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"Hey where are you goin'? Hey you're not even knowin'!"

Class E

Main Category: Hard Rock
Also applicable: Roots Rock, Art Rock
Starting Period: The Artsy/Rootsy Years
Also active in: The Interim Years



Disclaimer: this page is not written by from the point of view of a Bloodrock fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Bloodrock fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

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A rare example of a good American band. (HA! HA!). No, of course I wouldn't be that much of a jerk to demonstrate the good sides of American rock beginning from Bloodrock of all people. But here's a better definition for you: a rare example of a Southern band that manages to get along without a paticularly brilliant side of their personality. (This also makes it a real pain in the neck to review their albums, but I swear I'll do my best).

Apparently, the band - or rather, its great-grandfather - was formed in Texas as early as the early Sixties, by Jim Rutledge and Nick Taylor and some pals, but it took them almost a decade, multiple lineup changes and also multiple name changes to become Bloodrock around 1970. They didn't possess a heck of a lot of independent musical imagination, and the fact that they were managed and produced by Terry Knight, the unnamed hero of Grand Funk Railroad, doesn't make matters really better. However, they possessed two unarguable advantages. First, they were heavy - not necessarily heavier than GFR at their heaviest, or any other American act at the time, but more like, 'heavy' in the attitude sense of the word. The music was dark, ranging between goofy and creepy, occasionally balancing towards the former or towards the latter, with apocalyptic and demonic references, mystical imagery and bloody album covers which you can see below. Again, they did not invent this attitude, but they did a good job of supporting and embracing it without too much embarrassment.

And that, of course, was possible only because of the second advantage - unlike GFR or Steppenwolf or whoever it was back in the early Seventies pretending to fill in the 'hard rock' niche in the States, they were good songwriters. Usually, they employed the skills of the outside colleague John Nitzinger, but occasionally Rutledge and friends penned the songs themselves, and often with satisfactory results at that. Nick Taylor's riffs didn't have the crushing force of Blackmore, Page, or Iommi, but they were well-written and catchy, bluesy in their essence but straying far enough from the regular blues formula to be entertaining on their own. Apart from that, the band was always supported with a professional rhythm section and keyboard sound, and although I can see how Jim Rutledge's pompous vocals can get on some people's nerves, at least he never tried to be as 'soulful' as Mark Farner. You can wipe Rutledge's vocals off every Bloodrock song recorded and you'll still have some interesting music to kick your ass. (In GFR's case, you SHOULD wipe Farner's vocals off pretty much every track, but even then the most you will get is inner peace of mind, because interesting music you're getting not. Not in the early years, at least.)

What with all that gift, strange enough, Bloodrock never really made it big in the States. There can be numerous reasons for that, I guess, but in the abstract plane, the main reason is that they were too 'middle of the road', if you ask me. For a really heavy and frightening experience, people preferred to look overseas, in the direction of Black Sabbath; and those who wanted good old Southern rock always had the Allman Brothers to their pleasure. Bloodrock were neither as doom laden as the former nor as professional and 'close to the heart' as the latter. And besides, they called themselves 'Bloodrock' and had all those spooky album covers, so normal people wouldn't buy them. Through all of their existence, the band - if I'm not mistaken - had only one significant hit, 'D.O.A.', which can still sometimes be heard on the radio, and their albums sold miserably, so it was only too predictable they didn't manage to hold together for a long time. Rutledge and lead guitarist Lee Pickens quit right after the fourth album; the band hired a new frontman and, in what has to be one of the weirdest and lamest, most pointless metamorphoses ever, turned into a third-rate copy-cat "progressive" outfit (granted, it did pave the way for bigger and stinkier bandwagon-jumpers like Kansas and Styx, but that's hardly a good influence). After dragging on for a few more years, in the end the guys just had to call it quits because obviously there was no hope whatsoever of surviving in a highly competitive world.

The four albums in question are quite good - all but the second, where the band mistakenly put on a happier face than usual and lost much of its native flavour - and I'd recommend them to any hard rock lover, not just those who are interested primarily in the specified period. They all sound the same, but for hard rock acts it's pretty natural. But do seek out the debut: I sincerely do believe that it's one of the finest examples of American hard rock I've ever witnessed, and that in some respects at least it could even give some competition to concurrent British releases of the time.

