Brinsley Schwarz – ‘Thinking Back – The Anthology 1970-1975’ (2023)

Uncategorized January 7, 2024

Brinsley Schwarz – ‘Thinking Back – The Anthology 1970-1975’ (2023)

British pub rockers Brinsley Schwarz were at the forefront of the genre, the original quartet of the band’s namesake lead guitarist, bassist/vocalist Nick Lowe, keyboardist/vocalist Bob Andrews and drummer Billy Rankin releasing two albums in 1970 before becoming a quintet the following year when joined by guitarist/vocalist Ian Gomm.

The group went on to issue four additional LPs before disbanding in 1974. Cherry Red Records has compiled those albums joined by a seventh archival long player which went unissued at the time, non-LP singles issued under various names, unreleased sides and a plethora of live recordings, 132 tracks in all, in a new seven disc box set on its Lemon Records imprint.

Discs one centers around the group’s self-titled debut LP issued in April 1970. ‘Brinsley Schwarz’ opens with the gorgeously melodic ‘Hymn To Me’, reminiscent of the Grateful Dead and the sole tune credited to the entire quartet. The beautiful country rock tinged tune is highlighted by its gorgeous vocals and a slide guitar duet by Schwarz and Lowe, giving the song strong commercial appeal. ‘Shining Brightly’ is a delicate melodic love song featuring a restrained solo by Schwarz and gorgeous vocal harmonies. ‘Lady Constant’ is a seven and a half minute track, opening with Crosby, Stills and Nash style vocal harmonies before Andrews’ mid-tune organ and electric piano interlude gives the tune a Yes vibe with Schwarz contributing an effortlessly tasteful restrained guitar solo as Rankin picks up the pace with gorgeous drum fills. ‘What Do You Suggest’ opens with hot guitar licks from Schwarz, the track’s country tinged folk rock highlighted by Schwarz’s minimalist guitar and Andrews’ organ solo, Lowe and Rankin locked in on the bottom end. The album closes with the humorously titled ‘Ballad Of A Has Been Beauty Queen’, a ten and a half minute tune showcasing the band’s versatility, featuring crescendos of guitar, a subdued solo by Schwarz and pounding beat from Rankin, before a tempo change moves the song in a soulful direction with Lowe’s delicate vocals complemented by gentle guitar and organ from Schwarz and Andrews. Another tempo change steps up the pace with Schwarz offering ringing, echoing solos before the track’s melodic ending brings Mott The Hoople to mind. The bonus material begins with three unreleased studio tracks from the original quartet, including the relaxed,melodic instrumental number which lends its title to the box set, Schwarz’s guitar aided by steel guitar and piano accents. The disc closes with six studio recordings by the band after Gomm’s entry highlighted by ‘Seymour (I Love You)’ credited to the entire quintet, an uptempo instrumental with ringing guitars courtesy of Schwarz and Gomm as well as an organ solo by Andrews.

Disc two opens with the eight tracks, all written by Nick Lowe, comprising December 1970’s ‘Despite It All’. The album opens with the melodic country rocker ‘Country Girl’ featuring fiddle by Willy Weider. “The Slow One” has a Van Morrison vibe, with nicely restrained guitar by Schwarz and organ from Andrews, the latter adding a tasteful solo and Dave Jackson of Van der Graaf Generator contributing saxophone. The uptempo pop-tinged ‘Funk Angel’ features two Schwarz solos and more saxophone from Jackson. ‘Piece Of Home’ is a mid-tempo tune with a delicate melody, Schwarz contributing a restrained solo with organ and piano accents from Andrews. ‘Love Song’ is another melodic number with nicely restrained guitar from Schwarz. ‘Starship’ is a beautiful country rocker with steel guitar by Brian Cole. ‘Ebury Down’ is a gentle
ballad, its gentle melody showcasing Schwarz’s acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies from Lowe and Andrews. Album closer ‘Old Jarrow’ is an uptempo country rocker, reminiscent of The Eagles, with a tasty wah wah aided lead line and solo from Schwarz. The disc is filled out with tracks from a February 1972 gig at The Roundhouse in London and featuring guitar and vocals from Gomm.

Disc three focuses on February 1972/s ‘Silver Pistol’ the first album by the group in quintet form, with the addition of Ian Gomm. The LP opens with Gomm’s ‘Dry Land’ featuring Andrews’ piano complementing the guitar work of Schwarz and Gomm. ‘Merry Go Round’ and Gomm’s ‘One More Day’ are Dylanesque country rockers, while ‘Nightingale’ is a melodic acoustic tune. The title track is a traditional country tune led by Gomm and Schwarz’s guitars and Andrews’ organ, with Schwarz contributing a restrained solo. ‘The Last Time I Was Fooled’ is an electric tune, with Schwarz’s solo reminiscent of Robbie Robertson of The Band. ‘Unknown Number’ is a melodic track featuring electric piano from Andrews. Gomm’s ‘Range War’ features a gorgeous country melody and tasty Schwarz solo. Mid-tempo ‘Egypt’ is another Dylanesque, guitar and organ led tune. ‘Niki Hoke Speedway’ is a Redbone cover with Schwarz and Gomm’s guitars supplemented by Andrews’ piano. ‘Ju Ju Man’ is another Redbone cover, driven by Schwarz and Gomm’s electric guitars. The album closes with Gomm’s ‘Rockin’ Chair’ , a gorgeous guitar and piano based instrumental. The bonus material begins with two Andrews compositions, ‘The Old Country’ featuring steel guitar and piano, while ‘That’s What It Takes’ is more uptempo blending electric guitars with Andrews’ organ and piano. Gomm’s ‘Strange Feeling’ is notable for another tasty solo from Schwarz. The disc is closed out by three more tunes from the 1972 Roundhouse show, highlighted by Schwarz’s solo on Gomm’s ‘Range War’.

