Music is all Terry Reid has ever known. It’s been his life. From the day he left St.Ivo School, St.Ives Cambridgeshire, in 1965, Terry Reid was destined to become a musician. His breakthrough came when he joined Peter Jay’s Jaywalkers.
Terry was spotted by Peter Jay, when his band The Redbeats were playing at the River Club, St. Ives. A year later, The Jaywalkers were supporting The Rolling Stones at the Royal Albert Hall. This lifted The Jaywalkers’ profile. Soon, people started taking notice of this up-and-coming band, including Graham Nash.
Not long after the concert at the Royal Albert Hall, Terry met Graham Nash of The Hollies. The pair became good friends. Graham impressed by The Jaywalkers, suggest that they sign to Columbia Records and work with producer John Burgess. This sounded like good advice, so producer The Jaywalkers signed to Columbia Records.
For their debut single, The Jaywalkers recorded The Hand Don’t Fit The Glove. It was produced by John Burgess. On its release in 1967, the soul-tinged The Hand Don’t Fit The Glove, gave The Jaywalkers a minor hit single. This could’ve and should’ve been the start of The Jaywalkers. Sadly, that proved not to be the case. Not long after this, The Jaywalkers split-up. Not long after this, Terry Reid embarked upon his solo career.
It was producer and musical impresario Mickie Most that first spotted Terry’s potential. Mickie became Terry’s manager. He also produced Terry’s solo debut single Better By Far. It was a favourite among radio DJs. This augured well for Terry’s debut album Bang Bang, You’re Terry Reid.
On its release in 1968, Bang Bang, You’re Terry Reid wasn’t a commercial success. It reached just number 153 in the US Billboard 200 charts. Undeterred, Terry headed across the Atlantic on his first American tour. He had been chosen to accompany Cream. This was a prestigious booking that could transform Terry’s nascent career.
Supporting Cream was a huge opportunity. The American market was huge. It was much more lucrative than the British or European markets. Terry and his manager Mickie Most realised this. So they put together a small, tight and talented backing band.
It featured organist Peter Solley and drummer Keith Webb. They provided the backdrop for Terry’s vocal and his virtuoso performances on guitar. This power trio won over American audiences. On the final night of the tour, Terry took to the stage at the Miami Pop Festival. His performance received plaudits and critical acclaim. Terry Reid was going places. However, by going out on tour with Cream, Terry lost the opportunity of a lifetime.
Before heading out on tour with Cream in 1968, word was spreading about Terry Reid. It got as far as Jimmy Page, The Yarbirds’ guitarist. In 1968, he was in the process of putting together a new band. The Yarbirds had just split-up.He was thinking of calling his new band, The New Yarbirds. Eventually, Jimmy’s new band became Led Zeppelin. Having heard good things about Terry Reid, Jimmy decided here was the lead singer he needed. There was a problem though.
For Terry, this was the opportunity of a lifetime. His name was in the frame to join what was essentially an established band. The Yarbirds had been together since 1963. Five years later, they had split-up. The New Yarbirds would pickup where The Yarbirds had left off. However, Terry had committed himself to touring with Cream. He passed on the opportunity to join The New Yarbirds, who eventually, would become Led Zeppelin. Terry however, recommended another singer to Jimmy Page, Birmingham based singer Robert Plant. Terry had seen Robert Plant’s band Band Of Joy and realised he was what Jimmy Page was looking for. That day, rock history was rewritten. This wouldn’t be the last time Terry was asked to join rock royalty.
1969 was an eventful year for Terry Reid. He and his backing band were supporting Jethro Tull and Fleetwood Mac. They also supported The Rolling Stones on their 1969 American tour. However, 1969 was the year Deep Purple were looking for a new lead singer. Rod Evans was being replaced as Deep Purple’s lead singer. Once again, Terry Reid fitted the bill. He was what Deep Purple needed. Lightning struck twice. Terry was under contract and had to decline the opportunity to join Deep Purple, due to contractual arrangements. Yet again, Terry helped rewrite rock history. That however, wasn’t the end of an eventful year.
During 1969, Terry had released his sophomore album, Terry Reid. Over the Atlantic, Terry Reid was entitled Move Over for Terry Reid. It reached number 147 in the US Billboard 200 charts. Again it was produced by Mickie Most, who had plans for Terry’s future career.
