Gravy Train were a British band full of guitar wank, non-stop riffy blues workouts amid the heavy psych and proggy aspirations.
Written by: Eric
ARTIST: Gravy Train
ALBUM: Gravy Train
SERIAL: 6360 023
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Norman Barratt – lead vocals, guitar * Les Williams – bass, vocals * Barry Davenport – drums * J.D. Hughes – flute
TRACK LISTING: 01 The New One * 02 Dedication To Sid * 03 Coast Road * 04 Enterprise * 05 Think Of Life * 06 Earl Pocket Of Nook
A belated review request, Gravy Train are one of the typical early 70’s Vertigo label bands that seedy collectors and fans of British rock drool over nowadays but were virtually ignored in their time. In a 2006 interview guitarist Norman Barratt blamed their lack of success on poorly produced albums and too few single releases.
Although many progressive fans are likely to go a step further sarcastically referring to the music of Gravy Train as Jethro Tull without Ian Anderson‘s personality. That’s a bit harsh in my opinion although there were notable similarities and over the course of four albums the band shared stages with some of the biggest artists of the day.
These included Genesis, Mott The Hoople, Rory Gallagher and Roxy Music, giving Barratt and company ample opportunity to reach the masses but they never quite clicked.
Heavy on guitar wank, the Gravy Train debut released in late 1970 is everything you would expect with never-ending riffy blues workouts that I’m sure went over a storm at the Roundhouse and Marquee but for the pop-inclined this was some seriously tough going. Amid the heavy psych and proggy aspirations, I don’t think singles were on Gravy Train’s collective minds although ‘The New One’ was the label’s pick and no surprise it failed to lure interest. Jethro Tull was an easy out when defining the band’s sound.
But comparisons can be made to Jericho, Chicken Shack, Blodwyn Pig and the endless stream of heady white boy blues that defined the era. What separated the Train from the norm is J.D. Hughes deft flute work which adds a welcome dimension to the majority of the album, in particular the indulgent closer ‘Earl Pocket Of Nook’ which has some cool bits but would have been dreadfully awful without.
Further Gravy Train albums failed to make a dent commercially although their swansong ‘Staircase To The Day’ clearly shows a band finally coming into its own and sporting a classic Roger Dean cover, stands as their finest hour with an accessible prog sound. Unfortunately the group’s personnel issues came to a head with an aborted fifth album that could very well have put them over the top. Disillusioned with each other and the music business in general, the band called it quits in 1976.
Flautist J.D. Hughes went into teaching while Norman Barratt who had turned to Christianity early on joined forces with the excellent Alwyn Wall Band who we’ve reviewed here not too long ago and found minor CCM success with the Barratt Band during the early 80’s which included on occasion both Les Williams and Barry Davenport.