DEKE LEONARD-ICEBERG.

DEKE LEONARD-ICEBERG.

Four years after founding Man in 1968, Deke Leonard was on a sabbatical from the Welsh rockers. Deke left Man for the first time in May 1972. This allowed Deke to do something he’d always wanted, record his debut solo album. Over the next twenty months, Deke with a few of his musical friends, including Martin Ace of Man, recorded Iceberg, Deke Leonard’s debut album.

Deke had picked the perfect time to take a sabbatical from Man. Although Man’s fourth studio album, Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In?, which was released in November 1971, things weren’t going well for Man.

After appearing on German television, Man embarked upon their latest tour. This time, Man were heading off on a tour of Iceland, with Badfinger. However, it seemed Man were never off the road. Life for some members of Man, was becoming like one never-ending tour. Unsurprisingly, this lead to tensions within the band. Arguments became commonplace. Eventually, the tensions took their toll. 

First to leave was Clive John in January 1971. He left to form Lowerth Pritchard and The Neutrons. Now a quartet, Man made their debut at a charity concert at the Roundhouse, in London.

Man’s reduced lineup made their debut at the Roundhousem where they supported Hawkwind and Brinsley Schwarz. Not long after the concert, a double album was released, entitled Greasy Truckers Party.  Then on 8th April 1972, Man recorded another live album.

This was Live at the Padget Rooms, Penarth. Man decided that Live at the Padget Rooms, Penarth should be a limited edition, low budget album. So, only eight thousand copies were pressed. They sold within a week, resulting in Man reaching number one on the low budget album chart. However, Man it seemed, were riding a roller coaster, where commercial success, controversy and disaster were commonplace.

Following the success of  Live at the Padget Rooms, Penarth, Man decided to start work on their next album. When they sat down to write the album, Man it seemed, had collective writer’s block. Making matters worse, Martin Ace left Man, form  a new band The Flying Aces. This however, wasn’t the end of the departures.

Around this time, Man should’ve had a revolving door, fitted to recording studios. Members came and went. Next to go was Deke Leonard. Micky Jones and Terry Williams sacked Deke Leonard. Replacing Deke was Clive John, who brought Phil Ryan and and Will Youatt, who previously, had been Lowerth Pritchard and The Neutrons. With this latest lineup of Man, Deke Leonard found himself out in the cold. So, it seemed the perfect time to embark upon a solo career.

After his departure from Man, Deke Leonard was offered a recording contract by Andrew Lauder of United Artists. Initially, Deke was to record four tracks. However, soon, Deke was recording his debut album, Iceberg.

Work began on Iceberg in May 1972. Deke penned nine tracks and cowrote three other tracks, including Nothing Is Happening with Martin Ace, while Deke and Crosby Eischer wrote Crosby (Second Citizen Blues). The other track on Iceberg, The Ghost Of Musket Flat, was penned by Deke, Martin Ace, Mickey Jones, Terry Williams and Dave Phillips. These tracks became Iceberg. 

When recording of Iceberg began, Deke was accompanied by some of his musical friends. This included another former member of Man, bassist Martin. They were joined in the rhythm section by drummers Beau Adams, Dave Charles, Tommy Riley and Terry Williams, bassists Paul Burton and guitarist Tommy Morley. Other musicians included Byron Berlin on fiddle, violinist Dave Phillips and rather cryptically, Ralph Down on electronics. Deke a true multi-instrumentalist, played guitar, harmonium, keyboards, mellotron, organ, piano, slide guitar and added vocals. Eventually, after twenty months and three co-producers, Iceberg was completed. Would it sink like the Titanic or launch Deke Leonard’s solo career?

Before its release, critics had their say on Deke Leonard’s debut solo album. Described as roots rock, critics were won over by most of Iceberg. However, the instrumentals and more experimental tracks veered towards filler. However, even despite these musical faux pax, Iceberg is regarded by some critics as Deke Leonard’s finest solo album, on its release in 1973.

On its release in 1973, Iceberg sold well. This was the first of two albums Deke released before returning to Man’s ranks, for another tour of duty. However, the album that launched Deke’s solo career was Iceberg.

