Family

Fearless

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After Family concluded their second stateside tour in mid-1971 they were to again face personnel changes as John Weider (bass) was replaced by John Wetton (bass/guitar/vocals) just in time to chip in for Fearless, their sixth long-player in four years. Listeners who had enjoyed their most recent platters might have been a bit nonplussed when confronted with this disc, as the combo's direction was notably altered. Wetton brought along his trademark propulsive performance style, which is immediately evident on the heavy midtempo opener, "Between Blue and Me." Charlie Whitney (guitar/mandolin/percussion) presents some expressive strings weaving through Wetton's full bottom-end bombs. The decidedly English "Sat'd'y Barfly" recalls the inebriated vibe of lighter-weight numbers à la the Faces, and the Ladbroke Horns do little to help as a prominent tuba rhythmically poots along. Poli Palmer's (keyboards/vibes/flute/percussion) roly-poly piano further conjures up a barroom setting while pulling the tune together. As if the juxtaposition of those tracks wasn't incongruous enough, the slightly off-kilter and trippy "Larf and Sing" features a breezy four-on-the-floor backbeat that predates disco in chronology only. It drops out for a jazzy a cappella chorus that could easily be executed by the Hi-Lo's or Four Freshmen. Whitney's wah-wah is also a focal point as it slithers in between the verses. Another of the album's best offerings is the "Spanish Tide"/"Save Some for Thee'" medley. Highlighted is the combination of Roger Chapman's powerful warbling and Wetton's sturdy vocal timbre. The pair shine against the intricate melody, brought to life by a well-balanced blend of Whitney's acoustic fretwork. On the funky rocker "Take Your Partners," the bandmembers maneuver their interaction with an aptitude and skill that would arguably best any jam-based aggregate of the day. Concluding Fearless is the sinuous "Burning Bridges," sporting a Chapman lead that is almost uncomfortable in its palpable sense of foreboding. Whitney's muted mandolin likewise has a haunting ruminative quality as it dances and seemingly mocks the simmering tempo. Although admittedly uneven, Fearless was the first of two Family titles to make an impact in the States, where it peaked at a modest number 177 in February of 1972.

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