Line-up (only the classic 1970-72 lineup given here): Jim Rutledge - drums, lead vocals; Lee Pickens - lead guitar, vocals; Nick Taylor - guitar, vocal; Ed Grundy - bass, vocal; Steve Hill - keyboards, vocal. In late 1970, Rutledge switched to exquisitely vocal duties, with Rick Cobb replacing him on drums. Band almost collapsed in mid-1972, with Rutledge and Pickens leaving, replaced by Warren Ham (vocals, flute, sax, harmonica). That was a wholly different Bloodrock altogether, and it only lasted for a couple more years.



Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 11

Heck of a redneckish take on hard rock. Kinda like an anti-Christ version of GFR with better riffs.


Track listing: 1) Gotta Find A Way; 2) Castle Of Thoughts; 3) Fatback; 4) Double Cross; 5) Timepiece; 6) Wicked Truth; 7) Gimmie Your Head; 8) Fantastic Piece Of Architecture; 9) Melvin Laid An Egg.

Redneck rock - if this is redneck rock, which some doubt - doesn't get much better than this! The first Bloodrock album is also arguably the best Bloodrock album (unless you're becoming way too much seduced by the feeble atmospherics of 'D.O.A.' and the like), if only because it contains an absolute majority of Bloodrock riffs and Bloodrock vocal melodies that, well, have not been ripped-off or do not remind you of other Bloodrock riffs and Bloodrock vocal melodies. And what, pray tell, is a Bloodrock riff? It's a cool riff, normally, the kind of riff that rather takes its cue from Black Sabbath than from, uh, Blue Cheer, I guess, if we limit ourselves to bands starting with "BL". Well, there's also Blind Faith, I guess, but... what do you get from a band with but one album?

Anyway, the riffs are good. The guitar playing's okay, too; it's not like Lee Pickens and Nick Taylor actually invent anything with their instruments (in between Hendrix and Van Halen, pretty few American hard rockers were inventive with their instruments anyway), but they play 'em nice and hard, with a vast knowledge of techniques, effects, licks, picks, and dicks. Nah, screw dicks, this isn't really a cock-rock experience; the themes of the album lie more in the metaphysical field, assuming a bunch of hairy Texan potheads know what 'metaphysics' really is. Not too much Satanic imagery, either, even if the atmosphere is pretty dark throughout and there's plenty of death 'n' suffering references.

No, stylistically this is pretty inoffensive, and I do mean "inoffensive" in the really inoffensive meaning, which is, nothing on here actively displeases me or should, in fact, displease anybody who is normally displeased by Kiss, Grand Funk, or Uriah Heep, to the latter of which Bloodrock is pretty often compared. This sounds NOTHING like Uriah Heep unless you count the actual set of instruments and the fact that both bands have pompous vocals. But pompous or not, Jim Rutledge's grizzly gutsy delivery suits the songs just fine.

There ain't truly a bad piece on the album, even if the one 'quiet atmospheric' tune on here doesn't do much for me. 'Fantastic Piece Of Architecture', a slow, subtle, potentially "creepy" pseudo-Goth epic, actually makes the mistake of putting atmosphere before melody, and in those post-Doors and near-Sabbath days, you couldn't expect such a band as Bloodrock to really keep up to the standards. The organ shuffles along nicely, the soft silken vocal delivery is tolerable and the occasional echoey guitar twang is a fine touch, but on the whole the tune is really unimpressive.

Not so with the other eight numbers, all of 'em fat, mean, and rockin' along as impressively as you'd expect. With a bit of invention, too. 'Gotta Find A Way' opens the album with a stinging two-note guitar melody that seems prqetty stupid but then turns out to be a mere background support instead of the main riff, and the endless repetitive chorus is catchy enough to stick where it should, but is interrupted by verse melodies and moderate, un-show-off-ey organ solos often enough not to make you vomit. The fast-rolling rollickin' 'Castle Of Thoughts' is my personal favourite, a thoroughly convincing monster of a song with a great drive throughout - and where simpler bands would employ maybe just one naggin' naughty riff, 'Castle Of Thoughts' actually carries the melody through several different sections and riffs, all of them nice. For some reason, too, the lyrical dichotomy of 'here I stand in the castle of my thoughts' and 'here I stand in the college of my dreams' really seduces me, unless Rutledge stole it from somebody else.

Other highlights include 'Double Cross' - a MONSTER MONSTER riff which they should have sold to Tony Iommi for a fortune... then again, it's pretty poppy for Tony Iommi, which reminds me that there are actually plenty of pop influences on this album; 'Timepiece' is excellent too, one tune where a similar use of 'feeble atmospherics' for the melody magnificently contrasts with the wild uproar of the chorus; more Sabbath-esque distorted punch in 'Wicked Truth'; and the REAL epic of this album, 'Melvin Laid An Egg', whose main riff seems like it was used as an inspiration for Sabbath's 'Iron Man' later on, doesn't it?