Opening Iceberg is Razorblades and Rattlesnake, a track later covered by Quicksilver Messenger Service. Deke’s blazing, blistering guitar takes centre-stage, dramatically driving the arrangement along. The rhythm and urgent stabs of piano provide the backdrop for Deke’s virtuoso performance and later, accusing vocal. Playing an important part are the backwards drums played by Dave Charles. They add to the drama and urgency. When the vocal drops out, it’s time for another breathtaking solo.Deke’s fingers fly up and down the fretboard, producing what can only be described as musical magic.

I Just Can’t Win was released as a single before the release of Iceberg. So, it was never meant to feature on Iceberg. However, it was too good a track to omit. Here, Deke and his band roll back the years. What follows is a track whose roots are in rock ’n’ roll. From the moment the arrangement bursts into life, bassist Martin Ace and drummer Tommy Riley produce the heartbeat Deke delivers a vocal that’s filled with frustration and anger. To reinforce this frustration and anger, the arrangement stops, only to start again. Deke’s other addition are chiming, searing guitar licks he unleashes chiming. They’re the perfect addition to this irresistible radio friendly track.

Lisa marks a stylistic change from Deke Leonard. It’s a folk tinged ballad sung with feeling. Deke’s delivery is impassioned, but tinged with confusion. He can’t decide whether Lisa is for him, and if she is, will she change her ways. As Deke delivers the lyrics, fiddles, acoustic guitars and rolls of drums accompany him. The arrangement grows, and all the time, Deke paints pictures, with the lyrics, allowing the listener to hear another side of Deke Leonard.

Just a brief burst of a Spanish guitar opens Nothing Is Happening. With an acoustic guitar, rhythm section and harmonium for company Deke delivers a tender, thoughtful vocal. Accompanying him are the Rockfield Choir, which includes Martin Ace, formerly of Man. Soon, it’s all change and an electric guitar cuts through the arrangement, which veers between psychedelic and rocky. By then, Deke’s vocal is almost despairing, as he sings “Nothing Is Happening,” on what proves to be a captivating song of two parts. 

After Deke and his band are counted in, Looking For A Man, which like Nothing Is Happening was co-produced  by Tom Boyle. Unlike previous tracks, the rhythm section features two drummers. They’re put to gut use, driving the grinding, buzzing arrangement along. Atop the arrangement Deke unleashes some blistering licks, and adds a grizzled vocal. Together, they play their part in this blistering fusion of blues and rock.

Deke and his band are at their heaviest on A Hard Way To Live. It’s co-produced by Deke’s fellow Celt, Dave Edmunds. Bursts of guitars set the scene for the rhythm section and piano. Together, they provide a glorious rocky backdrop for Deke. As if inspired, Deke seems to draw inspiration from Robert Plant, as he and his band at his heaviest combine blues, boogie and heavy rock.

Hesitantly, Broken Ovation gets underway. Again, guitars are scene setters, chiming and wah-wah-ing. There’s then a nod to The Who, in the harmonies. For the next minutes, the track veers between rocky and experimental. A Man style jam unfolds. Then after ninety seconds, Deke’s vocal enter. It’s urgent and dramatic. So is the arrangement, which sees Deke and his band return to their heaviest. Later, when the vocal drops out, another Man style jam unfolds. Tinged with an experimental hue, it shows yet another side of the chameleon-like Deke Leonard.

Jesse sees another stylistic change from Deke Leonard and his band.  It’s a dramatic piano lead ballad. Soon, an organ enters, giving the track an almost spiritual sound. Maybe that’s not surprising, given the Church’s importance in Wales in the seventies. By then, Deke’s vocal is filled with emotion as he despairingly sings: “Jesse get back home, there’s nothing here for you.” Later, as the rhythm section and the Rockfield Choir accompany a desperate and protective Deke he pleads “Jesse get back home, I’m begging on my knees.” This results in one of the most moving tracks on Iceberg.

