The Ancient Mariner is a genuine lost classic, while other tracks like Movie Madness, Standing On Broken Glass and Rebel Without A Cause all point to what could have been a dynamite second album
You know that feeling when something has unaccountably passed you by and you simply can’t understand why or how it happened? Like if there’s a big news story and you had an early night and woke up the next day to find everyone talking about it. Well, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the arrival of Fast Buck into my world. The thing is, not only is this a ‘70s band which I would normally be all over, but their sole album came out in 1976, a year when I turned 15 and devoured every word of the music press that I could possibly find. But Fast Buck? Nope. But maybe there is nothing remarkable about them, you may say. Wrong again, as not only was Scott Gorham a founder member before he left to join Thin Lizzy, but they also recorded the original version of Night Games, made famous by Graham Bonnet a few years later. I know, right!
And the thing is, it’s not as if this is one of those albums you look back at and think ‘what were those guys on when they signed up this lot?’ (you know the ones I’m sure). No, the Fast Buck debut album is actually an excellent piece of work. But let’s look at this box as a whole first, and see what these four discs extrapolated from a single album band are made up of.
The first disc contains the album and nine more tracks recorded around the same time, that’s the easy one. After that sole album release, the band got their own studio set up and recorded a host of other tracks which sadly never found a release. These are on the second and third discs. Disc Four has seventeen live tracks plus a radio interview. Pretty nice spread of material there, so let’s look at it in a bit more detail.
Straight away let’s just say that the first disc is essential listening for anyone who likes that particularly ‘mid-‘70s’ sound purveyed by long-lost acts such as Dirty Tricks, Boxer, Detective or the John Verity Band, for example. That mid-tempo slightly blues-influenced hard rock that has an indefinable ‘something’ about it that pricks your ears up. The album starts off like that, for sure, but then opens out still further when the band stretch themselves just a bit more – Under It All, The Mirror and Sometime Man to name a few high points. In truth there isn’t really a single dud among the ten tracks. The really surprising thing, though, is just how good the nine bonus tracks are. The Ancient Mariner is a genuine lost classic, while other tracks like Movie Madness, Standing On Broken Glass and Rebel Without A Cause all point to what could have been a dynamite second album. There’s also their original recording of Night Games, which may lack the big production of the hit, or Bonnet’s undeniably stronger vocal, but otherwise the arrangement is all in place and it’s good.
So, one essential disc down. Disc Four is another one which is a cracker, as the nineteen tracks recorded at two shows demonstrate that they could cut the proverbial mustard just as well on stage. And, amazingly, given the 62 studio tracks on offer here, there are several which aren’t present in any form elsewhere, including Route 66 morphed into the more prosaic M4, which leads us to suggest they only appeared in the live show (and if so, why). It’s a great live rock disc, with the band coming across as engaging performers between songs also.
Discs two and three are less essential, having peaks and definite troughs. As well as the rock material, the band had country influences and these were starting to be explored in their studio. Disc Two contains these more country efforts, along with a smattering of other demos, while Disc Three is more rock-oriented. It may be fair to say that the country material may have less admirers, but in fact two of the standout tracks from either of these discs come from that area. The country-rock arrangement of the traditional Ballad Of Jesse James which opens the second disc is a masterful arrangement, guaranteed to drive itself into your brain as a not-unwelcome earworm. Even better is the six-minute Ballad Of William Murdoch (they don’t all start with the word ‘ballad’ I hasten to add), which is based on a real-life Cornish steam engineer dating back to the 18th century. It sent me scurrying to the internet to find out more about the man, and it has to be said that if the track had been recorded by Dire Straits it would be in millions of homes by now.
The booklet contained within the clamshell box has the story of the band as penned by guitarist Ed Hamilton, and his thoughts and memories are priceless. If you missed these guys first time out, discover them now. Discs one and four are worth the price of admission alone and, while it could be argued that the other two discs could have been combined into one, other people’s preferences would undoubtedly differ, so what would you leave off? I really don’t know how the Cherry Red guys keep finding these things to unearth, but thankfully they do!