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Baker Gurvitz Army

The Baker Gurvitz Army

Review by Gary Hill

I've reviewed this album, and another from this group, in this issue of Music Street Journal. They are also both part of a box-set, reviewed in the same issue. I highly recommend getting them that way, because it's the best value, but this disc does stand on its own, warranting an individual review.

Baker Gurvitz Army was named for Ginger Baker and brothers Adrian and Paul Gurvitz, who represented the core of the band. This set was their debut, released in 1974. It is the proggiest of their releases. There is plenty of psychedelia here, but overall this seems most closely tied to proto-prog sounds. It's a classy set no matter how you classify it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Help Me
This enters with a swirling kind of arrangement that has a real prog rock intensity to it. The vocals sound like Kevin Cronin's work in REO Speedwagon a bit. Musically this isn't that far removed from that, but there are some definite prog rock tendencies built into the cut. This has some smoking hot energy and great hooks.
Love Is
The opening jam here is hard rocking and has plenty of quirky prog rock shifts and changes. This instrumental is a real scorcher.
Memory Lane
Psychedelia merges with progressive rock on this killer piece. It's a hard rocking tune with plenty of cool shifts and changes. Baker gets a drum solo in the midst. The cut shifts to jazzier stuff as it comes out of that solo.
Inside of Me
There are definitely things here that feel a lot like Cream. The tune has a mix of jazz and psychedelia at its heart. This thing is so classy. The drumming is on fire, too. This has some killer musical textures and changes. It's really such a great song. In fact, it's one of my favorites here.
I Wanna Live Again
This is more of a soulful, rock and roll based tune. Female backing vocals add to that concept. It's the least proggy thing here, but it works well.
Mad Jack
There is a real chugging powerhouse prog element to this. It has a blues rock vibe, too. This is another with definite echoes of Cream in the mix. The energy and groove on this are so cool. Baker has some spoken vocals on this tune. They lend something really cool to the piece. There is a dropped back movement mid-track featuring those vocals that brings a definite psychedelic prog sound. It almost makes me think of Nektar a bit.
4 Phil
Now, this instrumental is another cut without a lot of progressive rock in it. This is more of a blues rocker. It's quite tasty.
Since Beginning
Trippy atmospherics start things here. Ginger Baker's drums rise up as it carries forward. The rest of the band join and we're off in style. Psychedelia, folk rock and prog are all on display here. The instrumental break later really has a proto-prog edge to it with some cool exploration. There is some killer guitar interplay, and the closing bit has a great psychedelic edge. At almost eight-minutes, the tune is an extended one.
Bonus Track
              
Memory Lane (Live)

I'd say that the prog edge is even more pronounced on this live version of the cut from the studio album. It has some great keyboard tones and a lot of energy. Baker's solo here seems to be more intense than the one on the studio album. It's definitely extended, too. In fact, this is a little more than double the length of the studio version. A lot of that comes from the drum solo. I have to admit (as I have in other reviews) that I'm not a big fan of drum solos, this gets a bit tedious for me. Your mileage may vary. The acapella sing-along section that comes after that is cool. They power it back out into the song proper in fine fashion from there.

 

 
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