After four years with the jazz-focused Chris Barber Band, drummer Pete York departed to form his own group, recruiting bassist Steve Richardson, Mel Thorpe on horns and woodwinds, and synth/keyboardist Roger Munns. Signing to the German Teldec label, the band released three European-only albums, kicking off with its 1980 debut, Into the Furnace, produced by Thomas Martin. York's time with Barber was well spent; it gave the drummer his first opportunity to play in a jazz ensemble, an experience he wasn't ready to leave behind just yet. Thus, much of Into the Furnace is jazz-inspired, although with ribbons of rock and R&B streaming through, the band creates a hybrid sound far removed from the fusion most groups parleyed when crossing these genres. "This Time," for instance, slides adroitly between R&B, boogie, Britbeat, and modern jazz, subtly connecting the dots between these interconnected styles. "Ways and Means" blends jazz, rock, and a funky-fired bassline; other numbers slip into proggier territory, reaching an apotheosis with the flute-led jazz-rocker title track and the storming "Reason Why," an incendiary jazz-rocker that slams straight into a fevered boogie-woogie. York's own Britbeat past is revisited on a punchy cover of "Gimme Some Lovin'," but is best experienced on the group's own "Blue Mountain Roll," which digs deep into the blues, hitting veins of inspired jazz saxophone and majestic rock synth along the way. This was an adventurous set, and suffered accordingly -- too rocking for jazz fans and too jazzy for the rockers, while the R&B, blues, and funk that underpin a number of the pieces were too few and far between for lovers of '60s musical Americana. Today, however, when recycling of styles is so prevalent, this set sounds not just fresh, but thoroughly at home. This reissue appends three bonus tracks to the original album, all recorded a few years later upon the arrival of singer/organist Eddie Harden (another Spencer Davis Group alumni) and all venturing down musical avenues similar to the mother set.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene