Dick’s Picks: Have a blast on this 1970 proto-prog LP from a super-obscure British combo that featured Cliff ‘Rebel Rouser’ Bennett, two soon-to-be Uriah Heap members and ex-Jethro Tull bass man John Glassock ….
Bizarrely this late ‘60s British proto-prog rock outfit were fronted by Cliff Bennett who, by 1969, had already notched up over a decade in the music business, cutting a handful of ‘45s with the legendary Joe Meek, before being signed by a certain Mr Brian Epstein in 1964 and scoring a couple of top twenty hits. By ’69 Bennett was on the payroll of Parlophone Records and looking for pastures new, enter former Gods keyboard player Ken Hensley and a devilish plan to launch a band with the most disgusting band name ever – ladies and gentlemen we give you…Toe Fat…..
Released in 1970, the UK and US editions of the album came with a suitably ‘progressive’ sleeve design courtesy of Hipgnosis (Harvest Records, Parlophone), although the US marketing team must have balked at the idea of toes with naked torsos on the front cover as they replaced the nudity with, errr, sheep! As you do…
Here’s the UK sleeve
…..however, a completely different design/image was used for South America, not sure it tells us much about the record but you’ve got to admit it’s a pretty damn cool hippie/exploito shot that ensures nothing is lost in translation – subtext: this is a freaky, hip ‘n’ happening record from the epicentre of ‘cool’ that is London – how do we know? Well, we’ve got a couple of groovy cats letting their freak flags fly, a market trader which sort of doubles as ‘Granny Takes A Trip’ on wheels, an eminently visible ‘Portabello Road’ street sign and ‘Union Flag’ in just about every available space – that said, it’s a great looking image although not sure if it has too much to do with the record within?
What’s the album like?
Well, although the South American sleeve is a bit of a winner, it’s most definitely a red-herring, this is not an album of far-out, freeform, incense burning hippie musings with all manner of exotic instruments a la Quintessence. Instead, it’s a rock-solid, blues-indebted 10-tracker that’s not a million miles from Savoy Brown, Free or Humble Pie. In fact, opener ‘That’s My Love For You’ sets out their stall nicely, great hooks and guitars to the fore.
The second track ‘Bad Side Of The Moon’ is a mid-tempo groover written by a certain Elton John & Bernie Taupin and is probably one of the earliest examples of a cover of their work, flip it over for side two and you have stone-cold killer in the shape of ‘I Can’t Believe’, all chest-beating vocals and mind-melting fuzz guitar pyrotechnics – phwoarr…
What happened next?
Needless to say with an ‘all-star’ line-up the band and album were all over the media, the pay-off being a support slot for Eric Clpaton/Derek & the Dominos on their 1970 US tour. However, the cracks were already beginning to show, Hensley left (apparently for not getting his dues song-writing wise) and quickly reappeared as a founding member of Uriah Heep, (Lee Kerslake would soon join him after the getting the big heave-ho), after the tour Glassock threw in the towel (he would subsequently join Jethro Tull) which means, if my sums are correct, that Cliff Bennett was now in a band that nobody else was!