Mickie Most had plans for Terry to become a balladeer. This Mickie Most thought, was the direction Terry Reid’s career should take. Terry wasn’t having this. He had his own plans for the future and he wasn’t going to dance to anyone’s tune. So he packed his bags and headed for the sun.
Having landed California in 1970, Terry decided to he would just sit out the remainder of his career. During this period, Terry didn’t perform much. He returned to Britain to play at the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival. After that, Later, Terry returned stateside and played at then Atlanta II Pop Festival. Then in 1971, Terry returned to Britain and played at the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre, which was the forerunner of the Glastonbury Festival. Despite the paucity of live dates, Terry didn’t enter a recording studio.
Terry was determined to see his contract with Mickie Most out. By 1973, Terry was a free man. His contractual problems were behind him, and he was ready to record again. He signed to Atlantic Records and would begin work on his third solo album, River, which was recently rereleased by BGO Records. Produced by Yes’ Eddy Offord and Tom Dowd, River was the long awaited third album from Terry Reid.
For River, Terry had written seven new songs. They were recorded in London and Atlantic Studios. Terry’s band featured a rhythm section of drummer Conrad Isidore, bassist Leo Miles and David Lindley on electric, slide and steel guitar. They were joined by percussionist Willie Bobo. Terry played guitar and sang the lead vocals on River’s seven tracks. Eddy Offord produced two tracks, Dream and Milestones. Tom Dowd produced the rest of River, which was released in 1973.
When River was released in 1973, it was well received by critics. Many critics preferred the looser sound of River. They saw River as Terry and his band were jamming and experimenting, seeing where the tracks took them. This was very different to his first two albums. Sadly, River wasn’t a commercial success. It stalled at just number 172 in the US Billboard 200 charts. For Terry Reid, this was hugely disappointing. Signed to Atlantic Records and with Tom Dowd producing River, this could’ve and should’ve been the start of the rise and rise of Terry Reid. Since the release of River in 1973, it’s always been an underrated album. You’ll realise why, when I tell you about River.
Opening River is Dean. A guitar is panned right and Terry scats. A crystalline guitar panned left is yin to the other guitar. In the middle sits Terry’s weary lived-in vocal. Providing the heartbeat are the rhythm section. Conrad Isidore drums and Leo Miles’ bass become one. All the time, Terry’s vocal grows in power and emotion. It becomes needy. Flanking the vocals are the guitars. They’re the perfect foil for each other and of course, Terry’s vocal powerhouse. That’s not surprising, when the track is produced by Tom Dowd.
The looser sound is apparent again on Avenue. It’s as if Terry and his small band are just jamming. They’re in search of ideas. It’s a case of saying where the arrangement leads. This works. As they unleash searing, rolling licks the rhythm section drive the arrangement. Then all of a sudden, Terry sees an in. His vocal sounds quite different to his two previous albums. It’s as if he’s lived a lot since then. Guitars scream and riff and cymbals constantly crash. They add an element of drama as Terry unleashes a whiskey soaked vocal. All the time, Terry and his band push boundaries and fuse musical genres. Rock, blues and even Southern Rock combine on this Avenue.
As Things To Try unfolds, Terry and his band get to work. A steel and slide guitar are panned left. A probing bass and acoustic guitar are panned right. Thunderous drums pound. Sometimes, flamboyant drum rolls punctuate the arrangement. Terry’s vocal is gravelly and raspy. It’s hard to believe Terry was only twenty-four when he recorded River. Sometimes, his lyrics are akin to a stream of consciousness. It’s as they’re constantly evolving with each take. Behind Terry, his crack band of musicians who are in full flow. They relish the opportunity to showcase their considerable talents on this genre-melting track where they’re at the peak of their powers. This is without doubt, one of River’s highlights.
An acoustic guitar is strummed urgently on Live Life. Percussion is added by Willie Bobo and a country-tinged guitar is panned left. The band are at their tightest. They get straight down to business and the track just flows. Terry’s vocal veers between tender to powerful and impassioned. Sometimes, he sounds like Robert Plant. When his vocal drops out, the band combine country-rock, Southern Rock and blues. They even indulge in a mini jam, before Terry’s vocal returns. From there the arrangement veers between dramatic to flowing. Briefly, it takes on a West Coast sound, as Terry’s vocal powerhouse drifts in and out.
