The Brotherhood-Stavia.

Label: Out-Sider Music.

After Ohio-based singer, songwriter and musician John Hurd wrote a new song Tragedy in 1971, he booked some studio time so that his band The Revised Brotherhood could record their debut single. Joining John Hurt in the studio when The Revised Brotherhood recorded Tragedy and Those Things was his friend Bill Fairbanks. 

When the time came to record Tragedy, Bill Fairbanks stepped up the microphone and added backing vocals which were the perfect foil for John Hurd’s lead vocal. As the two high school students  listened to the playback, they were pleased with the results. Now though, John Hurd planned to release Tragedy as a single.

This John Hurd knew was going to be easier said than done. He had two alternatives try to interest a local label in the single, or release The Revised Brotherhood’s debut single Tragedy as a private press. However, John Hurd had always planned to release Tragedy as a private press and arranged to have 100 copies pressed by the Heard label which was an imprint of Universal Language.

By the time John Hurd took delivery of the 100 copies of Tragedy, things had changed for the leader of The Revised Brotherhood. John Hurd and Bill Fairbanks had enjoyed recording Tragedy and were keen to repeat the experience. So much so, that they had decided to put together a new band and record an album together.

This new band they called The Brotherhood, which was very different to The Revised Brotherhood. For a start, it was setup more like a traditional rock band and was five piece band. The lineup featured John Hurd on bass, organ and piano and The Revised Brotherhood’s drummer Donny Hoskins. They were joined by Bill Fairbanks who played acoustic guitar, bass and piano. Soon, three became four when Bill Fairbanks recommended a talent and charismatic guitarist who would he believed would be perfect for addition to the new band, Jeff Hanson. He was a versatile guitarist who could seamlessly switch between lead and rhythm guitar. After an audition, Jeff Hanson joined The Brotherhood. By then, the lineup was almost complete and soon, the dream of making an album became reality.

The final piece of the jigsaw fell into place when John Hurd met flautist MJ Coe, and invited him to jam with The Brotherhood. After the initial jam session, John Hurd asked MJ Coe to join The Brotherhood, and when he accepted the rest of the band knew that the lineup of the band was complete. Now they could begin working towards their debut album Stavia which was recently reissued by Out-Sider Music, an imprint of Guerssen Records. 

With the lineup of The Brotherhood in place, John Hurd asked Bill Fairbanks and Jeff Hanson to bring any songs that they had written and might suit the band to the first rehearsal. Neither John Hurd nor The Brotherhood were wasting any time, began work on their debut album straight away. Recording an album was The Brotherhood’s raison d’être. It was why the band had been formed in April 1972, and was what The Brotherhood worked towards over the next five months. 

At their next rehearsal, John Hurd brought along a couple of songs that he had been working on, Colour Line, Uncle and Meditation Part 2. These songs were work-in-progress until he showed them to Bill Fairbanks. Soon, Colour Line, Uncle and Meditation Part 2 were compete and were credited to John Hurd and Bill Fairbanks. He also contributed Back Door and Meditation Part 1, while guitarist Jeff Hanson wrote For Her Time. Meanwhile, John Hurd had written Rock and Roll Band and Cry Of Love. A decision was also taken to rerecord Tragedy which had been released in 1971 as The Revised Brotherhood’s debut single.

Over the next few weeks and months, The Brotherhood spent much of their time tightening and honing their songs and the group’s sound. The band knew that they had to have their A-Game on when they eventually entered the studio. As a result, much of their time was spent rehearsing, and occasionally The Brotherhood played live during the summer of 1972. However, they never lost sight of what brought them together recording an album.

Eventually, the time came for The Brotherhood to record the nine songs that became their debut album Stavia, which John Hurd decided should become a place that existed only in the band’s imagination. However, Stavia had a theme running through the nine songs on the album. That theme of Stavia was love, with The Brotherhood hoping that people could love and be free and pleasant to each other. This may seem idealistic in 2018, but Stavia has to be taken in context. In 1972, the Vietnam War was raging and the Civil Rights movement continued in its valiant attempt to transform the lives of African-Americans. It’s no surprise that The Brotherhood’s message on Stavia was love and the hope that people could be free and pleasant to each other.

When the time came for The Brotherhood to record Stavia, the band was more than ready to record their debut album. They had spent months tightening the song and honing their sound. Drummer Donny Hoskins was joined by Bill Fairbanks on acoustic guitar, bass, piano and vocals while John Hurd played bass, organ, piano and added vocals. Flautist MJ Coe also played acoustic guitar and added vocals. So did Jeff Hanson as he switched between lead and rhythm guitar. Soon, The Brotherhood had achieved what they had set out to do, and recorded their debut album Stavia.

With Stavia complete, the next step was for The Brotherhood to release their debut album. Just like The Revised Brotherhood’s debut single Tragedy, Stavia was released as private press. However, this time,  Rite Record Productions produced around 200 copies of Stavia which nowadays, it’s an extremely rare album. 

Stavia is also an album that for many a year was shrouded in mystery and had had become a mythical album. Some record collectors doubted that Stavia even existed. They’ve since been proved wrong with the recent reissue of Stavia by the Out-Sider label. 

Back in September 1972 The Brotherhood achieved what they had set out to do five months earlier when they released their debut album Stavia. Sadly, that was the end of the road for The Brotherhood now that they had released their debut album. There was no followup to Stavia, and the five members of The Brotherhood went their separate ways. However, their musical legacy is Stavia.

