Saturday, January 1, 2011

Head East: Never Been Any Reason

Happy New Year! It is the first day of the year and I am beginning a new Saturday feature that looks at songs that bubbled under the Top 40 charts. This includes non-single album cuts that were popular but never charted outside of Album Oriented Rock radio.

The first song in this series of features comes from Head East, an Illinois band that never gained the popularity that they were due. In 1974, they recorded their first album “Flat as a Pancake” on their own Pyramid Records label. This limited release LP grew in popularity in the Midwest and garnered the attention of the A & R (artist and repertoire) department at A & M Records. The label picked up the band and re-released the album in its entirety in 1975.

The first single from their debut album was “Never Been Any Reason,” a song that had been popular on Midwestern radio a year earlier. I remember Bob Lee playing this one quite often during his evening album music shows on Ashland, KY's WAMX. The single only charted 68 on the Hot 100 probably because it had already had its run of popularity in the band’s primary region. The album peaked at #126 on the Billboard Album Charts and was certified as a gold album.

Studio Version

What a great tune, Roger Boyd’s keyboards provide some of the shining moments of this song. It has tasty monophonic synthesizer runs that pan from left to right and are double tracked in stereo in places. The portamento feature on the synth is executed beautifully and the Hammond organ is the glue that holds it all together.

It is also a unique song that it has dual lead vocals with the first two lines of the verse sung by drummer Steve Huston followed by lead vocalist John Schlitt with the two providing harmony on the chorus and the first part of the verses’ fourth line. It has tasty bass licks, guitar harmonics, and of course cowbell.

Live Version

In 1979, the song was also released on “Head East Live!” If there was any reason that some would have thought that the keyboard antics couldn’t be reproduced live, this recording dispels that theory. While not every lick that Roger Boyd played could be replicated due to overdubs, guitarist (and the song’s author) Mike Somerville picks up any slack that may have occurred live by providing the counterpoint.

As with the synth that Roger Boyd used on the studio version, he has an axe that uses two oscillators that are tuned an octave a part with one slightly detuned giving the keyboards an extremely fat sound. Shortly after the release of this LP, vocalist John Schlitt left the band. He would later return to the music scene in the 1980s as the lead vocalist for the Christian rock band Petra.

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