Anyway, what this album does is ROCK, and I do mean rock, for according to the standards of 1970 this stuff had some of the heaviest songs around. Too bad the band never really caught on the success later on. I do actually think that Bloodrock is a better album than the debut of Black Sabbath, if somewhat more restrained and a bit less daring. One thing's for certain: it's upon hearing records like these that you truly understand how much hard work it is to come up with a good guitar riff, and take this, you lovers of complexity! Anybody can slam up three chords and make a riff; the important thing is to make that riff actually reflect an emotional state, and a precise and exact one at that, not just abstract 'dynamics' or 'power'. Grand Funk Railroad couldn't tell a good riff from a bad one under pain of Mark Farner working as a roadie for Slayer; Bloodrock can do that easily, at least they could in their prime. Yeah, I guess Rutledge's evil portentous vocals can turn off some people, but not more so than any selected metal screamer vocals can; I, for one, think that they're fully adequate with the music. Thus, I eagerly recommend any hard rock lover to look this up, a rare metallic treasure from the early Seventies. Proves the Yanks can do heavy metal when they want, too!



Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 9

More like "Prozackrock" this time. Some more good riffs but totally devoid of... of whatever makes the band worth reviewing.


Track listing: 1) Lucky In The Morning; 2) Cheater; 3) Sable And Pearl; 4) Fallin'; 5) Children's Heritage; 6) Dier Not A Lover; 7) D.O.A.; 8) Fancy Space Odyssey.

Bah. Just when Bloodrock established themselves as a mighty grim band, with imagery of death and suffering and nasty angry riffs all around, they suddenly make a 180% turn and establish themselves as a happy shinin' Southern-hard rock band totally in the Grand Funk vein! What the heck, some of this stuff sounds even much more like Styx than GFR; don't you hear the shadow of Dennis DeYoung rising as the band happily coo 'Lucky in the m-o-o-o-o-o-orning!'

Yeah, yeah, I know, this is where you're gonna find 'D.O.A.', their eight-minute major epic and arguably their best-known song of all. It's about a guy dying after a plane crash or something and it's absolutely sickening - not because of the actual music, which, I gotta say, is pretty boring, but because of the totally sick lyrics. I hate that nasty gory stuff. As far as frightening epics go anyway, this is absolutely nothing compared to 'Sister Morphine' or even certain Black Sabbath numbers; it's long, it's monotonous - after the second verse, even the imposing opposition of the quiet organ-based verses and the pompous 'I remember!' chorus starts to feel more predictable than a baby's diaper - and it doesn't even have a good guitar solo. It's not entirely bad, though, mainly just overlong, and after all, the number of alcohol-related casulaties in 1971 did drop 14% after the release of the song. Yeah, just a curious tidbit I picked from the Bloodrock site. See, Bloodrock were saving the precious lives of American youth long before Lynyrd Skynyrd became the first geniuses to warn the world of the danger of drugs, handguns, racism and flying planes instead of riding trucks. Talk about originality.

Anyway, 'D.O.A.' is really an anomaly on the album. The other seven songs are just fast/mid-tempo funny rockers about all kinds of fancy posh crap. Maybe the record company were trying to model their pets along the lines of Mark Farner and his Christian thugs. Maybe they wanted to try that department themselves. The problem is, who the heck wants a happy Texan hard rock band? What the world needed was MORE EVIL ROCK! Instead, we get stupid sissy crap like 'Lucky In The Morning' and happy dinky voices chanting 'I couldn't live without you' on 'Cheater'. Or a pseudo-soulful ballad like 'Sable And Pearl', for no apparent reason interrupted at times by 'aggressive' bits of chaotic riffage and Rutledge screaming 'teach me how to love you' in his best impression of a paranoic which isn't really that good. They should have hired Ozzy Osbourne for that.

The good news is that the riffs, occasionally, are still good. Actually, they're always good; they're just used in a bad way. In the previous review, I rambled on about how hard it is to actually make a good riff; here, let me go on with this rambling some more and state how hard it is to actually match a good riff with a suitable atmosphere. These riffs should all be matched with angry moods and red-hot solos (preferrably cool lyrics too, but that's a bit too much to demand from a Texan redneck, I guess) - instead, they're all matched with a good-time atmosphere and TOTAL, I mean, ABSOLUTELY FRIGGIN' TOTAL inoffensiveness. They could have sung that stuff with Frank Sinatra for all I care.