Opening Stavia is Colour Line a song where The Brotherhood hope that one day the racism that divided American would be a thing of the past. Tight harmonies join the rhythm section, chirping guitar, washes  of Hammond organ and a flute that climbs above the hopeful vocal. By then, it’s obvious that The Brotherhood is a tight, talented band as Donny Haskins drums anchor the arrangement and John Hurd’s Hammond organ and Jeff Hanson’s searing, blistering guitar licks play a starring role alongside a heartfelt and soulful vocal. Later, as The Brotherhood jam they showcase their skills, before they continue to combine social comment and hooks on this melodic and memorable thought-provoking song.

The tempo drops on the ballad Rock And Roll Band which was written by John Hurd. He takes charge of the vocal on this tale of love gone awry as a dreamy, thoughtful and dramatic acid rock arrangement unfolds around him and grabs the listener’s attention.

Soon, a swirling Hammond organ has joined the rhythm section, keyboards and chirping guitar. This is the signal for the vocal to drop out and The Brotherhood to jam. They enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs before the vocal returns and John completes the story. Meanwhile,  bristling guitar licks and washes of Hammond organ accompany him before his vocal drops out again. He adds the occasional whoop or holler as he encourages the group, and especially virtuoso guitarist Jeff Hanson to even greater heights.

Washes of Hammond organ combine with flute and the drums that drive the arrangement to Back Door along. It’s a tale of betrayal where the tender, rueful vocal swings. When it drops out this leaves the coast clear for the rest of The Brotherhood who tempo. As they do, the tempo rises and falls as the arrangement becomes progressive as the swirling Hammond organ, fluttering flute and searing guitar combine with rhythm section who provide the heartbeat. Later, when the vocal returns John complete the story and The Brotherhood power the arrangement along until it reaches a thoughtful ending.

As For Her Time unfolds, Jeff Hanson’s blistering guitar is joined by the swirling and driving Hammond organ and the rhythm section who produces a stomping beat. Meanwhile, the vocal tells the tragic story a woman with nothing to live for and: “nothing for her time.” Soon, the arrangement becomes lysergic, funky and at one point references The Who. All the time, Donny Hoskins drums drive and power the arrangement along. They’re joined by keyboards, searing, scorching guitars and later washes of Hammond organ. During a lengthy instrumental passage The Brotherhood in full flight reach new heights and this is an impressive sound. When the vocal returns it completes the story and adds the finishing touch to one of Stavia’s finest moments.

Meditation Part 1 is a pain led instrumental where The Brotherhood show another side to their music. Gone is the hard rocking band of the previous track as the track gradually builds with the rhythm section and flute joining the piano. This results  in a much more ruminative sounding track where The Brotherhood playing within themselves. The result is a quite beautiful sounding track that offers the opportunity for reflection. 

John Hurd was inspired to write Uncle after hearing Neil Young’s Ohio. The Uncle in the song is Uncle Sam, as John deals with  the subject of war and being young and having to serve your country. Lysergic keyboards and a Hammond organ are joined by the flute and guitar as the rhythm section enter and John delivers an impassioned and emotive vocal. Briefly backing vocals accompany him during a song that features a much more restrained performance from The Brotherhood. This allows the impassioned vocal to take centre-stage during thought-provoking song full of social comment.

Very different is Cry Of Love which gradually reveals its secrets and again, shows another side to The Brotherhood. Against an arrangement where washes of Hammond organ join the piano, rhythm section and flute John delivers a soul-baring vocal that is full of emotion. Meanwhile, the rest of the band take care not to overpower the vocal. That is the case when a swirling Hammond organ adds an elements of drama and joins the rhythm section and flute as this beautiful, poignant song reaches its crescendo.

Originally, Tragedy was released as a single by The Revised Brotherhood. It was revised by The Brotherhood on Stavia and features a vampish vocal by bandleader John Hurt. He’s accompanied by cooing harmonies, while the rhythm section anchor the arrangement as keyboards join a guitar and flute. Together, they play their part in progressive and sometimes funky example of acid rock that is without doubt one of the highlights of Stavia.

Meditation Part 2 which closes Stavia and is the longest song on the album. There was a reason for this as The Brotherhood wanted to leave room for a lengthy guitar solo from Jeff Hanson. The easiest way to do that was lengthen the song. It opens with a flute accompanying the subtle rhythm section, Hammond organ and tender vocal. This is the case until Jeff Hanson unleashes  a blistering, Hendrix-inspired solo at 1.12. Meanwhile the tender vocal sits below the guitar and the powerhouse of a rhythm section. However, it’s Jeff Hanson that plays a starring role in the track and steals the show with a musical tour de force. It’s the perfect way to close Stavia.

When The Brotherhood released 200 copies of Stavia in September 1972 it was a proud moment, and one that they had been working towards for five months. Little did five members of The Brotherhood realise the impact that Stavia would have over the next five decades.

Nowadays, Stavia is regarded as one of the great acid rock private presses released in America during the early seventies. However, sometimes, the music heads in the direction acid folk, funk, heavy rock and in the case of vocals soul. To this musical potpourri The Brotherhood add social comment as they comment on the problems facing America in 1972. Other times, John Hurd becomes a storyteller as he delivers tales of love lost and heartbreak on Stavia which was the mythical place that The Brotherhood invented.

The recent reissue of Stavia by the Out-Sider label is the perfect opportunity to discover or rediscover one of the rarest provide presses of the early seventies. Stavia was the one and only album that that the Ohio-based Rock and Roll Band The Brotherhood released during a career that lasted just five months. Incredibly, that was long enough for The Brotherhood to released their spellbinding acid rock genre classic Stavia which features a truly talented and versatile band.

The Brotherhood-Stavia.

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