Brand X: The jazz rock noodle you need

Brand X: The jazz rock noodle you need
Authored By John Nicholson

In the second half of the seventies, jazz rock, characterised by fast guitar and wonky rhythm's, enjoyed a few years of popularity. One of my favourites is Brand X. Almost totally instrumental, their line up featured Phil Collins for a period. Everyone has chops to burn and they deployed some exciting dynamics. Their debut was Unorthodox Behaviour. It featured Euthanazia Waltz which was a statement of intent. John Goodsall’s guitar was remarkable for speed and rhythm.
If you wanted songs to sing along to, this wasn’t that. But if you wanted a blur of lead guitar played against a mellow background, it was heaven. What’s more, the second album, Moroccan Roll charted at #37 in UK and had another great workout in Malaga Virgin. 1977 was perhaps their peak year. Along with the studio album on the charts, they released Livestock with a Hipgnosis cover, recorded at Ronnie Scott’s. It’s exciting and ambient and Goodsall and Jones are superb.
Their musical ability is breathtaking. Anyone who thinks jazz-rock is all style over content, they should hear the live album. Nuclear Burn absolutely smokes. The shifting sands of the songs guarantees several launch pads from which they can fly. Collins technique is interstellar. The way he details the songs with his-hat work, drops beats, along with famously difficult rhythms, confirms his quality. If anyone ever doubted it. The sheer technique of the band is jaw-dropping, but the music they create is even better, landing somewhere between ambience and jazz. Then, at times, they slip from the difficult rhythms and into a four to the floor, straight beat and play 16 bars of hard rock. Very exciting.
Percy Jones is on bass and it’s a delightfully soupy sound which hiccups through songs. He’s essential for their ambient passages and for anyone loves jazz bass, he’s a joy. 
They released five albums and split up in the early eighties for about ten years, got back together in 1992, recorded an album, drifted apart till 1997, when they recorded another record with some original members and have been off and on ever since. There’s been more live releases in recent years, but Livestock is really all the live material you need. It was never meant to be fabulously commercial and maybe they didn’t expect to do as well as they did. Goodsall recently died as did some other members and the band has ended again. But they were much loved by jazz-rock acolytes and they will absolutely set your hair on end.

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