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“Packaged to present 3 line-ups of Brand X from 17...”


written by jfderry on 29/08/2006

Packaged to present 3 line-ups of Brand X from 17 years worth of recordings, infact what we get is the re-release of deleted albums Manifest Destiny (1996) and Xcommunication (1992) and first time airing of a live recording from 1979 in New York. The evolution of the band's sound is superbly represented across these 3 albums, but that doesn't necessarily recommend the 2 studio releases. Indeed the excitement mostly springs out of the live set where core band members, guitarist John Goodsall and bassist Percy Jones, vie for the virtuosity crown while exuding a style that never really distinguishes itself from a mish-mash of familiar prog-rock listening. This makes quite pleasant listening, but it takes Phil Collin's vocals to put a stamp on the music aided by a frenetic guitar climax, at a time when Goodsall's tone was still raw and rocking, rather than the hollow sound he adopts for the later cuts. The live album offers good, honest, straight ahead grooves, funky guitar licks and wildly innovative bass with interesting eastern decoration while on the studio albums there are a few moments of annoyance (fuelled by manic guitar and trite 80s "disco jazz") but overall it's an eclectic electric style that embraces everything from Jaco to Camel; Emerson, Lake & Palmer to Rush; Hatfield & The North to Return To Forever. There's even a hint of John McLaughlin acoustic! The live cut is altogether different. The actual recording is less vivid. The mix pushes Goodsall's guitar towards the back, compared to its upfront position in the later studio sessions, but Jones' bass is up there, sounding even more eminently Pastorius-esque on his self-penned Dance of the Illegal Aliens.

The cover art and cardboard case is nice enough if not a little plain for such a collection of material. At the end of the day, perhaps it was a bit strange to release these 3 sides together? It may have been better to re-release the two 90s albums either seperately, or together as a double, and then marry the Live recording with another album re-release involving Collins, e.g., Unorthodox Behaviour or Moroccan Roll.

The earlier Brand X work, from the period that this guy is talking about, is the one to focus on. The earliest known recordings (from 1975-76) have just been released as Missing Period, but is unaccountably not on Buckyball Records. However, more early Brand X is available from Buckyball with "Timeline", sounding very promising as it contains gigs from Chicago 1977 and New York 1993.

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