you into the mood for its “country home, where the sun shines all day long” mantra. You better believe it, dude!
It’s fiddle-diddle time again on next track ‘Funky Friend’ but, as the title readily suggests, here it’s a distinctive funky vibe that infuses an otherwise folk-rock orientated composition. In fact, it’s folky fiddle versus funky bass battling it out toward the end, making for a sizzling crescendo!
A product of classic sources is ‘Goodbye USA’ – an arrangement much in the vein of bands like Steely Dan, and combining elements of slow-paced funk with a dash of jazz and a larger portion of rock… It’s quite heavy on the keyboards and riffs as well, thus adding to the texture.
‘That’s The Song’ (co-written by acer Jerry Marcellino) is – in my opinion – precisely that. Namely THE song on the album that ticks every single one of my ‘Yes’ boxes, and I’ll be damned if it won’t tick yours too: a fast and funky, gospel-oriented number with a constant build-up as far as dynamics and energy go. Holy Rollers! This one will have your limbs go all jerky, with your head bobbing along to every note and chord. There’s also some exquisite choir work incorporated to great effect. What am I saying, of course there is.
As for the bonus tracks (yep, there’s two bonus tracks on the CD):
‘Dixie Queen’ once more takes us back to good ole Southern roots and SNAFU’S affinity for all things funk. After a cool percussion intro, we are reminded of Allman Bros, Lynyrd Skynyrd and that ilk. The number is a tad repetitive in the lyrics department, but a killer groove more than compensates for it.
Second bonus track (and closing number) ‘Sad Sunday’ sounds in fact rather uplifting, with a slightly distorted, psychedelic keyboard sound (more 60’s than 70’s) and an overall ‘tune in drop out’ vibe. As ever, Bobby Harrison’s powerful voice adds both playfulness as well as gravitas. Not to be taken for granted (especially in the rock music domain), the song also has a proper ending as opposed to the usual fade-out.