Friday, 20 May 2011

Argent - Original Album Classics

I love a good bargain, me!  And if it involves one of my favourite bands of the early 1970s then so much the better.  Browsing through Amazon, like you do, I chanced upon a series of reissue box sets rejoicing under the inspired title of ‘Original Album Classics’, each collating five albums from a set artist and retailing for about £12!  Artists included in the list so far are largely from the US, so the likes of Poco, Ted Nugent, J Geils and so on get the treatment.

So when I discovered that one of these sets was UK band, Argent and comprised their first five Epic albums (‘Argent’, ‘Ring of Hands’, ‘All Together Now’, ‘In Deep’ and ‘Nexus’) 4/5 of which I have on well worn and crackly vinyl, my finger was on the ‘Buy’ button before you could hum ‘Hold Your Head Up’.  Of course, the value quality of 5 albums for £12 has its drawbacks, one of which is that the box cover photo depicts the band including John Verity and John Grimaldi, both of whom joined after the first five albums and leaves out Russ Ballard who was definitely an integral part of the band through the whole series.  Still, you can’t have everything.  Indeed, each of the five re-mastered CDs comes in a nice cardboard sleeve with the original artwork – except ‘Nexus’ which depicts the US version of the cover, not the UK one.  Hmm.

I suppose I became an Argent fan because they were a local band, springing from suburban St Albans, my home town and you couldn’t really miss them.  It meant that they played the St Albans Civic Hall seemingly every other week and in those joyful days you could pitch up at the door on the day in question and get in without any trouble at all.  None of this selling out within 5 seconds on the internet stuff then.

Despite being a fan, I never owned their debut and listening to it now, it is apparent that it forms the missing link between Rod’s former band, The Zombies and the more progressive band that Argent would become.  Each of the subsequent albums charts this journey to Full Prog Status mixing the ethereal churchlike keyboards of Rod Argent with the down-to-earth blues/rock of Russ Ballard until finally at ‘Nexus’ it was all too much for Russ who left to pursue a solo career and write proper rock songs for the likes of Rainbow.

I still love ‘In Deep’ which was always my preferred choice with its magnificent ‘It’s Only Money (parts 1 & 2)’, but have now developed a fondness for ‘Ring of Hands’ which I hardly ever played at the time.  Funny how distance alters your perception of some albums and you start hearing things you missed the first time – like Jim Rodford’s awesome bass playing on the looser instrumental sections.  Let’s hope this reissue series extends to a few more UK bands in the future.  My breath is suitably bated.

Here is the original line up of Argent, still rockin' in their sixties, doing 'It's Only Money pts I & II', at a festival gig in Victoria Park, London, 2010 (no hair dye then, Russ...).


john said...

Great band,Argent...had the pleasure of seeing them live and it was one of the best shows I've been to. "Thunder And Lightning" and "Tragedy" are two faves of mine.

music obsessive said...

Hi John. Yes, they were a entertaining live band. One of my all-time fav live gigs was their 'Nexus' tour show just before Russ Ballard left. Magic.

Brett said...

I admit I only know "Hold Your Head Up" but I have always loved that song. It took many years until I could remember who does that song (kind of like Breakdown by Alan Parsons). I am going to have to check them out some more.

music obsessive said...

Hi Brett. Yes, you should check them out. Any of their first 5 albums will do!