With this album, Bloodrock delivered what has to be one of the most remarkable ‘about face’ style changes in the history of rock music.
Written by: Eric
SERIAL: SW 11109
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
LINEUP: Ed Grundy – bass * Stevie Hill – keyboards * Warren Ham – lead vocals, flute, sax, harmonica * Nick Taylor – guitar * R. Cobb III – drums, percussion
TRACK LISTING: 01 Help Is On The Way * 02 Scottsman * 03 Juice * 04 The Power * 05 Life Blood * 06 Days and Nights * 07 Lost Fame * 08 Thank You Daniel Ellsberg * 09 Fantasy
Bloodrock stormed out of Ft Worth, Texas in 1970 with their high powered blend of hard rock and with Grand Funk Railroad manager Terry Knight calling the shots for the band, they were one of the most prolific and hardest working bands of the era. Yet, despite their popularity, they seem to have been forgotten in the annals of hard rock.
Personally I never thought their early albums were that great, offering up a sludgy brew of Black Sabbath and Black Oak Arkansas, for the most part written by hot shot guitarist, fellow Texan and non-member John Nitzinger.
Bloodrock had one hit single called ‘D.O.A’ which still gets radio time believe it or not, played everywhere live and with any band who would let them share a stage. This was Vietnam-era music, greasy guitars for easy riders and Hells Angels.
The critics hated them while throngs of ‘long hairs’ in leather fringe jackets bought their albums and concert tickets, attempting to get away from the establishments hypocrisy in a haze of blue smoke and free love.
In 1971 Bloodrock released their fourth album ‘U.S.A’ which showed a marked change from the previous three releases. Yes, it was still hard rock, but progressive rock’s star was rising and the band began taking chances in light of what they must have been hearing from England.
The results were the departure of two key members including vocalist Jim Rutledge and guitarist Lee Pickens. The group released a live album and vocalist Warren Ham was introduced for their fifth studio album ‘Passage’.
With this album, Bloodrock delivered what has to be one of the most remarkable ‘about face’ style changes in the history of rock music. You would never guess this was the same band.
Warren’s voice fits the music perfectly and opening with ‘Help Is On The Way’ is a perfect slice of sweet 70’s rock that sounds very much like Kansas at their best. The following ‘Scottsman’ shows a strong Jethro Tull influence complete with Ham’s jazzy flute.
‘Life Blood’ follows a similar path throwing in some Keith Emerson styled keyboard runs while ‘Fantasy’ combines both Emerson Lake & Palmer with middle-period Soft Machine, creating a wonderful jazz rock sound and the best song on the album.
When early American progressive rock, or ‘Ameriprog’ is discussed Ethos, Fireballet, Kansas, Starcastle and Happy The Man are usually brought up first, but other than the Styx debut, I am hard pressed to come up with an earlier American progressive album other than Bloorock’s ‘Passage’.
It was ahead of it’s time and the bands follow-up and final record ‘Whirlwind Tongues’ is equally as good if not slightly better. Warren Ham would wind up as backing vocalist for Kansas and work with Kerry Livgren and AD.
Both albums featuring Ham as well as an unreleased album ‘Unspoken Words’, have been reissued by One Way Records on a two disc set called ‘Triptych’. It’s a superb value for money release and worth picking up for fans of Bloodrock and the American scene overall.
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