Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blodwyn Pig: Its Only Love

As with every Saturday, I like to feature some lesser known music. Sometimes the music and the musicians are better known in the States than their chart positions would indicate. Today, this is not the case with our featured artist Blodwyn Pig who is barely known in the US.

I really think the reason the band didn't catch on here is that most Americans are hesitant in trying to pronounce unfamiliar names. The Welsh forename of Blodwyn is not well known in the US and I can see numerous announcers passing on playing this band because the were unsure of the pronunciation of their name.

“It’s Only Love” has the distinction of being the first song the band ever recorded and it was the first cut on the first side of the band’s first LP “Ahead Rings Out.” It often was a person’s first taste of Blodwyn Pig.

The band was formed in 1969 by guitarist Mick Abrahams when exited Jethro Tull after appearing only on their debut LP “This Was.” Abrahams disagreed with Ian Anderson over the band’s musical direction which was moving away from the blues into other musical genres. Later in the 1990s, Abrahams toured with the original members of Tull sans Anderson in a band appropriately called “This Was.”

Blodwyn Pig also included Ron Berg on drums, Andy Pyle on bass, and Jack Lancaster on sax and keyboards. Lancaster followed in the footsteps of saxophonists Dick Heckstall-Smith and Rahsaan Roland Kirk by developing the ability of mocking a larger horn section by playing two saxes simultaneously during live performances.

While the sound that Lancaster achieved on stage is featured in this song, I believe that the sax parts were overdubbed as opposed to him simultaneously playing two saxophones. There is one note where the second sax’s attack is slightly delayed leading me to believe they were not played together.

Since I have tenor and soprano saxes, I tried this several years ago after seeing a video of Dick Heckstall-Smith. It really wasn’t that hard to get sounds out of both instruments, but your embouchure is severely limited – so there are certain things that can’t be accomplished. In addition, you are using each hand for a different instrument – so the notes that are played come from a limited range.

One thing I did notice in the video of “Modern Alchemist” that Jack Lancaster was playing in different registers on his instruments. This means he probably disengaged the springs so that the upper register pads remained in the closed position. It really is a neat stage effect and to pull it off like Lancaster and his predecessors, you need to be a really good saxophonist.

Berg and Pyle would eventually surface in another blues outfit Savoy Brown. While Blodwyn Pig never gained the success in the US as other bands in its lineage (Jethro Tull & Savoy Brown), they did receive a modicum of airplay at album stations in the larger cities. I will have to admit that I do not own any Blodwyn Pig albums and just recently rediscovered this classic band and am glad I did.

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