Book review: ROY WOOD, KANSAS (On Track…)

ROY WOOD On Track

Sonic Bond Publishing

Roy Wood: The Move, ELO & Wizzard by James R Turner

The ‘On Track…’ series gets to one of my musical heroes, Roy Wood. An interesting musician to cover, as although he still tours, Roy Wood has not released a new studio album since 198’s ‘Starting Up’.

It starts off with Wood’s involvement in the 60’s hitmakers and Brumbeat legends, the Move. Interestingly Jeff Lynne crosses Wood’s path a lot in both their early musical days, as Lynne replaced Wood when he left Mike Sheridan’s band to join the Move (a band Jeff Lynne later joined!). A good portion of the book covers the Move, with Turner critiquing each single and album by the band.

The Move released plenty of hit singles, however, there are some early Wood penned gems to be found on their album’s including ‘Beautiful Daughter’ and ‘Cherry Blossom Clinic’. By the early 70’s the Move (by now featuring Wood, Bev Bevan and Jeff Lynne) released a series of singles (including the much covered Wood penned ‘California Man’) in order to fund their new band, the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO).

ELO only get a mention for their debut album, the only one to feature Roy Wood before he left to form Wizzard. Always one of those ‘what if…?’ scenarios…what if Wood had remained in ELO and how would they have developed musically?

The book really does cover Wood’s 70’s golden era in style, from the big hits like ‘See My Baby Jive’ and that Christmas single, through to Eddy & the Falcons, a chance for Wood to indulge in his love of rock n roll with a big band twist.

Solo albums credited to Roy Wood number just four and each gets an in depth appraisal from the author. Interesting for fans too are the round-up of singles released in the early 80’s, including one of Wood’s finest songs (in this humble reviewer’s opinion) ‘Green Glass Windows’. He is an artist who really deserves a proper re-issue and box set treatment, as many of his albums are not currently available, bar the EMI ones.

As other fellow GRTR! reviewers have mentioned about this series an index would be a most welcome addition. That said, if you like any of Roy Wood’s varied musical output this is a great companion piece as you listen again to the marvellous music he has created over the years.

KANSAS On Track

Kansas by Kevin Cummings

Kevin Cummings is a musician and writer, he also maintains a website offering original music, recordings and arrangements, as well as transcriptions of Kerry Livgren’s music. So he’s pretty well placed to write about the music of Kanas.

One feature in this book is where author breaks down some of band’s classic epics and best known songs, for example ‘Song For America’, highlighting the instruments used, the solos, etc. Maybe a bit too much for the casual fan, although to be fair these ‘On Track…’ series are mainly aimed at an artist’s hardcore fanbase. A big bonus for this book that’s for sure.

Pleasing to see the ‘Power’ and ‘In The Spirit Of Things’ albums given a good summary (this reviewer’s favourite Kansas albums along with ‘Leftoverture’). I like the interludes idea too, whereby the band’s live albums are critiqued (and quite rightly the abomination that is ‘Live at the Whisky 1992’ is given short shrift).

There is a very brief outline of the band members various solo outings and other bands they have been involved with, which would have been good to expand more upon. Even perhaps just focussing on the solo work of Steve Walsh and Kerry Livgren.

Using previously published interviews with band members, past and present, adds to the background. In addition to this are interviews specifically for the book from Kerry Livgren and Billy Greer, which are a real bonus and often something missing from other titles in the series.

Pretty darn essential for any fan of Kansas and their wonderful catalogue of music.

Reviews by Jason Ritchie


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