Formerly Fat Harry

Goodbye for Good: The Lost Recordings 1969-1972

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Because Formerly Fat Harry did only one album, and because this CD contains just two songs from that LP (and even so, in different versions), this disc can be considered a missing second record of sorts for the band. "Of sorts" is an important qualification here: since the dozen tracks are taken from demos and live recordings not originally cut with the intention of release, and since they were done over quite a long period, it's not fair to judge this as a stand-alone album. Understandably given the sources and wide chronological range, it's erratic and lacks consistent direction, though there are the seeds of a decent record (or records) here. More often than not, however, this band of largely Californian expatriates based in England (including ex-Country Joe & the Fish bassist Bruce Barthol) wrote and played a mixture of fairly winning late-period psychedelia, folk-rock, and country-rock, though their styles were variant enough that this CD sometimes seems like the work of more than one band. A few of the songs are quite good, like the wistful folk-rock of "Girl on a Bicycle" (co-written by guitarist/keyboardist/singer Gary Peterson with notable British folk singer/songwriter Ralph McTell), "Corelia Correll" (which effectively mixes folk-rock with early keyboard-oriented Procol Harum-like prog rock), and another delicate folk-rock tune in "As the Rain Falls." There are also times in which the spacy vocals, minor-keyed melodies, and guitar reverbs can recall vintage Country Joe & the Fish, particularly in "Girl on a Bicycle," "Funky 8," and "Time Slips By," though that influence isn't wholly down to Barthol, since he didn't write either of those tunes (and in fact wrote very little of the material here). At other times, the band slips into pleasant but relatively pedestrian country-rock (a cover of "Wild Side of Life") and undistinguished bluesy psychedelic jamming, traits they share with many Californian bands of the time. Not everything here, then, was worthy of being enshrined on a proper album. But as a mop-up of largely interesting odds and ends, much of which is up to the standard of material that should have been considered for release, it's a worthy archival anthology, the liner notes giving an interesting summary of the band's highly unusual career.

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