Disc four begins with the group’s September 1972 LP ‘Nervous On The Road’. Gomm’s ‘It’s Been So Long’, a tale of lost love, showcases Andrews’ piano and acoustic guitars from Schwarz and Gomm. The Andrews/Lowe penned ‘Happy What We’re Doing’ is a popish country rocker with an organ interlude by Andrews. ‘Surrender To The Rhythm’ is commercially accessible, with Andrews’ organ and piano work on display. ‘Don’t Lose Your Grip On Love’ features the guitar work of Gomm and Schwarz. The album’s title track is led by Andrews’ pounding piano and Schwarz’s ringing guitar. ‘Feel A Little Funky’ is a light hearted number with a relaxed groove which swings with Andrews’ piano and Schwarz’s guitar. ‘I Like It Like That’ is the group’s take on Allen Toussaint and Chris Kenner’s often covered chestnut. ‘Brand New You’ has a heavier groove, with bluesy organ and piano from Andrews. ‘Home In My Hand’ is a boogie woogie style cover of Ronnie Self’s familiar song, highlighted by Schwarz’s fiery solo. ‘Why, Why, Why, Why, Why’ has a 1950’s feel with Schwarz’s lofting guitar to the fore. The disc is finished out by a gritty, bluesy ‘What Would You Do’ recorded live in Amsterdam in 1972 and five tunes from the Roundhouse gig, highlighted by the uptempo take of ‘Nervous On The Road’..

Disc five starts with the ten tracks from October 1973’s ‘Please Don’t Ever Change’ on which the band heads in a poppier direction. Gomm’s ‘Hooked On Love’ features a commercial hook and tasteful Andrews organ solo. ‘Why Do You Hurt The One You Love’ has a catchy pop, almost calypso, sound and Andrews delivers another organ solo. ‘I Worry (Bout You Baby)’ is an organ
driven piece with Andrews adding piano accents and Schwarz a restrained solo, giving the tune a Freddy Fender vibe. ‘Don’t Ever Change’ is a melodic pop rocker with vocal harmonies, piano accents and a relaxed solo by Schwarz. A remake of Ronnie Self’s ‘Home In My Head’ has a driving beat with heavier guitar, organ, piano and rhythm section, with Schwarz supplying a hot solo and chugging outro. ‘Play That Fast Thing (One More Time)’ is another rocker led by Schwarz’s lead line and solo and Rankn’s drum fills. ‘I Won’t Make It Without You’ is a
mid-tempo country ballad featuring Andrews’ organ and a gentle Schwarz solo. ‘Down In Mexico’ has a Tex-Mex guitar and piano led melody, supplemented by vocal harmonies and Schwarz’s relaxed solo. ‘Speedoo’ is a 1950’s style light-hearted ditty written by Esther Navarro. The album closes with a cover of Larry Sibbles’ ‘The Version (Hypocrite)’, a light organ driven instrumental with gentle guitar accents from Gomm and Schwarz. The bonus material begins with a non-LP single take on Sibbles’ tune retitled ‘Hypocrite’ recorded under the pseudonym The Hitters, delivered ballad style, with gentle vocals as well as organ and guitar interludes. A cover of the Lennon/McCartney classic ‘I Should Have Known Better’ released under the name Limelight is an uptempo number with organ and drums to the fore and gorgeous vocal harmonies. Another Beatles cover, issued as Limelight, ‘Tell Me Why’ is delivered in mid-tempo form with horns added. The disc is finished out by a run through ‘Run Rudolph Run’ from a 1973 Newcastle gig, followed by eight tracks from a 1974 Cardiff appearance, Gomm’s ‘It’s Been So Long’ with its Schwarz solo, the standout track.

Disc six centers around the July 1974 album ‘The New Favourites Of Brinsley Schwarz’. ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding’ is the LP’s classic opener. Why the song wasn’t a hit when released as a single is puzzling. Andrews adds piano accents to the steady beat supplied by Gomm, Lowe and Rankin, and Schwarz adds a brilliantly understated solo on the tune which poses the ever relevant question of human relations. ‘Ever Since You’ve Gone’ is a mid-tempo track with a tasty Schwarz solo and a saxophone interlude. ‘The Ugly Things’ is a pop number featuring Andrews’ piano and a Schwarz solo. The Gomm/Lowe penned ‘I Got The Real Thing’ is pure pop, melodic with vocal harmonies and gentle piano. ‘The Look That’s In Your Eye Tonight’ is a mid-tempo piano led tune with piano and guitar interludes. A cover of the Graham Nash/Allan Clarke written ‘Now’s The Time’ is an uptempo guitar based number with a steady beat supplied by Gomm, Lowe and Rankin. ‘Small Town Big City’ again hints at the 1950’s with its focus on the saxophones of Schwarz and Andrews, the former also shining on lead guitar. A cover of Eugene Williams’ ‘Trying To Live My Life Without You’ is a mid-tempo track led by Andrews’ organ and featuring the group’s vocal harmonies, with Rankin’s drum fills and Schwarz’s snappy solo also on display. ‘I Like You, I Don’t Love You’ is an uptempo piano and organ led track with tasty vocal harmonies and a memorable saxophone solo. The album closes with the Schwarz/Lowe number ‘Down In The Dive’ a pure pub rocker with its relaxed feel, horns and name dropping of Motown artists. The bonus material begins with a cover of Naomi Neville’s ‘Cried My Last Tears’, an R&B stomper with Schwarz contributing a solo. Gomm’s ‘(It’s Gonna Be A) Bringdown’ features another nice R&B groove with Schwarz delivering yet another solo. The disc is filled out by four tracks from a 1974 gig at Tilburg, Netherlands, three from a Sheffield appearance and two from a Cardiff gig the same year, the highlight being a rocking take on ‘(What’s So Funny Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding’ from the Cardiff show. The track features pounding piano by Andrews, heavy
riffing by Schwarz and Gomm, and a deep groove from Gomm, Lowe and Rankin with the first delivering gorgeous vocals. The performance presents the band at its absolute best.

Disc seven begins with eleven tracks recorded in 1974, that went unreleased until 1988, under the fitting title ‘It’s All Over Now’. ‘We Can Mess Around’ is a pleasant mix of country and pop. The Gomm/Lowe penned ‘Cruel To Be Kind’ is presented in its original version here (it was a 1979 hit for Lowe). The snappy rocker sounds incredibly smooth with Andrews’ organ supporting Lowe’s relaxed vocals. ‘As Lovers Do’ written by Lowe and Dave Edmunds is a 1950’s influenced country rocker with vocal harmonies, tasty guitar and an Andrews piano solo. A cover of the Bert Berns/Jerry Ragavoy song ‘I’ll Take Good Care Of You’ is straight ahead R&B with gorgeous Lowe vocals. A cover of Gary Beisbier and James Holvay’s familiar ‘Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song)’, popularized by The Buckinghams, is relaxed and pleasant. ‘Do The Cod (The Thirty Pounder)’ is an uptempo guitar and keyboard driven instrumental, with Schwarz and Andrews supplying understated solos. ‘God Bless (Whoever Made You)’ a Gomm/Lowe composition is a gentle love song featuring nice tempo changes. A cover of Tommy Roe’s ‘Everybody’ is highlighted by Schwarz’s lead line. The Booker T. Jones/William Bell ‘Private Number’ is a tender love song, with gorgeous vocals backed by Andrews’ keyboards. Gomm and Lowe’s ‘Give Me Back My Love’ features a tasty guitar intro and wonderful vocal harmonies. The album closes with a cover of the Bobby Womack written title track given reggae treatment as well as call and response vocals. The bonus material begins with an uptempo ‘There’s A Cloud In My Heart’ released under the name The Brinsleys is a heavy, fuzz fueled rocker with a wicked lead line by Schwarz who supplies a fine solo. The disc is filled out by eight tracks recorded at the Vera Club in Groningen, Netherlands in March 1975 and two in Koln, Germany in June of that year. The highlight is a smooth take on ‘Cruel To Be Kind’ from the Groningen performance with its gorgeous vocals, relaxed lead line, and effortless Schwarz solos. The band is locked in and pulls the tune off flawlessly.

The seven discs of ‘Thinking Back-The Anthology 1970-1975’ are housed in individual cardboard mini-LP sleeves which tuck neatly into a clamshell box. The set comes with a lavishly illustrated, full color thirty two page booklet, with full track annotations, and an in depth essay by compiler Russell Beecher including an interview with Ian Gomm done especially for the box set. Brinsley Schwarz sounds better than ever thanks to the mastering job by Simon Murphy. The set will appeal to fans of pub rock, 1970’s rock and classic rock in general and comes highly recommended.

Kevin Rathert

Brinsley Schwarz – ‘Brinsley Schwarz – Thinking Back (The Anthology 1970-1975)’ (Lemon Recordings/Cherry Red Records)

Brinsley Schwarz | Interview

One Comment
  1. Gary Victor says:

    It is nice to have this all-in-one place however I can’t understand why “ORIGINAL GOLDEN GREATS” was not included. Even though it was a compilation it was a part of the original LP releases, and there ARE quite a few of the bonus tracks that were previously released on other older CD sets that are on this new release. And I don’t understand why The Greasy Truckers set at the Roundhouse was broken up across multiple discs in this new set, it should have had its own disc.

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