I single out 'Cheater' as an interesting track; it's at least multi-part, and it occasionally works. I'm also slightly partial to the two rock'n'rolling numbers in the middle, 'Children's Heritage' and 'Dier Not A Lover', if only because they easily demonstrate how tight an outfit Bloodrock actually were - their six-pack unit rolls along like an unstoppable machine, which is not something I'd say of, well, Steppenwolf, for instance. Absolutely the best of the load, though, is 'Fancy Space Odyssey' that closes the album. I can't figure what the hell the song is about, except that the lyrics seem to be whiny and depressive, however, the main riff is unbeatable, kind of like a 'Day Tripper' unexpectedly gone in the reverse direction midway through. It all amounts to one heck of a silly simplistic listening experience, but it's pretty cool anyway and should never be expected to be taken seriously in the first place.

But in general, I'm just a bit stumped by the album, especially considering they'd soon be going back to the 'evil' direction of the first album. It's an obvious anomaly in the catalog, and by all means, I could easily peg this down as a 'sellout' album. Oh, except 'D.O.A.', of course. They sure didn't sell out with 'D.O.A.'. But here's the rub: they made an obviously commercial smooth album and it ended up forgotten and spat out. All except the only song on which they didn't artistically compromise. Logically speaking, this is an overt demonstration of how true objective artistic value triumphs over time.

Say, reviewing these Bloodrock albums really pushes me forward in terms of dangerous generalizations and metaphysical hypotheses. So how about this one: the blood dripping from the album cover in front of the members is supposed to represent the death agony of the hedonistic-democratic-post-industrial values of contemporary America and the ultimate crash of Western Civilization as a whole. In fact, 'D.O.A.' = 'Death Over America', 'Sable And Pearl' is an obvious hint at the merciless exploitation of the resources of third world countries, 'Lucky In The Morning' is, of course, a concealed ode to the people of the East, and titles like 'Fallin' and 'Dier Not A Lover' speak for themselves. Isn't it time the FBI were investigating Bloodrock members already?



Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 10

Oh, this one's evil all right. Just a FEW Grand Funk Railroad references, thank you very much.

Best song: KOOL AID KIDS

Track listing: 1) Jessica; 2) Whiskey Vengeance; 3) Song For A Brother; 4) You Gotta Roll; 5) Breach Of Lease; 6) Kool-Aid Kids; 7) A Certain Kind; 8) America America.

Correction made. We are Bloodrock, we're not Cheeselump. Our music gotta be mean and tough. Well, we don't exactly live door to door with Tony Iommi, so he can't show us how to get that mastodontic tone of Master Of Reality. But we have our own Texan spirit and who says Texas working class is less fit for evil rock than Birmingham working class anyway? That's nationalism.

So, as you can tell, this is a good album. It makes absolutely no progression over the debut record whatsoever, not in any single teensy-weensy bit of respect, but you know what, if Bloodrock showed themselves to be a highly progressing act deepening and broadening their stylistic range from album to album, they certainly wouldn't have called themselves Bloodrock. They would have called themselves KANSAS! Even if they were a Texan band. Well, nothing wrong with that, if I'm not mistaken, a certain Eighties band called itself Europe even if it really was out of Dipshitsville.

Back to the album in question. From the opening ominous bass riff of 'Jessica', you know you won't really be greeted by generic crap like 'Sable And Pearl' this time. These are SONGS - the riffs are back, even if few are as strong as the ones on Bloodrock, and so is the grim gruff attitude that made up the band's image in the first place. 'Jessica' and 'Whiskey Vengeance', the opening tracks, are fast moody rockers done with gusto, swooping organs and Rutledge's inspired vocals and all. 'Jessica' in particular is pretty catchy and features some spectacular vocal modulations; 'Whiskey Vengeance' sounds a bit stupid, though... know the basic difference between Bloodrock evil and Black Sabbath evil? When somebody like Geezer Butler paints an apocalyptic picture, it's just an apocalyptic picture. For Bloodrock, it's the MORAL and the PUNISHMENT that's always the most important element. Yeah, you die and you suffer and you get nightmares but it's all deserved - shouldn't have drunk/smoked/inhaled so much. Same goes for Lynyrd Skynyrd, I guess. Ah, the inescapable Puritan conscience. Anyway, the chorus of the song, with 'vengeance tears my soul' and the rest, is pretty catchy as well.

