George Khan, Butch Potter, Gary Boyle, Alan Jackson
2. Compassion *
3. Marching Song +
4. Spaces +
5. Down On The Farm
6. Pleasure City
7. Metropolis IX
A tasty little live snapshot from London, Devon and venues unknown of the transitional band Mike Westbrook put together in early 1972 in between his Metropolis era big band and the jazz rock manoeuvres he would embark on with Phil Minton later that year. Westbrook stalwarts George Khan and Alan Jackson are joined by Butch Potter (on “bass/flute/pogostick”) and Isotope’s Gary Boyle on guitar.
With its wide-open bluesy meanderings, “Travellin’” immediately has you flashing on Miles Davis - it sounds like a less funky outtake from Bitches Brew, Westbrook’s harmonica fed through a wah-wah resulting in the same kind of feral howl Talk Talk would hit upon with the harp on “Eden”. “Compassion” is a more freewheeling piece veering from AMM-style dissonance into passages of Ayler-esque skronk. “Marching Song” features Kahn’s amped up sax extensively, honking a rich blue seam before Boyle’s guitar (a blistering fuzzy delight throughout, even when quoting The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”) takes over. Like the spectral, fluid “Spaces”, this track is previously unheard, not having featured on the original Japan-only issue of this album. Whether an accident of sequencing or not, the album reaches its high point with the final three tracks: “Down On The Farm” again starts with the band seemingly entirely unguided - a strange folkish raga that then builds into a full-on rock freakout, rotating two chords with aggression and giving Boyle full freedom to lash down straight liquid fire. “Pleasure City” builds from scattershot minimalism through some stealthy swing to a fantastic torsioned spiral of jazz rock - very reminiscent of Miles’s “Sanctuary” - before “Metropolis IX” closes the set out with a gorgeous dreamy wash of suggestive Rhodes and Boyle fully evanescing into delay-laden filigrees of exquisite poise. A welcome revisit to a great lost moment in British jazz.
The Wire - Oct 2017
Mike Westbrook Recordings
George Khan - Electric Saxophone
Gary Boyle - Guitar
Mike Westbrook - Electric Piano, Harmonica
Alan Jackson - Drums, Alto Saxophone
Butch Potter - Bass Guitar, Pogo Stick, Flute
Recorded at Kelly College, Tavistock, 15th January 1972
* Recorded at Phoenix P.H. London, 23 February 1972
+ Previously unissued, venues unknown
Compositions by Mike Westbrook
Additional credit for this CD:
CD remastered by Jon Hiseman at Temple Music Studios
With thanks to John Jack, Cadillac Records
and Paul Wilson, The British Library Sound Archive.
In memory of Roger 'Butch' Potter (1943 - 2003)
More information on Hux Records site
Catania - Live in Sicily 1992
in memory of
Says The Duke
Earth Felt The Wound
Love and Understanding
A Bigger Show
The School of Jolly Dogs
The emphasis here was on jamming: rocky riffs and open-ended blues-inflected solos were the order of the day, often extending into spacey free-form blowing. This was the time the Grateful Dead toured Europe. At the Bickershaw Festival the Westbrook band appeared on the same bill as the Dead. Some of the music on MIKE WESTBROOK LIVE 1972 - the slow blues of Travellin' or the most 'out' parts of Compassion for instance - would not sound out of place at a Dead concert. (Conversely some of the free improvisation on the Dead's EORPOE '72 set could hold their own in a Westbrook performance.) Guitarist Gary Boyle is very much centre stage here, both in the mix and in the cover photo on the MIKE WESTBROOK LIVE 1972 CD (Hux 151). The overall sound is rocky and earthy giving George Khan full reign for his highly animated tenor sax, electric and acoustic. Butch Potter, described by Westbrook as "a great natural musician" and sadly no longer with us, was equally at home here as in the adventurous if somewhat abrasive rock approach of Pete Brown's Battered Ornaments.
Much of this album has been available before (as MIKE WESTBROOK LIVE) but this new release features a pair of additional tracks, Spaces which features a long, lively and imaginative drum workout from Alan Jackson, followed by a spiralling tune which provides a launch pad for a guitar solo, and this band’s 10-minute take on Marching Song which is almost guaranteed to annoy your neighbours. It’s good to see that Esther Ripley’s comments, which featured so prominently on the original album cover, have been retained for the new packaging because they really hit the nail on the head.
It is the infectious music which doesn’t seem to begin or end. It whisks you away into a pulsating kaleidoscope dream of world sounds, bursts of noise and quiet, unnerving spaces. Then suddenly the melody is back, like a familiar turning in the road.