How to describe the shortlived Granicus? In a nutshell – relentless wailing soaring riffing guitars, loud frenetic drumming and super high vocals.
Written by: Harvey Mettle
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
LINEUP: Francis ‘Woody’ Leffel – lead vocals, acoustic guitar * Wayne Irving Anderson – lead guitar * Joe Battaglia – drums * Dale Bedford – bass * Rufus ‘Al’ Pinell – rhythm guitar
TRACK LISTING: 01 You’re In America * 02 Bad Talk * 03 Twilight * 04 Prayer * 05 Cleveland Ohio * 06 Nightmare * 07 When You’re Movin’ * 08 Paradise
Short-lived and doomed to failure, Granicus were a Cleveland Ohio based outfit who got together in the early 70’s. Lead vocalist and Vietnam Veteran Woody Leffel was well known on the Ohio scene in the 60’s having played for local heroes such as The Tree Stumps and Renaissance Faire.
Leffel along with fellow Ohioan Battaglia teamed up with the Rochester NY trio of Anderson, Bedford and Pinell and the band holed up in a warehouse on the west side of Cleveland for a year to hone their music and only played one gig before signing a deal with RCA.
In a nutshell – relentless wailing soaring riffing guitars, loud frenetic drumming and super high vocals (that make David Surkamp and Geddy Lee sound like Lemmy), interlaced with passages of full on almost psychedelic whimsy.
Heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin, the album starts of with the relative normality of ‘You’re In America’ a medium fast anti war/USA rocker based on a quasi native American drum pattern. It carries Leffels high pitched squeals, screams and moans over a basic boogie that threatens to take off into hyperspace at any moment.
If this one comes across as ‘too out there’ for the casual listener then turn off now because the trip just gets wilder! ‘Bad Talk’ brings the guitar to the fore straight away and is for a moment or two an almost (gulp!) commercial rocker.
The drums still pound like an Apache war party on acid and the guitar wails like a banshee but it’s still quite well behaved until one minute in, when the band go treble speed and the guitar screams even louder, rushing headlong in a welter of angst and anger towards the Plant like anguished howl that ends it.
Almost as if understanding the impact of the first tracks, the album confounds and soothes with the low key melodic instrumental ‘Twilight’, not a million miles away from something Styx may have tried.
Having sorted the men from the boys, the band now kick into the gargantuan 11 minute long ‘Prayer’, an epic in every sense of the word. Mixing mid tempo acoustic guitars and funeral drums to start with, the band shift and change moods, teasing and tempting before gathering pace and exploding in a frantic violent kick to the face.
Queued in by Lefell’s increasing scream, Anderson’s guitar cutting through louder and louder, wilder and wilder before the song, doubling speed pelts headlong towards a chaotic crescendo.
‘Cleveland Ohio’ is the song that killed the band. Local airplay of the bitter anti Cleveland diatribe had the band blacklisted by radio stations and even by their fans by all accounts. Musically it’s loud on the guitar and heavy on the bile.
‘Nightmare’ is another 8 minute and 15 second epic. An anger filled tirade of disenfranchisement and disgust that crawls its way through four minutes of unashamed downer rock before blasting off in true Granicus style only to return to a blissed out jazz inflected end piece of sweetness and light.
You’ve barely registered that for just a few seconds the band seemed to have been happy and relaxed before ‘When You’re Movin’ blasts out of the speakers on a wave of the bitterest bile recorded in the 70’s, Leffel kicking out and screaming against some personal demon, the band spewing up an ugly metallic cacophony in unholy agreement.
Album closer ‘Paradise’, sees the vocals treated or mixed down a little at first, but clocking in at over 7 minutes the band cram blitzing hyper speed downer metal, mid tempo boogie, jazz and scat-metal into a another maelstrom of frenetic sound.
After spending time in Rochester, New York, the band returned to Cleveland where they were not well received. RCA had released the album with a mix the band didn’t like. Within a year it was all over.
Lefell was the first to quit, (he later fronted Zephaniah Cross and Baino – who had some recordings issued as Pi Corp a couple of years ago) their manager placed an advert in Melody Maker looking for a replacement.
Scottish singer Jesse Rae, sometime member of England (featuring Olly Alcock) got the job but shortly after his arrival in the US, bassist Bedford quit, disillusioned with Rae’s more traditional vocal style.
Crushed, the band called it a day. Battaglia retained Rae for his next project, The Boys and Rae suggested his old England band mate John Waite (who some of you may know from other projects) come in on bass.
Another change of guitarist saw The Boys fold. Battaglia also produced an obscure session by a band called Pandora. This was originally produced in promo form as a 10 green vinyl flexi disc with edited versions of each song, but has in recent years been issued in full on CD by Captain Trips.
Musically it’s more of a glam style. Waite returned to the UK and superstardom. Rae is still about doing his odd Scottish ‘stuff’. Granicus returned to obscurity. There was a brief flurry of activity in the 80’s when the band attempted a reformation, but it was never to be.
Leffel lives in Brunswick Ohio and at 63 years old has all but left the music biz behind. So too has wonder guitarist Anderson who has found god and eschews any connection to rock music. The others have kept a similarly low profile.
Despite becoming a very highly regarded cult masterpiece, the album has never been officially reissued. There was a now, long gone official website a few years ago and latest news is that some members of the band are preparing a new CD of unreleased material entitled, in time honoured bitter fashion ‘Thieves, Liars, Traitors’.
Of interest to collectors is a 1973 New York radio session, with one unreleased song proposed for the second album in a more concise ‘glam’ style and different arrangements of some tracks from the debut. Rumoured to exist but looking more unlikely as time goes on, is a live recording of the band supporting Spirit. So now you know who Granicus were.
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