They couldn't help but write a new 'D.O.A.', too, this time, with 'Breach Of Lease' certainly not being any worse than that song. Following its pattern exactly, too: slow creepy moody intro and between-verse breaks, with atmospheric build-ups predictably following mini-climaxes, i.e. big riff outbursts in the instrumental choruses following quiet ominous verses. Again, an apocalyptic picture - because "man has disobeyed his leaders, man has sorely breached his lease", and you know things like these only make Bloodrock happy because they can make a presumably creepy epic about it. Nine minutes is a bit too long, though.

But that doesn't mean it can in any way hinder me from enjoying what I currently declare as best Bloodrock song ever, the fast jazzy shuffle of 'Kool Aid Kids'. The fast introductory riffs on that song are totally enticing - it's not often that Bloodrock does a really fast boogie-style pumper like that, and Nitzinger's lyrics are perhaps the most intelligent in the band's catalog. I'm sure somebody would subconsciously try to relate the song to the Jim Jones story that actually would only take place six years later, but the song itself essentially is about social contradictions - not that it's really obvious from the imagery, but supposedly it is so. Besides, it features one of Lee Pickens' most fluent solos and lots of sharp tasty moments in addition.

The rest of this stuff, I think, is give or take - the ballads ('Song For A Brother' and 'A Certain Kind') don't make me vomit like some of Mark Farner's stuff, but I don't think either of them is guaranteed a spot in the Top 50 American Ballads of all time. Mmm, then again, who knows. 'You Gotta Roll' sure sounds a bit degenerated to me, but maybe just because I've always viewed Bloodrock as something huger than just generic Southern rock. Yeah, I mean, 'You Gotta Roll' is just one of those tunes you could... you could meet on a Blackfoot record or something like that. Bloodrock are at their best when Jim Rutledge is NOT screaming his head off - that is, if you share my theory that Bloodrock are to be judged as a band that made a point of being slightly more intellectually advanced than the majority of Southern rock acts. That's a shaky theory, I know, but it happily explains why Bloodrock never actually made it big!

Oh, anyway, Bloodrock 3 is a good album. Might even song-wise be the most consistent of them all, but I still give props to Bloodrock because originality always plays a major check role in my checkbook. You know that. The first punch. The propulsive kick. Whatever. In any case, it was certainly a good thing that they so quickly abandoned the compromising ways of 2 and went back to kicking ass instead of LICKING it. Er, I mean, licking the ass of Grand Funk Railroad, of course. [Voice from behind the scene from an irate fan: "hey, why all the GFR bashing? Why do you take every opportunity to mock GFR? They're two different bands! Stop with the comparison already!"] To hell with irate fans anyway.



Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 10

Distinctive cover and good songs, but not much else to say.

Best song: MAGIC MAN

Track listing: 1) It's A Sad World; 2) Don't Eat The Children; 3) Promises; 4) Crazy 'Bout You Babe; 5) Hangman's Dance; 6) American Burn; 7) Rock & Roll Candy Man; 8) Abracadaver; 9) Magic Man; [BONUS TRACK:] 10) Erosion.

Well, it's... it's... it's another Bloodrock album. This should close my review, really. But before I go off to other matters, let's discuss the album cover. Do you like it? I think it's pretty colourful. And if you can't see it, it has "AT LAST! Another amazing adventure to open your mind..." printed right below the title. The green hand belongs to a giant green Mephistopheles-type devil who's embracing the Capitol with his right hand, by the way. So there you go, with Satan obviously residing in the higher administrative spheres and exterminating ordinary people from there. You could say this is an anti-war album, then. And it certainly has the band's most vicious anti-corruption manifesto in 'American Burn', so put that one next to MC5's 'American Ruse' and you have a nice collection of sketches there. That said, Bloodrock were anything but violent politically engaged artists, so 'American Burn' is more like an exception; usually, their scorns and reproaches are targeted off to more abstract tangents, and this record is no exception.

Musically, they still explore the old vein. Riff-rock with powerful guitar and organ solos and glorious vocals courtesy of Jim Rutledge. And yes, songwriting often courtesy of John Nitzinger. And the album is pretty concise this time: it does have 'Magic Man' in terms of epicness, but mostly it's just relatively short, four to four and a half minute rockers that develop to the point of not being underdeveloped, climax to the point of needing an anti-climax, deliver the message and make way for others. Not a single ballad either; apparently, USA was supposed to be pretty vicious in that respect. And only ONE love song of any sort, the funk-rocker 'Crazy 'Bout You Babe'.

