Wednesday, November 30, 2011

East of Eden (1971 LP)

Side 1
Wonderful Feeling (6:10)
Goodbye (6:00)
Crazy Daisy (6:54)

Side 2
Here Comes The Day (4:34)
Take What You Need (5:00)
No Time (6:01)
To Mrs. V (5:10)

At first glance this record with the rather ordinary cover and vague title (was it the name of the band or the album?) struck me as a possible Christian-rock record or perhaps something an ambitious (but bland) local act had once unleashed upon an unsuspecting tri-state area. After pulling it out for a closer look, it still took a while to get a handle on what sort of record it was. Turning to the back of the jacket, none of the musicians' names rang a bell and the little descriptive blurb that followed didn't help a whole lot either: "They are from the United Kingdom and play rock. Their music knows how to make people happy." OK. I guess the fact that they play rock was encouraging, and I wouldn't complain if they made me happy, but I was still skeptical. Only when I finally saw that the label was Harvest and the cover photo and design was credited to Hipgnosis was it promptly whisked off to the checkout counter without further ado. Harvest and Hipgnosis are both associated with a laundry list of great, iconic albums by artists such as Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, Led Zeppelin, and Iron Maiden to name just a few. This was suddenly a very promising and intriguing thrift store record find...

Brief History
1971 Harvest Records SW-806
I found out that East of Eden was formed in Bristol, England in 1967 and the band relocated to London the following year where they were signed to the Deram label. In 1969 they released their first album Mercator Projected. In March of that same year they also appeared at the Actuel Festival — apparently playing after (Noel Redding's) Fat Mattress and before Captain Beefheart and Soft Machine. This 1971 self-titled LP is their third studio album, and the first they recorded for Harvest.

                                  Sounds Like
East of Eden sound like they have firm blues-rock roots from which they branch off into more eclectic prog-rock terrain. Side one starts off reminding me of American West Coast bands like Quicksilver Messenger Service or Jefferson Airplane's more earthbound moments. But before long, their UK progressive pedigree becomes more apparent as the gritty (and abundant) blues riffing gives way to jazzier bursts of tightly played early King Crimsonesque passages — replete with saxophones and flutes. They sometimes play in a gentler English folk-rock style (to good effect) as well. Even though the main verse/chorus parts tend to sound more like the sort of blues-based, rocking numbers that might be found on a Rory Gallagher or Robin Trower LP (especially the vocal delivery), the busier, more experimental parts somehow never seem contrived or out of place as they easily flow in and out of these skillfully constructed compositions.

Trivia: Founding member Dave Arbus performs the violin solo at the end of The Who's classic rock radio staple Baba O'Riley.

Visit East of Eden's official website
Listen to a song from this LP on