One of the underrated classic albums of its time, Boomland finally gets the 3CD treatment from Esoteric records, who’ve gathered together all the music recorded by T2 in the early seventies and put it together in a 3 CD set, with the original 1970 album on one disc, songs in varying states of readiness recorded for a second album on another, recorded with the classic line-up, plus a third disc of tunes recorded between 1971-72 with only the drummer left from the original band. Keith Cross (gtr), Bernard Jinks (bass/backing vocals) and Peter Dunton (drums/vocals) had played in several different bands before joining up to form T2 and, despite their relative youth (Cross was only 17), they managed to come up with a body of work which stands up even today, with some amazing music belying the relative youth of the players. Boomland is an amazing example of what 1970 was … heavy and ‘out there’ in places but also very melodic as bands began using albums to develop their longer ideas.
In Circles opens up and features some blistering guitar work from Cross around a great riff. Cross was similar to Paul Kossoff in that he did all his best work whilst in his teens. JLT (Jolly Little Tune) is a slightly different, softer tune, with Cross playing piano and a light orchestral backing as the track progresses. But it’s No More White Horses which is the track of the album, a song about a Polish pianist playing in his apartment as the German war machine gets ever closer to Warsaw, with the noise at the end representing the city being overwhelmed by the Nazis. Cross comes up with some superb guitar licks, switching effortlessly from cool to full-on, and with the usage of brass and strings being restrained. The song gradually builds to a stirring finale.
Morning is a twenty-one minute epic, taking up side two at a time when hardly any bands were filling whole sides with one piece. Taken as a whole, this is a really good piece of psych/hard rock which begins gently with soft guitar and vocals before becoming a roller coaster ride of twists and turns, with some glorious playing. It gets a little lost in the middle, and a few minutes could easily be lost without detracting from the whole piece, but nonetheless, the song holds up because of the frequent changes in time and tempo, helping retain the listener’s attention.
The band had begun to put down demo tracks for a second album but, alas, Keith Cross left the band before the album could be recorded. These tracks were eventually released on CD as T2/Fantasy in 1997. A disc of seven tracks, three had been included on Boomland when it was released on CD, none of which was a finished version. Highway is a standard bluesy rock tune with fuzzy guitar and, but for Dunton’s voice, could be The Groundhogs. Careful Sam, for the first two minutes, could be Love circa their Forever Changes period before it then rocks out, with Keith Cross riffing away, and it all sounds like it’s being improvised in the studio. Timothy Monday is one of the better tracks, with a lovely vocal from Dunton. CD is a different version from the earlier one on the reissued Boomland, but the best track by far is The ‘Minstrel, a flute and mellotron-drenched tune reminiscent of early Genesis, showing T2 were prepared to be more adventurous and think beyond the limits of a three piece band. Fantasy veers between soft jazzy guitar and rocks hard in places. T2 is a fourteen minute piece and opens with flute and mellotron, and there are no vocals for four minutes, The song has shades of White Horses in its make-up and, midway onwards, Keith Cross lets rip on guitar. Despite its obvious limitations and the background noise on certain tracks, T2/Fantasy is perfectly listenable. Just don’t expect too much because, despite some good moments, it doesn’t have the same impact as Boomland.
The third disc features a series of tracks recorded between 1971-72, by which time Keith Cross and Bernard Jinks had left the band, replaced by Andrew Brown (guitar) and John Weir (bass), both ex-members of The Flies. These tracks are nowhere near completed and, as Peter Dunton says, the majority are in rough demo form and never intended for release. Only one song, The Clown, sounds like the band which recorded Boomland, and contains some good harmonies.The Gambler has some interesting moments, but Seventy Two is a rather pointless two minutes! And Time and Looking Back are both fair enough embryonic rock songs but the guitar lacks the sparkle of Keith Cross, and Questions & Answers is a slightly different version than on the reissued Boomland. Closing Your Eyes’ and Into the Red both show promise and have some nice flute and mellotron pieces, but clearly needed to be worked on. If it was Peter Dunton singing on these tracks, I’m not sure what his voice was recorded through. The album closes with PDQ, a drum piece from Peter Dunton. There are the nuclei of a few good songs on this disc but, in this form, they’re simply works in progress, and the intriguing use of flute and Mellotron shows T2 were thinking outside the standard rock format box.
Why didn’t T2 make it? It certainly wasn’t because they lacked quality or good songs, and even fifty years after it was recorded, Boomland still stands up, which says it all. Boomland is one of the most underrated albums from a particularly fertile period in rock, and if this reissue helps makes the band’s name more widely known, it’ll have done its job.