Headstone – ‘Bad Habits/Headstone’ (2023)
Formed in 1974 by former Rare Bird drummer Mark Ashton and ex-Atomic Rooster guitarist Steve Bolton, Headstone recorded two albums, mixing hard, acoustic based and progressive rock.
Cherry Red Records, UK, has compiled the two long players in a new double disc set on their Esoteric Recordings imprint.
Disc one presents 1974’s ‘Bad Habits’, with ten of the album’s eleven tracks written by Mark Ashton who moved from behind the drum kit to become the band’s frontman and lead vocalist. He and Bolton were joined for the recordings by studio players Phil Chen (bass) and Chili Charles (drums). The album opener ‘Don’t Turn Your Back’, is a melodic rocker, reminiscent of Bad Co., featuring layered guitars, with Chen’s bass throbbing and locked in tightly with Charles’ drums. ‘Take Me Down’ is carried by Ashton’s acoustic guitar with Bolton adding electric accents, the band joined by Tony Lukyn on synthesizer and Joe O’Donnell on violin. ‘High On You’ is commercially accessible with vocal harmonies and restrained lead guitar. ‘Love You Too’ is another melodic, acoustic tune. Ashton’s ‘3 O B’ has an intro which brings Deep Purple’s ‘My Woman From Tokyo’ to mind, Bolton’s wah wah aided electric guitar and Charles’ racing drum beat giving the tune a Joe Walsh vibe. Bolton’s lead line and solo on ‘Live For Each Other’ once again bring Walsh to mind, with Chen adding a throbbing bass line. The melodic, acoustic ‘You’ve Heard It All Before’ features an understated Bolton solo. The LP’s title track has hints of country rock with ex-Rare Bird member David Kaffinetti contributing an electric piano interlude. ‘Take A Plane’ is an uptempo track with Carl Douglas of ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ fame, Juanita Franklin and ex-Atomic Rooster guitarist Steve Gould adding harmony vocals to Bolton’s snappy solo and the band’s James Gang style outro. The disc closes with ‘D M T’, an uptempo take, Bolton turning up his wah wah driven guitar solo as the group jams effortlessly.
Disc two contains Headstone’s 1975 self-titled album, with Chen and Charles having been replaced by bassist Jerome Rimson, drummer Peter Van Hoorke and violinist/keyboard player Joe O’Donnell. ‘Eastern Wind’ is a mid-tempo number, its lead line, solo and vocals again rendering a Joe Walsh vibe which carries over into ‘Warm Sunny Days’ with its O’Donnell violin solo and Bolton guitar break. ‘Turn Your Head’ is a melodic tune with Bolton’s guitar and O’Donnell’s violin again featured. ‘Gyrosame’ has a country rock vibe with Bolton and O’Donnell trading licks. ‘Karma’ is an uptempo rocker with stinging lead guitar by Bolton, rhythm guitar and piano contributions from Chas Jankel and Max Middleton. ‘Hard Road’ is a gritty slice of blues with roaring lead guitar and feedback by Bolton supplemented by O’Donnell’s violin accents. ‘Large Weather We’re Having’ has a funky groove and a wah wah aided solo by Bolton. ‘Searching Light’ is bluesy with Mexican flavor added by Van Hooke’s percussion, and Bolton contributing a driving solo. ‘Get Through To You’ features gorgeous vocal harmonies and slide guitar. ‘All I Ask’ is an acoustic, romantic country rock ballad with Juanita Franklin contributing vocals. ‘Someone’s Gotta Give’ closes the album and sets on an upbeat note, its violin solo with guitar accents giving way to a feedback laden guitar solo outro.
‘Bad Habits/Headstone’ comes in a tri-fold digipak with a 16 page full color booklet that includes full credits, album artwork and an essay by Steve Pilkington featuring an exclusive interview with Steve Bolton. Headstone sounds wonderful thanks to the mastering job by Ben Wiseman. The set will appeal to fans of 1970s rock and classic rock in general and is recommended.
Headstone – ‘Bad Habits/Headstone’ (Esoteric 2023)