Ten Thousand Takers sees Deke switch to slide guitar. He seems just as comfortable, unleashing washes of guitar on this shuffle. With just the rhythm section and harmonies for company, Deke’s guitar takes centre-stage. The only let down are the lyrics. While they’ve a cinematic quality, and it’s possible to imagine the “Ten Thousand Takers” circling like sharks, they’re without doubt, the weakest on Iceberg. That’s a great shame as Deke and his band produce a blistering performance. Maybe Ten Thousand Takers would’ve been better as an instrumental jam?

The Ghost Of Musket Jam is a genre-melting track. Elements of folk, folk-rock and prog rock are combined by Deke, Mickey Jones and The Manband. They quickly get into a groove and are responsible for a track that has a hypnotic, mesmeric quality.

Crosby (Second Class Citizen) is aptly titled. With a myriad of growls, beeps, squeaks and buzzes an experimental track with a sci-fi sound unfolds. If ever there was a case of an artist trying to be too clever, this is it. Describing Crosby (Second Class Citizen) as filler is being kind. It’s very much the second classic citizen of Iceberg, and is unlikely to endear itself to the listener.

717 551 closes Iceberg. It’s a welcome return to Deke’s more familiar rocky sound. Again, two drummers are deployed. This proves effective. The arrangement marches along to the beat of the Tommy Riley and Dave Charles’ drums. Meanwhile, Deke dawns the role of guitar hero and unleashes some blistering licks. For a minute this jam unfolds. Only then does Deke’s vocal enter. Still the arrangement marches along, with the rhythm section in the tightest of grooves. Martin Ace’s bass is joined by occasional rolls of drums. Then there’s Deke’s guitar masterclass. It’s one of his most impressive performances, and bookends Iceberg perfectly.

As debut albums go, Iceberg was well received by music critics. Their only criticism was that there were a couple of weak tracks. That’s still the case forty-two years later.

Ten Thousand Takers and and Crosby (Second Class Citizen) are the guilty parties. Neither track should’ve made it onto the album. The problem with Ten Thousand Takers was the lyrics. They’re without doubt, the weakest on Iceberg. That’s a great shame as Deke and his band produce a blistering performance. Maybe Ten Thousand Takers would’ve been better as an instrumental jam? Crosby (Second Class Citizen), an experimental, sci-fi sounding track is the low point of Iceberg. If ever there was a case of an artist trying to be too clever, this is it. Why Crosby (Second Class Citizen) made it onto Iceberg is puzzling. Quality control went awry there. Without these two tracks, Iceberg is a much better album.

Indeed, Iceberg would become a great album, rather than merely a good album. Ironically, on Estoric Recordings’ newly released version of Iceberg, six bonus tracks are added. It seems lessons haven’t been learnt. Sprawling albums don’t work.

Back in 1973, trying to release an album featuring twelve tracks was ambitious. Very few groups or artists were capable of this. The ones that were able to release such a sprawling album, were among rock royalty. They were able to write and record twelve songs where the quality is consistent. That doesn’t include Deke Leonard. After all, Iceberg was only his debut album. Maybe in the future that would the case. However, not in 1973.

If Iceberg had been released as a ten track album, minus Ten Thousand Takers and and Crosby (Second Class Citizen), it would’ve been a much better album. Iceberg might have received widespread critical acclaim and been a much bigger commercial success. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Instead, Deke Leonard only released one further album for United Artists.

This was Kamikaze, which was released in 1974. Just like Iceberg, it was also recently released. However, a cheaper way to buy Iceberg and Kamikaze is to buy BGO Records two-on-one which was released in December 2008. After Kamikaze, Deke Leonard returned to Man, for another lengthy tour of duty.  Deke for much of the next forty years, was a member of Man. He eventually left Man in 2004. During that period, Deke only released one album, 1981s Before Your Eyes. Then a year after leaving Man for the second time, Deke Leonard released his fourth and final album Freedom And Chains. However, Deke Leonard’s best album is 1973s Iceberg, which sadly, is two songs short of being a great album.

DEKE LEONARD-ICEBERG.

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