REVIEW

 

ELTON JOHN
The Bread And Beer Band [no label 1CD]
Only one copy of this semi-official album was released in 1970. This is an instrumental album with covers of soundtrack themes and others. Ex SBD stereo

Of all the holy grails that haunt the sleep of Elton John collectors, the Bread and Beer Band is the holiest of them all, and that despite our hero barely singing a word, or writing a note of it. Comprised of a bunch of the musicians who were knocking around publisher Dick James’ DJM label empire during 1969-1970 - Elton, guitarist Caleb Quaye, bassist Bernie Calvert and drummer Roger Pope - the BABB basically spent its time either playing in pubs, or hanging around the studios, and somehow aroused enough industry interest to at least sneak a single out on the Decca label, a cover of the "Dick Barton Theme."

Plans to record a full album, however, scarcely got out of the studio - legend insists that just one test pressing of their efforts was made, and it sounds almost mean-spirited to wonder whether that was one too many. But the fact is, in an age when the record bins were already over-flowing with well-meaning sessionman retreads of hits old and new, there really wasn’t room for anymore.

Don’t misunderstand. This is a great album to leap around to, a rollicking fun palace through whose portals come a clutch of undeniable classics, each one begging to be smartly rearranged, and then pummeled by Quaye’s scintillating guitar. "Wooly Bully," "Mellow Yellow," "If I Were A Carpenter," "Zorba The Greek," "The Letter," "Quick Joey Small," "Needles And Pins," "God Knows," "Billy’s Bag" and "Last Night" are all here, and listened to dispassionately, you might indeed notice the keyboard player, flourishing away in one channel. In fact, let’s be really bold and admit that the version of "The Letter" could almost be the backing track from one of Elton’s own mid-70s albums… at least until the backing vocals come in and spoil it.

But that is not what the Beer and Bread Band were trying to sell. Nobody gave a hoot about Elton John when this album was recorded, and nobody gave a hoot for the band either, once their solitary single was dead and buried. Goodbye boys, better luck next time. - Dave Thompson

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