THE LATE Songs From The Family Tree (WHCD021)

 

1. Family Tree

2. Phyllis Marrow

3. City Square

4. If I Needed Someone

5. A Girl Like You

6. Please Stay

7. Raise Your Hand

8. Train Coming My Way

9. She Is Pretty

10. Beautiful Day

11. Queen Of Hearts

12. Working Man

13. Hey My Love

14. Doris

15. Going Back Home

16. Do What You Will

17. Our Love's A Memory

18. Faint Is The Song

19. Corrina Corrina

20. Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring?

21. P. F. Sloan (previously unreleased alternative mix)

 

Although harmony-based British soft rock act Unicorn didn't release their superb debut album, Uphill All The Way, until mid-1971, the core of the band had been playing together, principally as the Late, since the 1963 beat boom explosion. Taken from previously unreleased acetates and studio tapes, Songs From The Family Tree charts the Late's hitherto-undocumented progress during the late Sixties, as they slowly evolved from their original, Hollies-inspired psychedelic pop direction to create a more individual identity. Featuring comprehensive liner notes, group quotes and numerous photographs, Songs From The Family Tree is an essential item for Unicorn fans and admirers of late Sixties British pop alike.

"Do you remember Unicorn? Early to mid-70s soft rockers of this parish, latterly produced by David Gilmour? Here they are in embryonic form as The Late - previously The Late Edition, and The Pink Bears previous even to that. Their love of close harmony pop, and their natural aptitude for same, is explicit straight from the off: but their abilities, compositional clout and indeed the overall recording quality take a quantum leap from 1968's 'Train Coming My Way' onwards, with a classy clutch of Ken Baker songs recorded in Bob Potter Studios - the pinnacle of Mytchett technocracy. Songs such as 'Going Back Home', 'Doris' and 'Working Man' boast beautifully judged, featherweight performances, pealing three-part harmonies and a sureness of touch which renders their obscurity inexplicable. In '68, The Hollies would have nutted everyone out of the way for material as strong as this." (Shindig!)

"This album represents the back-story of one of the UK's most pleasing country-rock acts of the 70s, Unicorn. Formed as The Pink Bears in 1963, the band struck out eight years before their Unicorn debut on Transatlantic in 1971. The early years, herein presented chronologically, were entertaining ones in which the band flirted with psych, blues and pop, with varying degrees of success. Early tracks such as 'Family Tree' and 'Phyllis Marrow' are shot through with the ambitious melodic and harmonic sensibilities of the time and stand up well, though the vocals of Pat Martin are not always entirely convincing. Later, as they shifted direction, the music got more reflective and thoughtful; 'Beautiful Day' and the gorgeously folky 'Hey My Love' are cases in point, as is a charming version of Corinna, Corinna. Taken from previously unreleased acetates and demos, this is a well-concocted compilation that will please, and probably surprise, all devotees of 60s UK pop." (Record Collector)

"During a month-long residency at the Carousel Club in Copenhagen, the members of Surrey-based pop group the Late experienced something of a musical epiphany. One evening a DJ from the disco upstairs told them, "I got an album that is going to blow your minds!" A chillum was passed around, and they proceeded to listen to this brand new import, the Crosby, Stills & Nash album. The experience seems to have been transformative. Certainly, it encouraged them to jettison covers and focus on originals. In 1971 they'd sign with Transatlantic, change their name to Unicorn, and make their recording debut with Uphill All The Way. This collection of previously unreleased demos and rehearsal tapes documents the band finding their way through the late Sixties, eventually hitting on the West Coast-flavoured harmony sound that would carry them through the Seventies. The set opens with a 1967 publisher's demo of an early band original, bassist Pat Martin's 'Family Tree', a catchy Traffic-goes-tropical pun-fest (Opening lines: Won't you come in the woods with me/I just want to show you my family tree"). From the same year come 'Phyllis Marrow' and 'City Square', both co-written by Ken Brown (guitar/keyboards) and then-manager Tub Martin (Pat's dad). While the former is something of a Who/Hollies hybrid, the latter is a cleverly arranged bit of Pepperland whimsy with fiery, 'Hey Grandma'-inspired licks from the Late's excellent lead guitarist, Trevor Mee. Rounding out the artifacts from '67 are rehearsal run-throughs of songs they were covering at the time, such as the Young Rascals' 'A Girl Like You'. There's also a slowed-down, spooky and psychedelicized take on 'If I Needed Someone'. Although it would be awhile before they'd go all-original, the ten 1968 song demos included here reveal that Ken Brown was already hitting his stride as a songwriter, and a distinctive group sound was gelling around the lead vocals of drummer Pete Perryer. There's not a dud in the bunch, and the rousing country-rockers 'Do What You Will' and 'Our Love's A Memory' would not have sounded out of place on Moby Grape '69. An alternate mix of Unicorn's '71 cover of Jimmy Webb's lovely 'P F Sloan' provides a fitting coda." (Ugly Things)

 

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