Some of the most adventurous British bands of the '70s arose from the bowels of the cirrhosis ridden circus of the pub circuit, Johnny Warman's Bearded Lady among them. Formed from the flickering out of Elmo's Fire in 1971, the London band plied the pub and club stages for the next five years, winning fans and friends among the capital's movers and shakers, yet releasing just one single in their lifetime, the insolent, anthemic and cavalier "Rockstar." An album was recorded, but it would be another three decades before it saw the light of day. The Rise and Fall rounds up the full-length's seven tracks and tacks on a quartet of period live recordings to flesh out the band's appeal. Heavily influenced by glam, the Small Faces, Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin, but wise enough to know better than attempt to emulate the latter two, the album sashays between lovely downtempo numbers (proto-power ballads), blistering R&B, and spirited rock with glammy overtones, with the wonderful "Warning" splitting the difference between the latter two. The live numbers, recorded at the London Marquee Club in 1975, are equally eclectic, but with far inferior sound quality, and capture the power the group delivered on-stage, with the highlight being the incendiary "Kerb Crawler." Shaved from the scene with much of the rest of their compatriots by punk's razor blade, and like their friends the Heavy Metal Kids, Bearded Lady bridged the gap between classic rock's excesses and punk's nihilism. Finally this Lady is getting the respect she has so long deserved.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson