BLOSSOM TOES: IF ONLY FOR A MOMENT (1969)
1) Peace Loving Man; 2) Kiss Of Confusion; 3) Listen To The Silence; 4) Love Bomb; 5) Billy Boo The Gunman; 6) Indian Summer; 7) Just Above My Hobby Horse's Head; 8) Wait A Minute.
Is this really the same band that was ever so clean but two years ago? Looks like somebody decided to get dirty after all. The drummer is different, but other than that, it's all the same guys writing and performing the songs — yet apparently, they have switched to heavier stuff, and I might mean that in reference to chemical substances, too. No more whimsy, afternoon tea, and music hall; we are going hard and heavy all the way, and if you want my opinion on what is the closest prototype of this sound, I'd say... early Chicago. (Incidentally, Chicago did release their debut LP in April of 1969, and If Only For A Moment dates from July of the same year.) Or any of those loud, lumpy 1968-69 bands who took after Hendrix but couldn't get their psychedelia to properly roll, rather than just rock, and ended up sounding like World War I-era tanks next to Jimi's elegant cruiser models.
Not only that, but somebody also told them they had to get serious — everybody's doing it and all, so a proper LP striving for artistic recognition has to get away from «frozen little dogs» and make a statement of high social significance. The first song already, as you can tell by the title, is a sarcastic pacifist anthem ("take this bomb, drop it on old Hong Kong" — I'm sure they meant "Saigon", but maybe they got sidetracked by Hoagy Carmichael), and then the «bomb» motive surfaces in a different, but related, context on ʽLove Bombʼ (which we need to make things right), and then they also cover a song by Richie Havens, in the name of peace, love, and understanding. Overall, it's all starting to make sense now.
Unfortunately, this self-conscious transformation into a heavy blues-rock outfit with psychedelic overtones never feels honest — there is not a single song here that would convincingly prove that the Blossom Toes keep on doing, or at least searching for, «their thing». ʽPeace Loving Manʼ, which was the single, is moderately catchy, but instead of an alternately horrifying and optimistically soulful anthem to the evils of war of joys and peace, they end up creating some sort of vaudeville number, with horrible vocals on the verses (Brian Belshaw sings them like a terminal stage TB patient with electrodes attached to his toes) and a chorus that still can't help but carry traces of merry music hall. Granted, when you throw in the chaotic bridge sections with «spooky» whispered vocals and shit, the track ultimately emerges as an intriguing musical freak mutant, but since that could have hardly been the original intention (Bonzo Dog Band is not an inspiration for these people), the result is still a failure.
Here is what I really appreciate about the album: the broken riff of ʽBilly Boo The Gunmanʼ, which, together with the cowbell, seems like the forgotten grandaddy of Blue Öyster Cult; the little quasi-Elizabethan guitar dance melody that crops up in the corners of ʽIndian Summerʼ and seems like the forgotten great-great-uncle of Jethro Tull circa Thick As A Brick; and... that's more or less about it. There is a lot of different musical ideas scattered around, but they never combine into anything worth a serious discussion, and the song lengths can be exhausting — nowhere more so than on ʽLove Bombʼ, an «epic» that takes like millions of years to build up... to what? A happy carnivalesque chorus that goes: "What we need is a love BOMB / We don't have any and we need SOME / Easily operated, purified love BOMB"? It doesn't even matter that these lyrics stink to highest of heavens (how does one go about purifying a bomb?); it matters that the chorus in general, music, words, singing, is a laugh rather than a prayer.
Overall, the transformation is a disaster: at least ʽPeace Loving Manʼ and ʽLove Bombʼ are so bad they actually give food for thought and curses, but most of the other songs fall into that most dreadful of categories — «non-descript» — that condemns the record to total oblivion. Even the hard-rocking guitar solos feel like second-hand imitations of Hendrix, Clapton, and the Frisco people, without any success in finding one's own ground. And even if the songwriting on We Are Ever So Clean was never all that good, the album's head-spinning kaleidoscopic programme could easily and harmlessly trick you into thinking those were great songs — here, gruesomely stretched out song lengths and repetitive passages could not even provide a decent soundtrack to a reefer-based experience; thumbs down all the way.
Naturally, the album neither managed to sell nor become any sort of cult favorite — at which point the best thing that the poor Blossom Toes could probably do was to dissolve, so they dissolved. From then on, you could look for Jim Cregan in the ranks of Family (whom he joined in time to record their last and arguably weakest album, It's Only A Movie), Cockney Rebel (with whom he recorded ʽMake Me Smileʼ), and finally, Rod Stewart (whom he faithfully accompanied all the way down to the lowest depths of his career, Camouflage included). Brian Godding, on the other hand, chose a less flashy pop route and went on to hone his skills in various jazz and prog rock outfits (even including Magma, that enigmatic French band, at one point). Which, I should add, hardly excuses him from the embarrassment of having both ʽPeace Loving Manʼ and ʽLove Bombʼ credited all to himself.