Thursday, 3 July 2008

THE WEB: Like The Man Said

It's ripe for revival, you know - big brassy soulful bands, without having to go down the BS&T route. Personally I can't get enough of them and wish there were more of them now. The Web? Six jazzers from Bournemouth who certainly weren't slumming but somehow managed temporary stardom on the Continent - the Hollies and the Nice supported them - and had a sizeable following over here. Listening to the extraordinary strains of their second album, 1970's Theraphosa Blondi (it's the species of spider you see on the cover), is enough to make one wonder whether we really lost something substantial when we jettisoned the chops in '76; a group both fluent enough and imaginative enough to venture into early World Music waters ("Kilimanjaro" is what ELP might have sounded like had they paid more attention to Les Baxter) as well as the more familiar soul-jazz waters and even the occasional flicker at pop stardom - see the string-laden ballad "'Til I Come Home Again Once More," written by the young Gilbert O'Sullivan.

Bands with vibes, sax and double drums - you really are not going to get fluid (in ANY sense) with Elbow or the Zutons - we need more of them, and the Web demonstrated just how much need they could inspire. Their "Sunshine Of Your Love" is dazzled into difference by Tom Harris' rollercoaster Rollins sax work (and he's not bad on flute, either, if not quite Harold McNair in overblowing terms). The absence of a keyboardist, and the general back seat reticence of the guitars, means that there's much more space in which the musicians may breathe.

There is the feeling of Lighthouse (though this horn section is simply a multitracked Harris) about their faster work, and "Like The Man Said" shows them at their best, as well as showcasing the remarkable voice of black American lead singer John L Watson, then recently demobbed from the US Air Force. "Like The Man Said"'s intro comes on like a 1964 Gerry Anderson theme tune, squared guitars and determined drums, but Watson's bizarre and unstable cabaret croon is seriously disarming and disorientating. pulling out of the hat tricks and stances which the likes of Combustible Edison would discover a quarter of a century later, the drums slowing down emphatically to echo Watson's carefully delirious joy to "be...back...home again" before a ballad tempo ensues with muted flutes and bass clarinet, Watson sounding like a baffled Engelbert newly kidnapped by Joe Meek as he ponders his uncertain future, released from the pressure of a girl every night, number one hits and so forth (after this album he went solo and the trail goes cold), before the heat incenses again and the stage is cleared for Harris' tenor to soliloquise and interact with Dick Lee-Smith's bass and Ken Beveridge's kit drums, first in a buoyant if slightly stiff swing, then into tentative bebop, followed by moves into "Fables Of Faubus" territory, but just before Harris breaks free of structure the band reach a suitable climax and reassemble for the final verse and chorus, as well as a dizzying seesaw ride of a question mark finale which then canters straight into "Sunshine Of Your Love." More of this sort of thing in 2008 would be exceptionally welcome.