Esoteric [Release date 25.11.16]
Some readers may remember a motley band of musicians who – back in the late seventies – masqueraded under that sometimes irksome banner “supergroup”, Hinkley’s Heroes. At various times they included Mel Collins, John Halsey and Bobby Tench (who worked with Mike Patto in Patto and Boxer respectively and with whom Hinkley also worked) and Henry McCullough. The mainman was keyboard player Tim Hinkley who, back in 1968, formed the proto prog power trio Jody Grind. Essentially it was a vehicle for Hinkley and his glorious Hammond organ.
The band’s two albums – originally on the fledgling Transatlantic label – are now re-issued with bonus tracks. One Step On released in October 1969 featured Hinkley with members of Elkie Brooks’ backing band. This included guitarist Ivan Zagni who had previously been in a band with Mike Patto with whom Hinkley worked in ‘Patto’s People’.
The 18 minute, four-part opening track ‘One Step On’ is a classic piece of late-1960s jazz fused prog replete with horn arrangements by future Jethro Tull collaborator David Palmer.
Think more accessible Colosseum with copious amounts of Hammond, the prog band Affinity, Argent, or even Focus at their jamming best. It is not surprising that the band were to garner a cult following in the Netherlands.
‘Lttle Message’ on the other hand recalls the duelling between Vincent Crane and John Du Cann in Atomic Rooster mixed with ‘Spinning Wheel’-era Blood Sweat & Tears. A heady brew, indeed. ****
By 1970′s follow up Far Canal the band had changed personnel with Hinkley joined by guitarist Bernie Holland (later with Hummingbird, Stealer’s Wheel) and Pete Gavin (Head, Hands & Feet). The album was more progressive in content, lacking the horns and opening with the acoustic-based ‘We’ve Had It’ although tracks like ‘Bath Sister’ and ‘Jump Bed Jed’ hark back to the debut.
‘O Paradiso’ on the other hand has a “Jin Go Lo Ba” vibe and is a great testament to this band’s jamming credentials replete with de rigueur drum solo. Ditto the tremendous ‘Red Worms & Lice’ which is the band’s take on ‘Red Beans & Rice’ and references Booker T & The MGs.
Holland was influenced by Boxer’s Ollie Halsall and his guitar figures are both fluid and inventive. In the wake of Cream’s great success and ultimate break-up here was a trio that might have expanded that band’s more adventurous side. ****1/2
This band must have been stonking live but sadly, on the second album, ‘Plastic Shit’ is the only vestige of live recording although both releases are bolstered with bonus alternate and single versions.
These two reissues are essential purchases for lovers of Hammond-infused prog blues and superby redolent of their era. Again a great restoration job by Esoteric and informative sleeve notes by label supremo Mark Powell. Buyers should be aware that these albums were originally available on a 2007 Castle/Sanctuary set.
Review by David Randall
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