The Creation – “Action Painting” (2017) review
The Creation – Action Painting (2 CD & Book) (The Numero Group, 2017)
In their first lifetime, lasting a mere two years, 1966-1968, The Creation had nearly as many band incarnations as they did records released. Of the band’s UK singles only one managed to make the top 40, and the band’s sole LP was a 1967 German-only release. Time, however, has been very kind to the band, and their recordings are held in high regard by musicians such as Paul Weller of The Jam and fans of mod psychedelic and garage music fans worldwide and stand up quite well compared to the better known bands of these genres.
The Creation’s music has been compiled and reissued in the past, but Action Painting released by US record label, The Numero Group, is unquestionably the last word on the band’s studio recordings on numerous accounts and renders all previous releases obsolete. As always, The Numero Group has raised the bar so high it is hard to imagine anyone even making an attempt to compete with this new 2 CD and 80 page hardbound book set, unless it would be the label’s 2 LP version of Action Painting.
How so, you may say? For starters, disc one contains all 23 tracks The Creation recorded in mono, presented in more or less chronological order, but in newly remastered sound, overseen by original producer Shel Talmy (The Kinks, The Who, Cat Stevens, et al), thus being the only reissue absolutely true to Talmy’s vision for the band’s sound. Among the tunes to be found here are all the original single sides, the a- and b-sides to the band’s six UK, eight German and four US 45s, as well as those for French EPs. The sonically superior sound is apparent from the opening notes of “Making Time” The Creation’s debut single and arguably the first song ever to feature “bowing” of a guitar with a violin bow by Eddie Phillips. The bow was likewise implemented on the band’s second and best known single, “Painter Man” the band’s only UK top 40 hit, creeping in at #36, but rising to #2 in Germany, where the band would become rock stars in their own right, and would release their sole LP “We Are Paintermen” in 1967. “Painter Man” also featured Talmy’s go to pianist, Nicky Hopkins, who would contribute to nearly every session by the band in 1967.
“Sylvette” was the first song, ironically an instrumental, released (on a French EP) following the departure of lead vocalist, Kenny Pickett, with bass guitarist Bob Garner taking over vocal duties, and Kim Gardner, formerly of The Birds, taking over on bass. This incarnation of the band would release three UK singles, including the high octane, “How Does It Feel To Feel” with driving power chords and an incendiary solo by Phillips and gorgeous vocals by Garner. The tune was released in two versions, one for the UK and a bit heavier sounding version for the US. At this point, Phillips left the band, replaced for a short time by Tony Ollard, before Gardner’s friend and band mate from The Birds, Ron Wood, took over on lead guitar for the band’s final UK single “Midway Down” with its booming bass and driving drums pushing the beat and complementing Garner’s beautiful vocals.
Disc two opens with four single sides by Creation precursor band The Mark Four, included to put the band and its sound into context. Then comes the real special treat as new 2017 stereo mixes prepared by Alec Palao and Wally Sound of 15 tunes, are presented, in the same manner Palao did on The Decca Stereo Anthology by The Zombies. The sound is crisp and clear, its as though you are riding the cymbals along with Jones and the pulsating bass is almost palpable. Phillips’ monster guitar work, bowed and picked alike, is even more impressive in stereo, something not easily said. The second disc also includes the unedited version of “Sylvette” with Hopkins’ piano adding shades to the heavy texture of Phillips’ guitar. The set is rounded out by backing tracks to “Making Time” and “How Does It Feel To Feel” to give a listener an idea of how The Creation built their songs. When all is said and done Action Painting has The Creation sounding better than ever, a service well deserved by the band. As producer Shel Talmy said “My biggest regret is that they didn’t achieve the standing they should have. I truly believe they could have been as big as The Who.” With Action Painting The Creation show how right Talmy was.
Alright, so we have The Creation sounding ever so much better than ever before, and all 42 tracks recorded are included, but that by no means is all The Numero Group has done to make this the ultimate Creation package. The 80 page full color hardbound book contains a most informative band history essay by music historian, Dean Rudland and a survey of the band’s recording sessions by co-producer Alec Palao. A wonderful addition, Palao’s essay meticulously notes each and every session with as much detail as possible. A detailed discography of the band’s singles, album, and compilations makes for easy referencing of individual titles. The book is profusely illustrated throughout with many photos of the band and memorabilia as well as the art work for each and every record released. The book fits snuggly in the durable, hard slipcase, making for a work that looks every bit as gorgeous as it sounds. The Numero Group has outdone themselves with Action Painting with the finished product comparable to any Bear Family Records collection available. Quite a compliment indeed, but one well deserved. This is unquestionably the definitive Creation. Released 17 March 2017, do yourself a favor, and show your support for The Numero Group, by picking up a copy of Action Painting. While you’re at it, pick up a copy for a friend. They will be forever thankful.
– Kevin Rathert
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