I really don't want to discuss the songs. I described the style above, I don't want to do it again - suffice it to say that if you can trust me in something, all of these rockers are moderately catchy. Not as catchy as your average Rolling Stones rocker, but far catchier than your average Kiss rocker, because Bloodrock don't have offensiveness and smut to replace musical quality for them and must actually look for ways to improve their rather standard numbers. So, if you liked the previous three albums, I can see no reason why you should dislike USA. Oh yeah, some of the rockers, like 'It's A Sad World', sound very poppy, but I think I mentioned that somewhere as well. Bloodrock had pop instincts for sure.

So let's just concentrate on 'Magic Man', the epic that closes the album. Rutledge's last hooray with the band, it is, and a pretty eye-opening tune. Sort of like a 'Riders On The Storm' for the band, what with those 'watery' electric piano lines that accompany the song throughout. I don't understand the message at all, it's one of those rare cases when Rutledge and Co. go for a starry-eyed mystical tale with little actual relevance, but I do like the composition - the way the main blues-rock body of the song smoothly goes into the artsy organ-drenched middle section and comes out again with a frantic 'BEWARE OF MAGIC MAN' scream. I have NO idea what the song is supposed to mean. I can only GUESS at the meaning of the lyrics 'Whoah, defy his rival right beside his bible'. I'm a-guessin' that Jim Rutledge addresses a black sorcerer so that he come and lay his evil curse on the Christian church. Then again, it should be 'your' rival. Ah, I got it! I'm a-guessin' that Jim Rutledge addresses YOU to come and lay YOUR evil curse on the Christian church, the natural rival of the black sorcerer! Then again... where does the black sorcerer enter into this?

Shit, I'm confused over that song. Let's just leave it at that. I'm all for analyzing lyrics, but with Bloodrock lyrics you can never tell whether they were written out of their head or out of their ass. In any case, musically the song is good, just like every other song on here. And get this - the BEST point of this record is the hideous falsetto 'AAAAAAH-HA-HA' at the end of 'American Burn', anyway.

Still, if you ask me, it was a good thing that Rutledge and Pickens quit the band after the non-success of the album. Yes, of course, there was this ignoble case of the next two studio albums that Bloodrock released, and in a way, they really sucked (although in a different way, they didn't suck that badly, but we're running ahead of schedule here). That's a shame. But put it this way: had Rutledge and Pickens stayed in the band, they would have released yet another totally sound-alike album, and another, and another, and all the way up to Lenny Kravitz's navel. Now I'm sure that would make your average Bloodrock diehard fan totally happy, but (a) Bloodrock diehard fans need to branch out anyway, it's no good staying a Bloodrock diehard for the rest of your life and (b) such a thing as a Bloodrock diehard fan can exist only in the imagination of a deranged Texan lunatic just shot through the forehead by a big green devil in any case. And me? Look what this bloody review of a Bloodrock album has turned into - now would you want me and you to go through the same pointless torture for several more times?



Year Of Release: 1972
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 8

I can only really assume that actually, it's the band that's called "Passage". Or maybe the band is called "Bloodrock Passage" and the album is untitled.

Best song: THE POWER

Track listing: 1) Help Is On The Way; 2) Scottsman; 3) Juice; 4) The Power; 5) Life Blood; 6) Days And Nights; 7) Lost Fame; 8) Thank You Daniel Ellsberg; 9) Fantasy.

Holy Moses. Yeah, it could be suspected that Bloodrock had some minor art-rock tendencies around their last few albums, but who'd a-guess'd that with the departure of Rutledge and Pickens the band would transform into a full-fledged art/prog-rock outfit? Nobody, not even the band's worthiest fans (or lousiest haters). Warren Ham makes his appearance, and lo and behold, Bloodrock abandon hard rock altogether and join the Elfish crowds of the day.

