Various Artists

Progressive Pop: Inside the 70's

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Beginning in the late '60s, the Decca Records offshoot Deram was responsible for a host of concurrently new and undeveloped artists. As distribution and availability were rather limited in areas beyond the U.K., 1995's Progressive Pop: Inside the 70's affords listeners a compilation of harder to find material from aggregates whose fresh approaches were definitely products of their respective environments. The label brought together a healthy variety of sounds from the decidedly further (i.e., progressive) reaches of the ever-changing British pop and rock scene. The vast majority would not go on to make much of an impact, but as the anthology aptly exemplifies, these performers were creating minor masterworks that easily stand alongside better-known "landmarks" of the era. Of the nearly two-dozen acts included, Walrus was among the handful to seamlessly integrate a straightforward combo into a similarly aggressive brass section. The opener, "Who Can I Trust," fuses R&B-laced horns onto otherwise typical power chords, yielding wholly atypical results (Walrus is additionally one of three bands boasting more than one entry, with the ominously belligerent "Never Gonna Let My Body Touch the Ground"). Ex-Marmalade constituent Junior Campbell also supplies a pair of selections. His eclectic pop-oriented style draws upon a blend of catchy phrases with a discernibly rural texture, as heard on the happy-go-lucky "Goodbye Baby Jane" and the light "Sweet Illusion." The latter sports brisk orchestration that would not have been too out of place within the context of the burgeoning stateside Philly soul movement -- speaking of which, former Almost Blues and Dennisons associate Colin Areety takes on Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's "One Night Affair," a track perhaps best recalled as a hit for the O'Jays. These contrast the folky "I Wrapped Her in Ribbons" from Gallard Brown and the classically influenced "Dan the Wing" via Mellow Candle. Both units join Rococco's heavily synth-laden "Ultrastar" for a walk on the "prog" side, and are highlighted by intricate melodies executed by equally adept musicians who lean toward what could be considered a precursor to the up-and-coming art rock movement. Granted, while this assessment barely scratches the surface, enthusiasts whose interests have been piqued are encouraged to explore the wide array of vibrations on Progressive Pop: Inside the 70's.

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