BOB STANLEY AND PETE WIGGS PRESENT OCCASIONAL RAIN.

Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Occasional Rain.

Label: Ace Records. 

As the sixties gave way to the seventies, psychedelia prepared to kiss the sky and say goodbye as it exited stage left. However, all wasn’t well despite all the groundbreaking music released during the last few years.

After Woodstock and the Altamont Free Concert the press wrote about acid casualties, bad drugs, chaotic festivals and the death of some the genre’s leading lights. It was a sad end to what had been an exciting musical era. There was no encore, although many mourned psychedelia’s passing.  

Instead, music was in a state of flux as record buyers awaited the “next big thing.” When it arrived it was progressive rock. There was a new kid in town and the times they were a changing in Britain.

During the post-psychedelic and pre-progressive era the music being released is best described as eclectic as musical genres melted into one as musicians created new types of music. That was the case during the period that the music on Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Occasional Rain covers. It  was recently released by Ace Records and features Traffic, Cressida, Keith West, Clouds, The Moody Blues, Yes, Argent, Michael Chapman, Andrew Leigh and Catherine Howe. They combined elements of disparate genres, including folk and jazz as the sixties gave way to the seventies. 

Meanwhile record buyers in Britain awaited the white smoke which was the signal that The Beatles had split-up. Now the blame game could begin.

This wasn’t the only change taking place in Britain. After six years, Harold Wilson’s labour government was defeated at the polls by the Conservatives. It was a new start for the country which had changed over the last few years.

Especially town and city centres which had been redeveloped and were now unrecognisable. Brutalist buildings scarred the skyline and even the newly built homes were starting to crumble across the country. For many it was a worrying time. 

That was why many musicians were writing about what was happening around them in Britain. They watched on and wrote about crumbling towns and cities, poverty, people struggling to find a direction in how and how bad the weather was. All this is documented on Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Occasional Rain.

Opening the compilation is Hidden Treasure from Traffic’s 1971 album The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys. It was released on Island Records and produced by Steve Winwood and Hidden Treasure is an evocative tale of the beauty and benefits of country living, something the band dealt with earlier in their career and decided to return to.

Progressive rockers Cressida signed to the Vertigo label and released two albums between 1970 and 1971. Home and Where I Long To Be is one of the highlights from their 1970 eponymous debut album, which finds the London-based band fusing and flitting between classical, folk and jazz on what’s a vastly underrated album.

By 1967, the Scottish trio 1-2-3 had moved to London and were a popular draw at venues like the Marquee. Despite that, the band changed their name to Clouds and released three albums. However, Once Upon A Time didn’t feature on any of the progressive rockers albums and made a belated and welcome debut on a 2010 compilation Up Above Our Heads (Clouds 1966-71).

In 1969, The Moody Blues who are regarded as the inventors of the progressive suite of songs released their fifth album To Our Children’s Children. It was their first album on Threshold label and the version on the compilation is the single version. It’s atmospheric, beautiful, cinematic and one of the highlights of an excellent album.

Although Shape Of The Rain were formed in Sheffield in 1964, they only released two singles and one album. Wasting My Time was on the B-Side of their single Woman when it was released in 1971. The same year it featured on their debut album Riley, Riley, Wood and Waggett when it was released on RCA’s short-lived imprint Neon. This hidden gem combines elements of the West Coast sound with a quintessential Englishness and is part of an underrated album that deserved to find a wider audience.

When Yes released their eponymous debut album in 1969, it was very different to much of the music being released at the time, and as new, exciting and innovative. One of the album’s highlights is Sweetness. It features a tender Beatlesesque vocal which combines with a dreamy, ethereal arrangement on this beautiful melodic track that played its part in the success of this classic album

Freefall is a track from Argent’s 1969 eponymous album. It was released on CBS and is marked a new chapter in the career of keyboardist Rod Argent. The group rose like a phoenix from the ashes of Three Dog Night and released six albums between 1969 and 1974. One of Argent’s finest moments on their debut is Freefall a  jazz-tinged and melodic rock track.

After training as an art and photography teacher, Michael Chapman taught at Bolton College, in Lancashire and spent his spare time playing the folk circuits. That was where he first encountered John Martyn and Roy Harper. By 1969, Michael Chapman had signed to Harvest Records and turned his back on teaching. Later that year, he released Rainmaker with Fully Qualified Survivor following in 1970 and reaching forty-five in the UK charts. It featured Postcards Of Scarborough which is a tantalising taste of this truly talented and maverick the singer-songwriter and guitarist who is still going strong and releasing music fifty years later in 2020.  

Very few people will have heard of ‘Igginbottom, a short-lived band that was the first to feature guitarist Allan Holdsworth. They only released one album ‘Igginbottom’s Wrench, which released on Deram in 1969. It was a mixture of fusion and progressive rock and has been described as variously bizarre, complex, eclectic and understated. It’s also underrated and innovative as The Castle which opened this oft-overlooked hidden gem of album proves.

Closing Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Occasional Rain is Innocence Of Child from Catherine Howe’s 1971 album What A Beautiful Place. It’s a highly personal album where the Halifax-born singer-songwriter lays bare her soul. One of the most beautiful tracks is the understated and jazz-tinged Innocence Of Child which is the perfect way to close the compilation.

Of all the compilations Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs have curated, this is the best by far. They’ve managed to combined tracks from familiar faces with hidden gems from new names and real rarities like ‘Igginbottom’s The Castle and Catherine Howe’s Innocence Of Child. They’re part of what’s a captivating and lovingly curated overview of the late-sixties and early seventies during the post-psychedelic and pre-progressive era. 

During this period, the music was eclectic and insprired by a variety of genres, especially folk and jazz. Musicians created genre-melting music that was new, exciting and innovative. The songs are variously beautiful, dreamy, ethereal, haunting and ruminative. Other tracks on Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Occasional Rain are cinematic and paint pictures and take the listener back to a time and place, when both music and Britain was changing, and not always for the best.

Of all the compilations released during the first half of 2020, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Occasional Rain is one of the best. Hopefully, this isn’t a one-off compilation and that there will be a followup to Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Occasional Rain where once again, we’re reacquainted with old friends and meet new friends and discover more rarities and hidden gems from the the post-psychedelic and pre-progressive era. 

Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Occasional Rain.

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