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Family

A Song For Me Remastered & Expanded Edition

Review by Gary Hill

Family is one of those band I've heard referenced over the years in the history of progressive rock, but never actually heard before. After listening to this set, a newly remastered version of their second album with a lot of bonus tracks, I put them in the same territory as groups like Fairport Convention, folk music leaning proto-prog. There is quite a bit of psychedelia here, too.

I have to say that while I like all the music on the disc, I have some real trouble with some of the vocals. There are songs where the vocal performance features a lot of shaking (reminds me of what I remember of pre-T-Rex act Tyrannosaurus Rex). Those type of vocals really mar the songs for me, but they aren't present in everything here, and the music always strong. This act has an important place in the history of prog, and this set shows why.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 3. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
CD One:
                
A Song for Me
                
Drowned in Wine

An acoustic guitar approach brings this into being. It turns more hard rocking and driving, but with a definite prog aspect as it continues. The vocals give me some trouble at times here, but this piece rocks well and has some cool shifts and changes. There is plenty of psychedelia at play along with proto-prog.

Some Poor Soul
Coming in more as a folk music piece, the vocals on this work better. This doesn't grow out far from its origins and represents a bit of a respite from the powerhouse that opened the disc.
Love Is a Sleeper
The proto-prog and psychedelia from the album's opener returns here, tempered with some definite blues rock edges. This is another potent stomper. There is some killer jamming on this thing. It also avoids the vocal issues of the opening track. They take this into some almost jazzy zones in the smoking hot prog rock instrumental movement.
Stop for the Traffic - Through the Heart of Me
More of a glam rock type of piece in the vein of T-Rex, this has a cool backwards-tracked section at one point.
Wheels
Folk rock is on the menu as this gets underway. There is a real 60s feeling to this. The cut is marred a bit for me by those shaky vocals. The magic manages to shine through despite that, though. The extended instrumental section on this takes it into psychedelic and proto-prog zones. I really love the flute soloing later on the tune. The vocals return after a time, and the cut propels toward the stars as it winds to its closing.
Song for Sinking Lovers
We get more folk based rock music at the start here. The cut drives out into some shifts and changes. At times it's more hard rocking. At other points it leans toward a bluegrass mellower sound. This gets into some powerhouse bluegrass meets rock jamming further down the road.
Hey - Let It Rock
This short and classy piece reminds me of Van Morrison with its jazzy cool arrangement.
The Cat and the Rat
Coming in almost as an extension of the previous tune, this bluesy hard rocker is all class.
93's OK J
Folky, trippy and cool, I really dig this song a lot. It's a classy instrumental with hints of the kind of music one expects from Jethro Tull with some psychedelia in the mix.
A Song for Me
There is a driving, hard rocking texture to this, loaded with plenty of psychedelia along with blues rock. The vocals at times go a bit over the edge for me, but mostly they work well. This thing works out into some killer jamming later that at times is pure prog, but at other points gets into rocking bluegrass zones.
Bonus Tracks:
                    
No Mule's Fool (mono single version)

Folk, roots music and Tyrannosaurus Rex sort of stylings are on the menu here. This is a classy piece with some cool instrumental interplay. This was the a-side of a single.

Good Friend of Mine (mono single version)
The b-side of the "No Mule's Fool" single, this has a bit of a soulful groove to it.
Today

Here we get another single a-side. This has an interesting sparse and almost experimental arrangement. It's quite psychedelic. It's also oddly effective.

Song for Lots
This is the b-side of the "Today" single. It has a bouncy sort of rock meets folk and country vibe to it. This is fun stuff. The jam later in the track has some cool interactions and twists.
CD Two
                         
Roger Chapman interview / Drowned in Wine

Recorded on a BBC session, this starts with a short interview and then works into a rocking tune that's pretty tasty. I dig the jazz and proto-prog elements of this. I'm not enthused about all of the vocal performance.

Wheels
Another from a BBC Session, this has some rocking music on display. The vocals again don't really work well for me, but the smoking hot extended instrumental jam with its blending of proto-prog and psychedelia is awesome. The section where an organ serves as counter-point to horn soloing really soars.
No Mule's Fool
I dig the energized and jazzy jam to this. The vocals work a little better than those on the last couple, but still bug me a little. This is another BBC Session recording.
The Cat and the Rat
There is a spoken introduction to this BBC Session recording. This driving tune gets a classy performance here. There is plenty of country and bluegrass in the mix here. There is a closing spoken announcement on this, as well.
Love Is a Sleeper
From the John Peel Sunday Concert (as the next four tunes here are), this gets an extensive spoken introduction. The tune rocks out from there with a lot of energy and style. The music interplay on this is very much in a proto-prog zone.
Stop for the Traffic - Through the Heart of Me
We get another spoken intro here, This cut has more of a mainstream rocking sound to it. It has some cool jamming a good energy.
93's OK J
This classy instrumental shows off a proggy folk arrangement. There is more interview at the end.
Song for Sinking Lovers
Bluegrass and country mix on this performance. It's not a big departure from the version on the album proper, but I think the musical concepts here really work well. The powered up jamming is purely on fire.
Here Comes the Grin
The final cut from the BBC concert, this gets a spoken introduction before they take it out into some classy jazz-based sounds. This instrumental really has some killer interplay and jamming. There is some guitar work here that makes me think of Peter Banks.
No Mule's Fool (stereo mix)
A different mix of the song we heard earlier, I think this sounds quite good in this configuration.
Good Friend of Mine (stereo mix)
Again we get a different mix of the tune. I think maybe the vibraphone stands out more on this tune. Beyond that, it's not a big change.
Today (promotional edited version)
The psychedelic and folk elements seem to take the front seat on this version of the piece. It's a classy number. I think I might prefer this to the other takes on it.
 
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