Eclectic Discs ECLCD 1006
Locomotive were one of the finest bands to inhabit the West Midlands music scene of the later 1960s. Fronted by keyboardist Norman Haines (previously of the Brum Beats) Locomotive recorded a handful of great singles and one acclaimed (though largely ignored) album before disbanding in 1970. The group was managed by local jazz trumpet player Jim Simpson who was also part of the original line-up. He also managed a number of other local groups - most notably Black Sabbath.
Eclectic Discs, a great new label conceived by re-issue consultant Mark Powell, have now re-issued Locomotive's sole album titled "We Are Everything You See" and have included with it some rare bonus tracks not previously available on CD. Though recorded at the end of 1968, the album was not released until more than a year later by which time the pop music scene had undergone some heavy changes.
The Eclectic Discs re-issue is packaged with the fully-restored original artwork and liner notes. Audio quality of the CD is excellent as the tracks have been digitally re-mastered from the original master tapes. Recorded at the end of 1968 (although not released until a year later) Locomotive's We Are Everything You See was produced at the famous Abbey Road Studios by the late Gus Dudgeon who also produced Brum band Tea & Symphony. He later went on to produce Elton John. Several tracks on the album were co-written with Nigel Phillips from Tea & Symphony - a band also managed by Jim Simpson.
For those not familiar with this album, We Are Everything You See is a wonderful mix of late 1960s British psychedelia and early progressive rock with some tracks having heavy jazz overtones. The material is far removed from Locomotive's previous singles that were soul or ska-based and included the band's only chart hit 'Rudi's In Love'.
The instrumentation on the album is second to none featuring the group's regular line up of Norman Haines (lead vocal & keyboards), Mick Hincks (bass & vocal), and Bob Lamb (drums & percussion). The sessions featured an impressive brass section consisting of tenor saxes Bill Madge, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Chris Mercer and Lynn Dobson along with trumpet players Mick Taylor and Henry Lowther.
The first track titled 'Overture' is a fine instrumental piece as performed by a classical string quartette. It gives way to the thundering hammond organ-driven 'Mr. Armageddon', probably one of the most amazing examples of late 1960s psychedelia ever recorded by a British band. The heavy Hammond workout combined with the echoey brass chorus of saxophone and trumpet makes for a wonderful combination - and no Hammond organs were harmed during the recording of this track - we hope! Unfortunately, Mr. Armageddon was too much for many record buyers of that time who were expecting more dance-oriented material along the same lines as Rudi's In Love.
The next album track 'Now Is The End - The End Is When' was composed by trumpet player Mick Taylor. The jazzy intro soon gives way to a foreboding vocal against a pounding instrumental backdrop. The obscure lyrics proclaim - eyes paint their own illusion... now is the end, the end is when. - fascinating stuff once you get into it! The next song, the Norman Haines composed 'Lay Me Down Gently', shifts tempo such as a car shifts gears up and down a challenging race track. Few tracks on this CD would be appreciated on the dance floor, but headphones-only fanatics won't be disappointed!
The Haines/Phillips composed 'Nobody Asked You To Come' rates amongst my favourites on the album. Hammond-driven and featuring a wonderful hypnotic fade-out at the end - if only it could go on forever! 'You Must Be Joking' also appeared as the b-side to one of the band's singles - sounding almost like the sequel to Mr. Armageddon along with its catchy chorus. The lyrics are just as dark too and are apparently about committing suicide - not a good track for those who are clinically depressed! 'Day In Shining Armour' unites the Hammond with the wonderful Mellotron to produce some great sounds interspersed with heavy bass - and drum solos??
'The Loves Of Augustus Abbey Part One' features a church service intro complete with ethereal vocal and then goes straight into the next title 'Rain' on which Mick Hinks sings the lead. It's a great track that wouldn't have seemed out of place on Genesis' "Trespass" album.
'The Loves Of Augustus Abbey Part Two' (complete with a hooting owl fade-out) is followed by 'Coming Down/Love Song For The Dead Che' which features a very Gary Numan-like vocal and probably the only track on the album that approaches conventional rock - obviously a strong number if it was ever performed live by the band. The song was actually a cover of the U.S. psychedelic group United States Of America - a band known as pioneers of experimental music.
A final rendition of 'The Loves Of Augustus Abbey' (Part Three), takes us to the final track on the original album which is titled 'Time Of Light And Darkness'. The song features a jazzy mid-section but by far its most distinct feature is the sound of the Mellotron which provides a suitable out-of-this world atmosphere - and what a strange trip it has been! All a nice change too from the guitar-heavy material that characterized many of the records from that era.
As well as Locomotive's album, the Eclectic Discs re-issue includes a generous selection of bonus tracks starting with the single (mono) version of Mr. Armageddon that has a different intro from the album version. There's Got To Be A Way - the original b-side of the single, is also included and what a great track it is (you can almost dance to this one!). Lots of great Hammond with horns, and some high range Queen-like vocals.
'I'm Never Gonna Let You Go' (apparently a cover of a Question Mark and The Mysterians song) is probably the closest on the CD to a real commercial pop record. Released in 1969, the song should have made the charts but at least it gets a well deserved opportunity to be heard once more on this re-issue.
The final rare Locomotive single (issued early in 1970) is also included on this CD. 'Roll Over Mary' backed with 'Movin' Down The Line' have none of the jazz influences of the earlier material and are very much typical of the period as done in a heavy rock style. Not surprising really as Norman Haines had left the band before it was recorded with the remaining members soon re-emerging as the progressive rock outfit known as "The Dog That Bit People".
In all, Eclectic Discs' Locomotive re-issue more than does justice to the band's recordings. It stands up to repeated listenings and provides a fine slice of late 1960s psychedelic rock - well recommended!
The track listing is as follows:
For more information about this CD, visit the Eclectic Discs web site at www.eclecticdiscs.comCopyright © John R Woodhouse 2004