I must say, though, I'm impressed in a way. Not only do Bloodrock thus share the honour of becoming the first genuine American progressive rock band (that I've heard of - I'm sure there have been earlier ones, but at this stage in my development, count me an ignoramus), they also share the honour of becoming the first genuine American progressive rock band to honestly, earnestly, and thoroughly rip off their British (and occasionally, American) betters. In fact, Passage could make a phenomenal case study, you know? In fact, I think I'm gonna initiate this case study right now, before somebody claims that he got this idea first. Let's see:

'Help Is On The Way' - very childish and naive-sounding, with Ham sounding like Justin Hayward's younger, less experienced brother. The entire song is quite reminiscent of the Moodies in spirit, if not necessarily in texture. The sax solo, of course, is borrowed from Blood Sweat & Tears or Chicago or something like that. Oh yes, the Chicago rip-off is quite clear here. 'Scottsman' starts out with a bit of heavy riffage before going into totally Jethro Tull territory, with Ham sounding like Ian Anderson's younger, less experienced brother. The entire "martial flute" passage is obviously copied from the 'I've come down from the upper class...' segment of Thick As A Brick, which was, not coincidentally, riding atop the American charts just as the band was in the studio recording Passage.

'Juice', with its presumably "tricky" time changes, definitely owes a big debt to Yes. Hill and Taylor even try to recreate the Wakeman/Howe kind of interplay throughout. 'The Power', amusingly enough, starts off with a nod to The Band's 'Chest Fever'; then again, let's not forget that The Band were, too, considered art-rock by many, and 'Chest Fever' was their most art-rockish song ever, due to Manuel's contributions. Then it's time to relocate to Britain again: 'Life Blood' is a prime ELP imitation, even using the exact same Moog chords that you can find on so many of Keith's passages. Note they use both organ and synth on that track, because hey, we're not going for half-measures. The organ carries the melody, the Moog is used for lead parts, and then Ham sticks in several of his Andersonesque flute parts, because, ladies and gentlemen, no-one has ever offered you ELP and Jethro Tull in one package! Why bother spending your cash on so many different albums when you can have everything so nicely condensed?

Let's see... what else have I missed? Ah yes, King Crimson. What, you think there's gonna be no direct King Crimson influence here? Don't be naive: in the middle of 'Days And Nights' is hidden a sax solo that directly and faithfully reproduces the horns riff from '21st Century Schizoid Man'. Other than that, the song is not very Crimsonian, though, because its main guitar riff is too simple for King Crimson, but something still keeps telling me they were trying to go for their own version of the 'Schizoid Man' riff ("simple and powerful"), only they failed midway through. Finally, tired of ripping off their prog heroes (anyway, they covered everybody but Genesis, most probably because they weren't aware of their existence - remember, the prog-era Genesis never really hit it big in the States), they try their hand at funk ('Lost Fame') and blues ('Thank You Daniel Ellsberg'), wrapping it up with a music hall influenced waltz ('Fantasy'). Party's over.

Now, to tell you the truth, it's not like the record is hopeless. It just doesn't look like anything more to me than a bunch of music school kids earnestly doing their homework: "Listen carefully to all those records in your stash and try doing something like that". Granted, Warren Ham's vocals are pretty poor, setting the trend of "whiny and pretentious" American progressive rock vocalists. But at least he doesn't resort to operatic vibrato or, vice versa, to cock-rock posturing. And while none of the passages betray any virtuoso playing (why should they? most of the players are the same anyway), and rip-offs are plenty, at least they're sort of trying to come up with interesting melodies, unlike later imitators like Kansas, who were content to substitute melodies for complexity. I'd even go as far as to recommend this album to prog fans who have already bought every Curved Air bootleg and are still looking for more. And I'll be the first to admit 'The Power' is sort of mildly catchy, and 'Days And Nights' is sort of mildly nice.

But "sort of mildly nice" is one thing, and "completely pointless" is another. And if you'll pardon a vile personal attack, completely brainless, too. Apparently, this Ham guy or somebody in the band's overall camp has hinted that "hard rock is obsolete, prog is the word of the day" (that at a time when Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were among the hugest things around - what were they thinking?), and here they are whacking and hacking and stealing every possible idea in sight, alienating their old audiences and failing to convert new ones. Of course this album flopped, and I'm only too amazed to know they actually followed it with another one.



Year Of Release: 1974
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 7

Buy this for the album cover. Isn't that painting worth twenty five bucks you'd spend on a Japanese import?


Track listing: 1) It's Gonna Be Love; 2) Sunday Song; 3) Parallax; 4) Voices; 5) Eleanor Rigby; 6) Stilled By Whirlwind Tongues; 7) Guess What I Am; 8) Lady Of Love; 9) Jungle.

