Album review: VARIOUS – Riding The Rock Machine

Grapefruit/Cherry Red [Release date 23.03.21]

Riding The Rock Machine is a supremely enjoyable, 60 track slice of cultural history.

The UK’s pop and rock legacy should be considered a National Treasure, to be protected and promoted. Grapefruit/ Cherry Red are continually taking the lead on this. Yes, it’s a commercial enterprise, but better that than no enterprise at all.

Under the title banner, the 3 CD clamshell adds “British Seventies Classic Rock”. And indeed it is. You could quibble over representative tracks. But no one would argue that Uriah Heep isn’t best represented by ‘Easy Livin’, or that Foghat isn’t best served here by ‘Slow Ride’, and indeed who could argue that ‘Life Is A Ministrone’ isn’t 10cc at the height of their commercial powers. And so on.

Each of the 3 CDs leads off powerfully with the better known material. And when we say ‘leads off’, what we really mean is that the first ten or so tracks on each CD are songs that became constant companions of rock fans during that decade. And even that observation doesn’t really do the collection justice. Closing track on CD1 is Sweet’s ‘Action’. CD2′s is ELP’s ‘Lucky Man’ and CD3′s is Argent’s ‘God Gave Rock And Roll To You’. Three genuine classics.

So rather than just lazily go through the 60 track content, perhaps the real gems are the ones that meant as much, career wise, to the artists as they did to the record buying public.

Taken from their self titled debut in 1977, Foreigner’s ‘Feels Like The First Time’ was the band’s first huge hit. Like so many tracks here, it still sounds as vibrant today as it did 24 years ago.

Next to ‘Alright Now’, ‘Wishing Well’ was widely considered to be Free’s most important, and indeed finest moment. It was taken from the band’s sixth and final studio album, Heartbreaker, and effectively became the launchpad for Bad Company, one of the UK’s most influential and successful rock bands.

Such was the emotional connectivity of Nazareth’s pumped up, bass heavy, rock’n'roll version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘This Flight Tonight’, the band would use it to close their live shows. Even when Mitchell did it live, she would introduce it, amusingly, as “here’s my version of that Nazareth song”.

But there’s so much more…Blackfoot Sue, Procol Harum, The Who, Roxy Music, Trapeze, The Faces, Jethro Tull, Thin Lizzy, Family, ELO and and and – the great and the good, plus some lesser known names. Fancy, Strider, Medicine Head, Curved Air, Bullfrog, Babe Ruth and others are all included, large as life. And even if fame ultimately eluded them, that was often only a quirk of fate.
Their songs deserve to be here.

The accompanying illustrated and annotated 40 page booklet is an informative and entertaining guide. To quote the cliché, it’s a walk down memory lane.

An outstanding collection. *****

Review by Brian McGowan

Josh Taerk’s latest Sunday Session was streamed on Sunday 20 March 2022 at 21:00 GMT (16:00 EST). Josh’s next session is Sunday 22 May.

Check out previous videos here:

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 GMT, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 8 May 2022.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 GMT as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 3 May 2022.

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More information and links at our radio website where you can listen again to shows via the presenter pages:

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