Album review: SHAPE OF THE RAIN – Rily Riley Wood & Waggett (Deluxe Edition)

SHAPE OF THE RAIN - Rily Riley Wood & Waggett (Deluxe Edition)

Grapefruit [Release date: 24.04.20]

Deep catalogue but worth the wait is this welcome reissue of an unjustly-neglected little diamond dogged by ill fortune.

Signing to emergent imprint Neon back in 1971 probably seemed a good plan given it was run by the A&R brains behind hugely successful progressive label Vertigo, Olav Wyper.

Yet despite some fine fare from the likes of Indian Summer and Spring, the little label was closed the following year, culled by owner RCA on the likely basis it wasn’t generating the cash mountain expected. The consequently slim output of 11 titles is therefore highly collectible – and doggedly obscure.

Sheffield band Shape of the Rain, comprising the brothers Riley and pals Wood and Waggett, had been on the road for three years before landing the Neon deal yet it was actually doomed from the start given Neon’s leanings, as despite claims to the contrary it was not a progressive band.

Grapefruit trumpets this value-packed 3CD reissue of the terribly-titled ‘Riley Riley Wood & Waggett ‘on its cover sticker as a ‘psych/folk/progressive pop gem’ but it’s closer to the power pop of Badfinger by way of Welsh country rockers Help Yourself with flecks of the Fab Four.

Harmonised, hook-laden, jangling power pop replete swathed in pedal steel guitar is delivered with exacting proficiency, the quality of writing on offer consistently high throughout.  It’s a lovely album.

And it’s not hard for this release to be the definitive take on the original given the 1971 set comes with ample bonus material, the package bolstered by a disc of yet more recordings (loosely aggregated into an unreleased second album) and a further CD of live material, taking us to the group’s last gasps in 1973. A bumper booklet tells a sorry tale.

The live material is patchy and demos and earlier recordings from the late 60s creak a bit here and there, but the potency of Riley’s catchy, commercial songs is undiminished.  ****

Review by Peter Muir

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