Saturday, May 5, 2007

RARE BIRD - First Two Albums

Rare Bird was an early British prog rock band. The band formed in October 1969, and got their debut album out the following month, which is really quite an accomplishment, since it usually takes a band a year or more after their formation to get an album out, not to mention it usually takes two or three months to get the album out after the band records it. This was the very first album ever released on Charisma, the same label that gave us Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator/Peter Hammill, Lindisfarne, Capability Brown, and even Monty Python. Rare Bird was an odd band, for they had two keyboardists (David Kaffinetti on electric piano, Graham Field on organ), as well as bassist (Steve Gould, who also handled vocals), and drummer (Mark Ashton), but no one on guitar. It's interesting to note that Kaffinetti later appeared on the infamous 1984 movie of a mock heavy metal band, This Is Spinal Tap. By that time, his name was shortened to David Kaff. He played Vic on that film.
Rare Bird had a rather unique sound and the powerful vocals of Steve Gould helps. The album has some really great prog rock numbers like "Beautiful Scarlet", "Iceberg", and the ever sinister "God of War" (my favorite). The album also features "Sympathy" which was actually a hit for these guys in Continental Europe. Written, obviously, during the Vietnam War-era, the song features lyrics I feel are just as relevant today (if not more so): "Sympathy is what we need, my friend/'Cause there's not enough love to go around" and "Half the world hates the other half/and half the world has all the food/and half the world lies down and quietly starves/'Cause there's not enough love to go around". In this era of conservative politicians screwing us all, and threats of going to war in the Middle East, it's real easy to relate to this song.
"Times" is an odd one, because it starts off sounds like a 1950s song, sounding like how Little Richard might sound like if he played organ rather than piano, then the second half goes in to more typical prog rock territory. There are a couple of other shorter pieces like "You Went Away", "Nature's Fruit", and "Bird On a Wing" which are all great songs.
I always felt Rare Bird's debut is a bit underrated compared to their 1970 followup As Your Mind Flies By, in fact I actually prefer this album to As Your Mind Flies By (which is a fine album, by the way). More great music, particularly if you like early, organ-driven British prog rock.
In 1970, comes their second (and unfortunately final) album with the original lineup, As Your Mind Flies By (although the band did reemerge in 1972, with an altered lineup that included guitarists, and released three more albums on Polydor until 1974, which had a mellower, West Coast-influenced feel). This was the album their reputation largely stands on, and for real good reason! Many of the songs on this album shows some pop influences like "What You Want to Know" and "I'm Thinking", while "Down on the Floor" tends to have a stronger baroque feel, complete with harpsichord. Then you have the heavy and aggressive "Hammerhead". This is no doubt the highlight for me on the first half of the album (side one, if you own the LP), even if it's very short. And vocalist Steve Gould often receives no credit as he's a great vocalist, and a rather distinctive one at that. You could never call his singing pretentious, as he was as much influenced by soul and R&B as Arthur Brown (although Gould was never as wild as Brown), yet it works great in the progressive rock framset of the band. Then comes the side-length cut "Flight". This was, without a doubt, the most ambitious thing Rare Bird ever did! A four movement suite that goes through different changes, including some experimental passages, a bolero (actually it was the band performing Ravel's "Bolero") and some great organ passages from Graham Field. And I almost forgot, a choir was included on some of the passages.

Rare Bird
1. Beautiful scarlet (5:23)
2. Sympathy (2:30)
3. Nature's fruit (2:32)
4. Bird on a wing (4:13)
5. God of war (5:08)
6. Iceberg (6:46)
7. Times (3:19)
8. You went away (4:17)
9. Melanie (3:27)

As Your Mind Flies By
1. What you want to know (5:59)
2. Down on the floor (2:41)
3. Hammerhead (3:31)
4. I'm thinking (5:40)
5. Flight (19:39)
- part 1. As your mind flies by
- part 2. Vacuum
- part 3. New York
- part 4. Central Park

LINK: (for both albums)

Please leave a comment


Residentevil2 said...

Thank you very much nice post

Mr Pinkwhistle said...

Thank you for these excellent albums - their best, I think.

gordon said...

I always liked this band, theres nothing obviously great about them, but theres just something about them that makes me keep listening to them.

zamente said...

Real Great Stuff,I´ve been looking for a very long Time!!!

Anonymous said...

Very good music selection, friend.
Best wishes for you from Madrid, Spain.

endi said...

well this is just really good music... partly... and it leads back to the old times of seventies full of the smell of grass...thxs for the post from endi 51
ps."the smell of grass just lets you pass into a dream...^moody blues 71"

AlexanderGR said...

Hi my friend. I only knew Rare Bird from their Sympathy hit song and I thought they were another 60s pop group. I downloaded their two albums and I was really amazed. Excellent prog albums. The last lengthy track of their second album is a prog masterpiece. A must have for all fans of early prog rock of late 60s early 70s.
AlexanderGr (Athens, Greece)

db said...

It is always good to see Rare Bird.
And I'm not saying that coz I went to school with Steve Gould.

Anonymous said...

I do not know english very well. I do not succeed therefore to transcribe myself the lyrics of Rare the Bird. There is not some person of good will disposed to make it? The most complete site that I have found is, but as you will see the songs with lyrics are truly little. Can you help me and the community of Internet adding the lyrics that you know or that you are able to transcribing?

Thank you very much indeed