Nah, it is hopeless. Okay, the best thing I can say about this record is that it no longer functions as an Exhibition of Lame Imitations. They were sort of trying to work out their own style here, I guess. If there's one band they're taking clues of from at the moment, it's Styx: 'Lady Of Love' sounds exactly like all those wipe-the-sap-from-your-eyes romantic ballads off early Styx records, only a little worse because it's even less memorable.

Other than that, once again they're all over the place, experimenting with pop, rock, blues, and fusion, but with an even lesser hard rock influence - this is sissiness epitomized, and has less grit to it than your average Eagles album. To think that the album was credited to a band called "Bloodrock"! I couldn't be more baffled had Cannibal Corpse recorded an album of sweet Christmas carols. At least we would have known it to be a weird joke, but these guys are totally serious when they offer us their watered down, "pseudo-commercialized" understanding of art-rock, and that only makes me find extra vomit in my stomach when I'd already thought it was all spent on the previous record.

I gotta admit, though, I kinda like their arrangement of 'Eleanor Rigby'. After all, it takes an anti-Christ to spoil a Beatles song, and that'd be too much honour for these guys. No, not one single living soul will explain how they came around to arranging it as a fast dance number with lots of Moody Blues-styled flute to thicken up the sound layer, but look, it doesn't sound atrocious no matter how the Ham guy tries overexaggerating his vocal stylings. Of course, they did manage to suck all the depressive atmosphere and the desperation that never failed to bring a tear to my eye out of the original, but hey, I never suggested they were improving on the song. They just remade it into something worse, but funnier.

Apart from that one song, though, I can't find one good track anywhere. They're cutting down a bit on the song lengths, but still have something of epic pretension in the semi-title track 'Stilled By Whirlwind Tongues', which I could describe as a King Crimson ballad sped up twice or thrice and devoid of Mellotron and with a hickey-dickey singer to boot. I also discern the word 'propaganda' spelled out distinctively several times, so I guess it must be some sort of impressive social statement (forgive me if I don't spend the rest of my day looking for the lyrics to this album on the World Wide Web. That'd be one hell of a bizarre occupation, akin to looking for naked pictures of Hillary Clinton or something).

Major shitfests include: 'Guess What I Am' ('A Very Bad Bad Song? Okay, I Give Up!') - a piano-based ballad showcasing Ham's impressive falsetto singing and the band's "able" treatment of the strings section... they probably wanted to one-up Paul Buckmaster with that arrangement, but somehow I feel they've missed the mark narrowly; 'It's Gonna Be Love' ('Between My Peter And Every Naive Teenage Bitch Who Falls For My Sweet Imitation Of Justin Hayward') - whoah, these synth solos rock, dude, Keith Emerson is thinking of retiring by now; 'Parallax' ('Look, We Inserted A Clever Greek Word In Our Song Title! Can We Get Laid Now?') - three minutes of a dumb, repetitive, slightly distorted riff that never knows whether it's going to lead into a verse or turn into a KICKASS JAM! OOH THAT FLUTE!; and... well, pretty much everything else.

Now, to be honest with you again, there are minor bits and pieces here and there I would salvage. A couple of these bits I would pack into nice-looking boxes tied with red ribbons and send as humble gifts to Genesis or King Crimson, to be incorporated into some of their lengthy epics. Mostly these bits would be not more than ten or fifteen seconds long, mind you, but they're still there. Like the chuggin' riff that introduces 'Jungle', for instance, before it transforms into complete rubbish. Basically, I just can't completely dismiss a band that tries to do something. This Ham-led (Hamlet?) outfit is so much all over the place they're bound to fall upon good territory every now and then; it's amazing that the album turned out as bad as it turned out, because with so many styles, I would have thought... ah well, forget it.

I guess I just don't like that vocal stylistics, do I? Look, when you're a wimpy guy, you don't sing like you're Greg Lake. You sing like a wimpy guy. That's Justin Hayward's trick; he always sings like a wimpy guy, and so, if you're not one of those who treasures balls above all else, you'll probably like it. Well, I like it like that, anyway. Greg Lake ain't a wimpy guy, and I can take his powerful "vocal shredding" very well. But this stile, the Ham/Dennis De Young/the guy from Hollies' Romany style, I can't take it. I could as well try doing it myself with my whiny wisp of a voice. Or, goddamn it, at least give me memorable melodies to go along with this crappy sonic attack.

The good news, then, is that Bloodrock (un)happily dissolved after this disaster. After which, as far as I know, the Ham guy actually joined with Kansas - toured with them and then recorded with Kerry Livgren. Coincidence? I don't think so.


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