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Neil Mather <email@example.com> (04.01.2002)
Well blow me!! Little did I know what I would find when I typed Gravy Train into Google. I came across this album review piece on a band which I followed around the UK for years during my teens and early 20s.
Gravy Train were my local heroes. I knew the band. Watched them so many times in local working men's clubs, cricket clubs, blues clubs, pubs and so on and so on. I eventually went on to become an occasional crew member doing the lights and stuff.
I have all the albums as you might expect from what I've said above. And at the time of their releases the music press here in Britain, (at the time NME, Melody Maker and Sounds) merited approximately 2 column inches in review of each one. Most of these reviews I have somewhere in the junk that I collected over the years. So to read such in depth analysis of all four albums is quite incredible!! Especially after all these years.
While your assessment of them in the context of the greater music scene of the time is generally an accurate one, to me it is an irrelevance. They were never ever going to make it BIG - into division one as it were. In retrospect, in a sense I'm quite pleased, (although I know that Norm would have liked to have had a little more success at least) because it was the exclusivity of the whole thing at the time. My friends and I could talk about a band who, yes at the time we DID want to become mega, hardly any one else knew about (except in our locality of course - St. Helens, Lancashire by the way). They were our secret. We were regarded as being weird because we liked this strange band. We travelled all over to see them. And I know I am not alone in this respect because it happens to acts all the time all over the world. But this was my world in the late 60s to mid 70s. And what a great time it was.
Thanks for this great find on the web. I shall be informing some of my Gravy Train friends about it. And now it has rekindled my desire to listen to them again. Just one problem though - four vinyl albums and no turntable!!
Mark Evans <firstname.lastname@example.org> (16.05.2002)
Wild. I was at St Helens Tech in 69/70 and used to see Gravy Train often, either in town or often at Liverpool Uni where they often supported. Think I saw them there supporting Traffic and maybe Yes among others. Think they also supported an early Black Sab gig at St Helens Tech too, but it's all so long ago.
I remember them as a sub Groundhogs sound, but good in that provincial prog kinda way, and they were local. There was another band, Elmer Gantry around at the same time, plus other less well known. Blind Eye I remember. Some names of guys I remember at the time who where into all the same stuff, Chris White, Dave Lawrenson, Bill Jones, Phil Fylde. Gawd knows where they all are know but trust things worked out good for them. Mark Evans.
Barry Light <email@example.com> (12.04.2003)
Gravy train is a great band. I don't see how you gave them a 1/5 for originality. I think they are one of the most unique sounds I have heard. My dad said he used to listen to them as a kid so we out and bought an album and now I think they are one of the best undiscovered talents on the 70's. Great music, I like the flute.
Kai Pesu <firstname.lastname@example.org> (20.05.2003)
I saw the band playing live in Finland ( City of Kouvola around 1975 ) It was pretty noisy but stamming concert. Wake me up in progressive music ( I was 15 then ) Bought the album "staircase to the day" and was quite suprised of the fist song. Nice to see somebody others feel the same.
neil <email@example.com> (16.03.2004)
i was roadie with the band from 1971 to the demise in 1974 .i still see the lads from the band , norman is busy with his recording studio at home,les williams (bass),runs an agency for artistes,j d hughes(sax,flute)is teaching music in wigan, barry (drums) was into insurance when last seen. itravelled europe with the band and boy was it some adventure! some of you may remember me as milky, some of the bands we played with included rory gallagher,genesis,groundhogs hawkwind roxy music peter frampton etc,etc .i have just noticed the bands first album on ebay for 114 quid!if you would like to contact me feel free cheers
Grzechu <firstname.lastname@example.org> (10.05.2004)
There has been made a great mistake in the review of a Gravy Train. In the first sentence we read that All Music Guide classified them under Electronica. All Music Guide classified Gravy Train (the one that played in 70s) under Rock -> Prog-Rock/Art-Rock. The band you ment is some other Gravy Train. The writer of a review was so lazy that he didn't even check it correctly! [Not at all. It's the writer of the comment who was so blunt that he never supposed the All Music Guide could have eventually corrected their mistake, which was there when I wrote the review. I can't spend all of my time checking out their updates. I'm glad they had one, though - G.S.]
Henry Grant <email@example.com> (04.06.2004)
I really enjoyed your website and I thought you might like to put this on the comments page!
I have to agree with most of your comments about the Gravy Train albums, although I would still describe myself as a total fan ..I just like to overlook the fact that Second Birth was a pretty shite album!! Tolpuddle Episode's a good song though.
But I thought you might be interested to hear an experience I had down here in New Zealand ... must have been back in 1972, I guess, when I was a penniless university student in a small city called Hamilton - pop approx 65,000 at the time.. Needless to say, a band like Gravy Train would never have come down here. (Although we did get Alice Cooper, up the road in Auckland!)
I already had the first Gravy Train album and my flatmates and friends all used to run a mile when I put it on... ... but I loved it. (I was listening to a lot of Van der graaf generator at the time too). One day I was poking around in a junk-shop, which sold mainly crappy old bits of worn-out furniture and old kitchen utensils ... and I spotted this cardboard box full of albums on the floor. I knelt down to have a look, just in case there was something worth seeing. It was all rubbish, but for some extraordinary reason there was a copy of Gravy Train's A Peaceful Man ... which I didn't even know existed .. and it had a price on it: 50 cents!!! Can you believe it??? The really amazing thing was, it was in mint condition. I have no idea how it got there,. I can't imagine a radio station ever ordering it .... and of course, I pounced on it. I wasn't even sure it was the same band until I opened it and saw the names, Barrett etc. Ever since then it's been one of my all-time favourite albums, I just love 'Alone in Georgia', and 'Home Again'. I've still got the vinyl, with the gatefold cover still in mint condition!
Barbara Barratt (11.08.2006)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your views on Gravy Train. In fact, I howled laughing. you're a funny guy. They were absolutely brilliant live. It's always been a source of groaning that the albums do little justice to the band. I'm looking forward to the new one. I agree with the grating voice bit. Fine live, having to be heard over many, many roaring folks. Should have been toned done in the studio. We were but kids then. McCarthy is right about drugs. It never, ever happened. In fact, anyone known to be drugged or dealing were asked to leave. We've been thanked since by some of them. Norm's playing guitar, better than ever. It sounds like a freight train when he kicks off - the crowds roaring again. What a blast. Thank you.
Pedro Andino <firstname.lastname@example.org> (17.08.2003)
this album does indeed get lost in all the other prog records of 1970. i love the 'earl of nook' song! sixteen minutes of jamming that i can picture watching a cheesy movie called she devils on wheels! sex blood guts all men are mothers! dated huh? the cover is like it came out of a western called charro! with elvis on it!
neil <email@example.com> (09.04.2004)
after reading your review of the bands first album, all i can say is beauty is in the eye of the beholder. they were a brilliant live band, who earned their wings the hard but enjoyable way ,years on the road etc etc and may i add as being involved with the band for most of their days i can honestly say that not one of them ever touched drugs, anyway the band members are all alive and kicking and norman barrett in particular cheers
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