Grannie’s debut album was once considered one of the greatest obscure hard rock albums ever made, however the reality is far from the truth.
Written by: Dangerzone
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Phil Newton – vocals, guitar * Dave Holland – bass * Johnny Clark – drums * John Stevenson – keyboards * Jan Chandler – flute
TRACK LISTING: 01 Leaving * 02 Romany Return * 03 Tomorrow Today Tomorrow Today * 04 Saga Of The Sad Jester * 05 Dawn * 06 Coloured Armageddon
This English prog rock effort was once considered so obscure that Record Collector magazine once ranked it in their ‘100 Most Valuable Albums of All Time’. With such a heady reputation you’d expect something extraordinary.. correct? Hmm. The band was formed by Newton in 1969 according to notes found floating around the Internet.
He responded to an ad which promised 8 hours of studio time and 99 copies of the resulting album pressed for the meager sum of 100 pounds. Newton put this lineup together to capitalize on the deal, recording tracks he’d written in the previous couple of years. It was enough to keep the band intact for a short while at least. While the 99 copies were the only representation of this album until some unofficial CD pressings started showing up well over two decades later.
The dilemma with albums containing reputations like this inevitably leads to disappointment. In the old Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock there was a list of the greatest obscure hard rock albums ever made, most of which turned out to be rather anti-climactic once heard. Grannie probably never expected to fall into this category and in all fairness the album is an energetic romp through standard early 70’s prog rock maneuvers. For 1971 it’s significantly better than many other horrendous hard rock acts of the time and with better production it would have improved the overall sound.
Someone compared the band to early Wishbone Ash and honestly it’s as accurate as it gets. ‘Leaving’ is heavy on flute and the hook is very radio-friendly, with more in common with U.S. based psychedelic acts. ‘Romany Returns’ incorporates the lush arrangements of the era, acoustic guitars and flute competing for domination, very earthy and atmospheric, the Wishbone Ash comparisons impossible to ignore.
‘Tomorrow Today’ is slightly heavier and a nod you’d assume to the bands capturing the headlines in 1971 like Uriah Heep and company. It’s comparatively crude due to the low budget production values, but still lively. ‘Saga Of The Sad Jester’ is standard material, caught somewhere between the late 60’s and early 70’s, while ‘Dawn’ has a folksy edge, on the cusp of Crosby, Stills and Nash almost, very American based.
The nine minute ‘Colored Armageddon’ is the showpiece, with obligatory organ use at the forefront, giving it the feel of an extended Deep Purple jam onstage. There are the expected lulls before resuming heaviness, the usual passages associated with keyboard dominated epics. Again it’s clearly influenced by what bands like Purple were doing, showing how the landscape of the rock scene was evolving.
Any hope Grannie had of continuing was ended when all their gear was nicked, putting a halt to their future plans. All that remained for years were the 99 copies of the album, until the myth surrounding the album got so strong that bootleg CD’s began to crop up. I’ve had a copy sitting around for years, but being so uninspired by many of the early 70’s English bands it’s only now I’ve really given it a good listen.
While there is merit to be found in some of these albums, it’s easy to see why they didn’t make it. When you listen to what The Who were doing in 1971 and then listen to Grannie afterwards, it’s almost unlistenable. On its own accord ‘Grannie’ is still a lot more accomplished than many of their kind and worth a listen to those who enjoy this particular timeframe of rock.