duminică, 1 martie 2009

The World of Oz - The World of Oz (1969)

The World of Oz were a British psychedelic pop band that enjoyed a short string of successful singles in Europe. Between those major charting records in Holland and a lot of good press at home, the release of an album was planned -- yet they managed to throw it all away with an unexplained split. All four original members -- Tony Clarkson (bass, vocals), David "Kubie" Kubinec (organ), Christopher Robin (guitar, piano, vocals), and David Reay (drums) -- hailed from Birmingham, and had been parts of that city's burgeoning pop/rock culture for varying amounts of time. Clarkson had several years' experience playing in various bands, and had also performed on the European continent. Kubinec had spent two years working mostly in Germany as a member of the Pieces of Mind, doing a mixture of R&B and soul. Reay and Robin (real name Christopher Evans) had played in a band called the Mayfair Set, working in Germany for a year before returning to Birmingham late in 1967, where they broke up. The pair decided to form a new band, and Kubinec and Clarkson were recruited through advertisements in musician magazines. In January of 1968 they formed the group, the "Oz" name and imagery fitting in with the trippy ambience of the late '60s.
This album was, for many years, a choice and expensive collectable in the U.K. and elsewhere, mostly owing to its sheer obscurity -- the group had virtually ceased to exist by the time the 12" vinyl platter made it into record shops on either side of the Atlantic, and it disappeared soon after. But The World of Oz has more than rarity or obscurity to recommend it -- it actually works on two levels, the original album's 11 songs holding up as first-rate sunshine pop, strongly reminiscent of the Bee Gees' Horizontal and Idea albums, while more select parts of the record document a band that was regarded as one of the more promising to come out of late-'60s Birmingham. On the softer side of the music, "Beside the Fire" recalls "World" from the former album, while "Jackie" is strongly reminiscent of any number of early Robin Gibb-sung ballads, and that is hardly to be considered negative criticism. The group does reveal a somewhat heavier sound on "The Hum-Gum Tree," which was also their third single -- the thicker-textured guitar and bass work are probably closer to what this group sounded like on-stage, while the haunting "With a Little Help" mixes a restrained orchestral accompaniment and Beatlesesque harmonies, it's a great compromise between their pop and rock aspects. The music may sometimes seem a bit fey and light, but as with the Bee Gees on Horizontal, one does get a strong sense of a band with some solid chops there beneath the harmonies and orchestral flourishes. "Mandy-Ann" works even better as a horn-and-harmony driven piece with the rhythm section coming to the fore, though one wishes that the producers had avoided one annoying punctuating sound-effect. (AMG).

Tracklist :
1. Muffin Man
2. Bring The Ring
3. Jackie
4. Beside The Fire
5. Hum Gum Tree
6. With A Little Help
7. We've All Seen The Queen
8. King Croesus
9. Mandy Ann
10. Jack
11. Like A Tear
12. Willow's Harp

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