The Artwoods – Steady Gettin’ It: The Complete Recordings 1964-67 review

August 26, 2014

The Artwoods – Steady Gettin’ It: The Complete Recordings 1964-67 review

The Artwoods “Steady Gettin’ It:  The Complete Recordings 1964-67”
Records, UK RPM BX 524 (28 July 2014)
Known alternately as the namesakes of Ron Wood’s eldest
brother, vocalist Art Wood, or the band which produced future Deep Purple
keyboard player Jon Lord, The Artwoods, in reality, recorded and released
several singles, a four song EP and an LP during their tenure.  Largely overlooked in their day, the band’s
recordings stand up well against those of The Pretty Things, The Action and The
Yardbirds, among others, who, like The Artwoods, began life performing and
recording smoking R and B tunes (covers only in this case) before evolving
toward much heavier, more progressive and psychedelic (sometimes original)
compositions.  Unfortunately, The
Artwoods never had a hit, and were hampered by a lack of original material.  Thus, the incredible guitar work of one Derek
Griffiths went almost entirely unnoticed, at least in the United States.  Listening to this set you can hear the band,
early on, being driven by a combination of Lord’s keyboards and Griffiths’
guitar.  The closer The Artwoods moved
toward progressive, psychedelic rock, the more Griffiths’ guitar work was
featured.  Their relationship would be
paralleled by Lord and Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple. Prior to this release,
short of seeking out original (and expensive) 
vinyl releases, the best fans of The Artwoods could do was pick up
copies of the “Singles A’s & B’s” and their sole long player “Art Gallery”
both on a German reissue label.  
Thankfully, as of 28 July 2014, that is not the case.
Now, thanks to John Reed, who conceived and compiled this three
CD collection for Cherry Red Records’ RPM imprint, not only are all the
singles, the “Jazz In Jeans” EP and “Art Gallery” LP collected here, but they
are supplemented by nineteen BBC session tracks and a live show from Funny
Park, Denmark, 1967.  With sixty-five
tracks, about half previously unreleased, and a two hundred and twenty-one
minute run time, this is by far the most complete collection of The Artwoods
ever available.  All of the recordings
have been remastered in mono by Simon Murphy. 
Without question, the previously released studio works of The Artwoods
never sounded so good and the BBC sessions are equally impressive.  As for the live disc, it historically
documents the band at the top of their game, having moved from R and B to more
progressive and psychedelic material, although the source material is not
audiophile quality and does not claim to be.    
Disc one opens with acetates of the blues standards recorded
as The Art Wood Combo in 1964, before makeing its way through the band’s six
singles and the four song EP released after becoming The Artwoods.  The A-sides are all cover versions of blues
and R and B songs, highlighted by their take on Naomi Neville’s “I Feel Good.”  Sadly, none of the singles took off.  Much more interesting are the band original
B-sides such as “In The Deep End” and “I’m Looking For A Saxophonist Doubling
French Horn Wearing Size 37 Boots” both released in 1966 and showing the shift
to a much heavier, exploratory sound.  Over
time the band moved increasingly toward guitar driven rock and roll, with
Griffiths taking the lead, full of fuzz and snaking lead guitar lines.  His guitar on the “Jazz In Jeans” EP smokes
on instrumental covers like “Our Man Flint” and “A Taste Of Honey.”  How did Griffiths not go on to bigger and
better things like Lord?  Drummer Keef
Hartley faired much better.  Teamed with
bassist Malcolm Pool, he was half of The Artwoods’ incredibly tight rhythm
section, and upon leaving the band Hartley formed his own Keef Hartley Band,
which recorded several albums and appeared at Woodstock.  The disc is filled out, to 79 minutes, by the
inclusion of both sides of the post-Artwoods one-off single, teaming an
stunning, inspired, revved up, raved out, recreation of the classic “Brother
Can You Spare A Dime” filled with Griffiths’ stinging fuzz guitar and Lord’s
Hammond, with its flip side, the fuzz filled, rocking band original “Al’s
Party,” released under the moniker St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1967, and
BBC sessions from 1965 and 1966.
Disc two opens with the newly remastered version of the
band’s sole long player, “Art Gallery.” 
Twelve covers of Atlantic/Stax band favorites comprise the album.  Among them are inspired covers of Booker T.
& The MGs “Things Get Better” and “Be My Lady.”  The playing is consistent and rocks
throughout, especially Griffiths’ snarling, fuzz filled guitar and Lord’s
swirling Hammond.  Unfortunately, like
The Action and even The Yardbirds, the lack of original material hurt the band’s
record sales.  The disc is fleshed out,
to 68 minutes, by the remaining BBC sessions from 1966 and 1967 and include two
recordings of “In The Deep End,” the eventual B-side which help document the
band’s move in a heavier, more explorative direction. 
Disc three is the seventy-four minute Funny Park gig from
1967 which, honestly, sounds like a bootleg from back in the day, and indeed
has been bootlegged over the years.  I,
for one, am grateful this disc is included as it documents the band at its apex,
doing what it did best, playing live, despite the fact that Colin Martin had
replaced Hartley behind the drum kit only two weeks earlier.  Highlights include a ten minute take on a
band original never recorded in the studio, “Song Of The Journeyman,” a seven
and a half minute cover of The Stones’ “Satisfaction.”   By 1967, Griffiths and Lord were the
featured performers, with increasingly long songs now encouraging extended
solos, especially by Griffiths on guitar but with Lord’s keyboards always
within ears shot, shades of Deep Purple, which would follow quickly enough, for
Lord at least, just one year later in 1968.   
The gig certainly indicates the direction the band was headed in had it
not broken up.
To round out the package, there is a thirty-six page color
booklet, with full track listings and song annotations, an informative essay,
and lots of wonderful photos and assorted memorabilia.  The three discs come in mini-LP cardboard
sleeves and fit snugly with the booklet in a clam shell box.  The Artwoods’ recorded legacy is ideal for
the box set treatment, with virtually equal parts of studio, BBC and live
recordings.  Thanks to John Reed and the
folks at RPM Records for recognizing this and bringing the project to fruition.  This makes for truly one stop shopping
regarding The Artwoods.  Two thumbs up
and highly recommended for fans of Deep Purple, The Action, The Yardbirds, and
The Pretty Things, and related acts.
Review made by Kevin Rathert/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014
One Comment
  1. Anonymous

    Great review of a great release. Agree with all comments. Sound is excellent overall, except for the 3rd cd which is the best from source tapes.

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