Monday, 16 May 2011

Family - Music In A Doll's House

I was going to post this on the 12th - the 2nd anniversary of starting this blog - but Blogger wasn't working. Here it is anyway: a classic psychedelic debut album from 1968, one I still get huge enjoyment from 20 years after I first heard it. There is plenty to love about it, most of which is displayed in the opening bars - Roger Chapman's amazing crazed vocals (double tracked, phased), unusual prog arrangements with strings and woodwind of a great song; and a general air of hash smoke and musical adventure that doesn't let up until the end. There is a lush string arrangement by Mike Batt for the hazy second track 'Mellowing Grey', and it's all produced by Traffic's Dave Mason with no oppurtunity to add some phaser or delay to that harmonica riff, or some bowed double bass. Indeed, virtually everything on the eastern-tinged 'Me My Friend' seems to be phased to varying degrees, which gives a very weird impression of the different phases of the song being recorded in different rooms, times, spaces. Later Family albums would all have a heavier R&B/Blues influence, but the music of the band's formative years is never that far from the surface, and bursts out on groovers like 'Old Songs New Songs', which rocks out with horns from the Tubby Hayes Quintet. Side two features the most psychedelic tracks - the strange guitar/harmonica riff that drives 'See Through Windows', and especially 'The Voyage', which is pretty far out. There is some great tape, feedback and voice manipulation in this one, and it is very trippy indeed.
The album tracks are programmed perfectly, and a nice touch are the handful of miniatures, under a minute each, that are variations on themes of songs on the album. These make it all hang together beautifully, and the album finishes with the band almost sending themselves up as a rather lovely song descends into a comedy vamp interspersed with an eastern sounding psychedelic groove before a farcical fade.
I recommend all family albums, as well as Chapman/Whitney 'Streetwalkers' - their first post-Family album, but in particular 'Fearless', 'A Song For Me', and 'Bandstand'.



Elliot Knapp said...

Cool review, definitely agree with a lot of your observations. I just reviewed this on my music blog. I dig your blog--you're going on the blogroll! I'd be honored to show up on yours!

chris_c said...

GOOD GOD MAN! Your choices, while uniformly excellent, are like you've mashed the heads of my brother and I together on some mid 90s trip we took and never quite came back from (khan, orb, family, harriott etc...). Thanks for the transportation!

Tracy Deakin said...

I came across this album for the first time today in a record shop in Edinburgh. I asked " who is this? very elevators / seeds esque" Whilst it was playing the owner of the shop told me that this was released in 1968 & if The Beatles White album had been released first, Music in a dolls house is what the Beatles were going to name the White album as. I then introduced the shop to an album released in 2005 by a Danish band called Eggs, album title Oh no Ono...learnt some great trivia today & a good music intro swap in a favourite record shop.

Yogradius said...

Thanks for the comments - glad I am connecting into your brain Chris C. Anyone that likes Khan and Family is cool in my book.
Also, that Oh No Ono album is great: the track 'Icicles' is a particular favourite here at White Dot Towers.