River has a much more understated, laid-back sound. Melancholy describes the arrangement. It’s just crystalline guitars and a shuffling rhythm section that combine before Terry’s tender, thoughtful vocal enters. This shows another side to Terry Reid. His vocal is clearer as he delivers some of his finest lyrics on River. The arrangement is a fusion of jazz, folk and the West Coast sound, as Terry dawns the role of balladeer. It’s a role that suits him and is the finest track on River.
The last two tracks feature just Terry and his trusty acoustic guitar. Dream features a wistful Terry Reid. Confusion, doubt and emotion fill his vocal. So does hurt. Later, his vocal grows in power. It’s as if he’s unleashing the pain he feels. This is apparent in the way he plays the guitar. He almost pounds the strings as he delivers a soul-baring vocal.
Milestones closes River. Again, it’s just Terry and his acoustic guitar. His finger flit up and down the fretboard. He seems unsure. You can hear him breath, as he thinks about the direction the track is heading. Soon, he whistles and later, scats. It’s as if he’s trying to find an in. Eventually, his tender vocal pensive vocal enters. Quickly, it grows in power. Hurt and pain is omnipresent. For Terry playing and singing prove cathartic. He vents his feelings, hurt and pain. His vocal becomes a hurt-filled wail. In the midst of this cathartic outpouring, he plays a couple of wrong notes. This doesn’t seem to matter. You’re spellbound by Terry’s vocals. They’re panned left and right. Oozing emotion, hurt and pain it’s a potent and powerful way to close River.
Four years after Terry Reid released his eponymous sophomore album, Terry was back. He was now signed to Atlantic Records. Since Terry had been away, music had changed. Prog rock, heavy metal, the West Coast Sound, folk and Southern Rock were popular. Terry a musical alchemist, went his own way.
River sees Terry combining elements of blues, rock, folk, jazz, the West Coast Sound and Southern Rock. Some influences are stronger than others as Terry and his band jam their way through River. It has a much looser sound than his two previous albums. That’s no surprise.
During he recording of River, Terry and his band enjoyed lengthy jam sessions. It was a case of plug in and hit record. They played and saw where the track headed. That is apparent on River. Sometimes, it’s as if Terry and his band see where the track is heading. Then they find an in. From there, a song takes shape. Especially on the first four tracks.
The first four tracks feature Terry at his hard rocking best. Terry and the bend feed off each other. They drive each other on. Although he was only twenty-four, Terry was an experienced bandleader. With talented musicians at his side, Terry’s delivers four explosive tracks. It quickly becomes apparent why Jimmy Page thought Terry would be the perfect fit for The New Yarbirds. Sometimes, on River, Terry Reid reminds me of Robert Plant. That’s until the last three tracks on River.
River is an album where we hear both sides of Terry Reid. On the other three songs on River, we hear a very different side to Terry Reid. He’s transformed into a balladeer and lays bare his soul on the three tracks.
Dream and Milestones feature Terry and an acoustic guitar. It’s akin to an outpouring of hurt, pain and emotion. These tracks are some of the best on River. There’s an element of irony in this. It was as a balladeer that Mickie Most envisaged the future for Terry Reid.
Terry Reid balladeer was very different to what Terry envisaged. He had different ideas what the future held for him. That’s what lead to the split with Mickie Most. On River, Terry Reid has his cake and eats it. He veers between the hard rocking Terry Reid of the first four tracks and the balladeer of the final three tracks. That’s why River, which was recently rereleased by BGO Records, is such a compelling album.
It provides an insight to Terry Reid as he matured as a singer, songwriter and musician. He was twenty-four when he released River. His previous album Terry Reid, had been released in 1969, when Terry was just twenty. Much had happened to Terry in the previous four years. This included the dispute with Mickie Most. During that period, Terry Reid didn’t play many concerts. When he did, they were high profile dates, including the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival, the 1970 Atlanta II Pop Festival and the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre. This meant people never forgot Terry Reid. Sadly, when Terry Reid returned in 1973, his third album wasn’t a commercial success.
Released in 1973, River stalled at number 172 in the US Billboard 200 charts. River which showed the two sides of Terry Reid didn’t even match the success of his two previous albums. Terry must have rued his decision to turn down the opportunity to join Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. That was Terry Reid’s chance to become a member of rock royalty. He certainly had the talent. Sadly, Terry didn’t get the breaks.
While Terry Reid enjoyed a successful career, he never quite fulfilled reached the heights he could’ve and should’ve. Things could’ve been very different. However, then Terry Reid would never have recorded River, which shows the two sides of Terry Reid.