March 2, 2020

Comparable to the slightly pastoral prog of Charisma labelmates Genesis circa the Trespass album, with strong hints also of early Traffic…

Brian Davison. Plenty of people might be aware of him, at a guess, as he was, and remains, best known as the drummer with The Nice, the band which propelled Keith Emerson into the rarefied heights of ELP. Davison was also notable a member of Refugee in the early ‘70s, the trio which launched the recording career of Patrick Moraz. However, how many people remember Every Which Way, the short-lived band (less than a year) which he formed after the dissolution of The Nice in the Spring of 1970. Well, this writer for one, having been in possession of the vinyl first pressing for many years. This fact is relevant because, on that crucial pressing, an error at the plant meant the labels were attached to the wrong sides of the record – a fact which, as both sides contained three tracks of quite similar lengths, led to no small amount of confusion. This wasn’t the only reason that the album fared disappointingly on its release in August of 1970, but it certainly didn’t help. With an often hostile press expecting ‘the new Nice’, a line-up of otherwise largely unknown musicians and an army of bewildered listeners calling the tracks by the wrong names, the band were screwed Every Which Way.

Now, however, fifty years have elapsed, and CD and digital formats have long cleared up that pressing confusion, so what do we find here in this long-awaited CD reissue? Well, certainly not The Nice, not least because apart from some piano provided by vocalist and songwriter Graham Bell there are no keyboards here. Instead, the five piece are much more comparable to the slightly pastoral prog of Charisma labelmates Genesis circa the Trespass album, with strong hints also of early Traffic with the reeds and flute of Geoffrey Peach. Much of the album is based on a bed of acoustic guitar in chordal terms (provided by the talented Bell), with electric guitar coming mainly in the form of squally lead work from the impressive yet utterly unknown John Hedley. Bassist Alan Cartwright would move on to Procol Harum, but apart from Bell’s brief stint with Bell And Arc, and earlier spell in psych band Skip Bifferty (alongside two future Ian Dury And The Blockheads men, bizarrely) ,this album was the defining moment for the four non-Davison members. Which is a shame, because it is actually a damned fine album.

Opener Bed Ain’t What It Used To Be sets the scene perfectly, a mid-paced, languid opener stretching out lazily across almost ten minutes as some sterling sax soloing and lead guitar work lead it addictively toward its conclusion. It’s one of those tracks which is deceptively simple and yet at its conclusion feels as if it could have gone on for twice the length. Castle Sand, next up, perfectly catches the Genesis lightning-in-a-bottle, restrained and atmospheric with some dramatic vocal interjections straight from the Gabriel Trespass playbook. The first half of the album concludes with the gentle strains of Go Placidly, which is essentially the Desiderata poem set to music. Good stuff, with more to come.

The old second side opens up with another ten-minute track All In Time, quite similar in tone to the album opener, and with which it was easily confused due to those pesky side labels. Again the sax and guitar are standouts, and it’s another highlight. What You Like comes up next, which is the only track not solely composed by the greatly underrated Bell, being a co-write between him and someone mysteriously named Niforos, and is another strong track, leading us to the closing song, and possibly the standout, The Light. Soulful vocals from Bell provide just enough contrast to the otherwise grandiose progressive flair of this largely instrumental track, with Hedley’s guitar very much front and centre this time. It’s the most dynamic track for sure, and makes for a perfect closer.

If you happen to be a fan of The Nice, a collector of all things peripherally ELP-related, or just a fan of that Trespass-era Genesis sound, you should check this one out. It may not be The Nice. But it’s nice!