‘Flat As A Pancake’ was the start of the Head East bandwagon, a Midwest institution and a band that continues to play fifty years on.
Written by: gdmonline
ARTIST: Head East
ALBUM: Flat As A Pancake
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: John Schlitt – lead vocals * Mike Somerville – guitars, backing vocals * Roger Boyd – keyboards, backing vocals, producer * Dan Birney – bass, backing vocals * Steve Huston – drums, percussion, backing vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 Never Been Any Reason * 02 One Against The Other * 03 Love Me Tonight * 04 City Of Gold * 05 Fly By Night Lady * 06 Jefftown Creek * 07 Lovin’ Me Along * 08 Ticket Back To Georgia * 09 Brother Jacob
WEBLINKS: Site Link
My first experience with this album goes back to about 1979 when I picked it up cheap in a bargain bin in my local hometown. My reasons for buying it were based on the association with fellow Illinois/Midwest band REO Speedwagon of whom I had a number of albums already in the collection. So I was keen to hear what Head East sounded like in comparison.
At the time, it was an underwhelming experience and I offloaded the album soon after. Sacrilege I hear some of you say, but in the decades following, it has warmed to my appeal, knowing it was probably their most popular album and the fact that at 15 years of age I was young, dumb and stupid.
Formed in 1969, the band originated on the campus of the University of Illinois, but it wasn’t until 1974 that they recorded FAAP for small time label Pyramid Records (their own label I’ve since found out). Some links say that it was released in 1974 some say early 1975 (January). In any case, A&M Records knocked on the door, and they released their version with a different cover and rearranged track listing later on in June 1975.
Leading off with ‘Never Been Any Reason’, this is arguably the band’s best remembered track. The mix of guitars and swirling keys gives me the impression of Indiana faves Roadmaster. Why this track never grabbed me when I first bought it I’m buggered if I know.
Head East’s multi-harmony vocals comes to the fore on ‘One Against The Other’. It ends up being somewhat of a boogie workout with sizzling guitar leads and a honky tonk piano solo from Roger Boyd. ‘Love Me Tonight’ is a far brighter affair with an emphasis on acoustic guitar and those multi-part vocals.
‘City Of Gold’ sees the band exploring new ground, even a hint of prog on the very wistful orchestration evident during the mid section. Very interesting. On the next track ‘Fly By Night Lady’, we hear Head East ramp things up, I’m thinking this could be a great live track. Boyd opens up with a massive organ intro on ‘Jefftown Creek’, the song itself rolling into a southern rock outing, you’d be thinking this lot have definitely headed east, all the way to the Carolinas!
The last three tracks didn’t hit the mark for me unfortunately. ‘Lovin’ Me Along’ is a straight ahead effort with no real redeeming features, ‘Ticket Back To Georgia’ is an orchestrated ballad that did zero while ‘Brother Jacob’ could’ve been a Black Oak Arkansas outcast, perhaps a reference to a much maligned preacher man?
The album was perhaps their most successful overall, eventually certified gold (500,000 units) in 1978, while on the Billboard Charts it reached #126 with three singles lifted from it: ‘Never Been Any Reason’, ‘Love Me Tonight’ and ‘City Of Gold’.
Head East’s lineup would remain intact right through until the end of the 70’s decade with four more studio albums and one double live LP added to the portfolio. I am in the process of writing all these up to complete their entire discography. Watch this space.
Never Been Any Reason