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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bloodrock: Whirlwind Tongues


1) It's Gonna Be Love; 2) Sunday Song; 3) Parallax; 4) Voices; 5) Eleanor Rigby; 6) Stilled By Whirlwind; 7) Guess What I Am; 8) Lady Of Love; 9) Jungle.

I am going against the grain here, including my own old assessment of this album, but I do be­lieve now that Whirlwind Tongues is an ever so slight improvement over Passage where song­writing and impartial self-assessment of the band's abilities are concerned. Not that it matters in the slightest: the Ham-led Bloodrock at their absolute best can only present sufficient interest for historians of the «pretentious pop music scene» in the post-Beatles, pre-punk era, and maybe for a small group of strange people who'd probably scare me shitless if they were to present themselves in person. But still, just for justice' sake: Whirlwind Tongues is weak, but not awful.

The major difference is that this time around, they are not so openly emulating their betters — they still have a serious problem with trying to find their own style, but something is beginning to materialize. Perhaps a sort of folk-rock sound in the vein of contemporary Traffic, but gentler and more sentimental (a.k.a. «sissy»). With an occasional surprise or two, and some basic diversity. No eight-minute epics with bad Moog solos (okay, some bad Moog solos are inevitable, but we could live with these). Mostly boring, sometimes too cute for their own good, but give them a break — they are really trying.

I mean, it must have taken some brainwork to take ʽEleanor Rigbyʼ, speed it up, add flutes, and make it rock, if only ever so softly, right? I must admit that it is a more inventive recasting of the song than Aretha Franklin's, for instance — I much prefer my ʽEleanor Rigbyʼ in a steady tempo, tight, focused, and with flutes than see it turned into a rather chaotic R&B number. Not that the world really needs either of these, but this novelty approach is not at all repugnant. Other than the singer getting a bit too carried away (should have kept it modestly trimmed, without any extra yeah yeah yeahs, I think), it's actually fun.

Other than that, ʽIt's Gonna Be Loveʼ is a solemn soft-rock anthem that suffers from the absence of authentic Crosby, Stills & Nash harmonies (and the presence of one of those corny Moog solos); ʽSunday Songʼ is loungey vaudeville that tries to mix sentimentality with humor; ʽParal­laxʼ is like Blind Faith's ʽDo What You Likeʼ with a Jethro Tull-style flute part thrown in; ʽVoicesʼ speeds along with good confidence and has the album's best riff, which would have been even better if they knew it themselves and got it rid of the distracting «flanging» effects; ʽStilled By Whirlwindʼ is too preachy, too long, has too many instances of the word "propaganda" and em­barrassing falsetto harmonies, but is okay otherwise; ʽGuess What I Amʼ is an awful piano ballad that shows Ham's lack of vocal power in all its anti-glory as the man desperately tries to prove that he can do it all, from tenor to falsetto; ʽLady Of Loveʼ is a simplistic serenade, not particularly redeemed by the heavy use of saxes blended into its primitive keyboard riff; and ʽJungleʼ is the band's attempt at doing something darker and weirder, partially successful, as they populate the minimalistic skeleton with «jungle noises».

Whew, at least there was some incentive to briefly namedrop all the songs on the album. That does not mean it merits a thumbs up, but it does mean there was enough diversity and creativity to evade any accusations of idleness and laziness. No talent, sure, but any idiot with talent can be creative — now creativity without talent, that's gotta count for something! In a way, it almost makes me feel sorry that the band finally called it a day soon afterwards — not sorry enough, though, to hunt for one more final LP, recorded in 1975, but shelved and not released officially until 2000 (as part of the rare 2-CD Triptych edition that combines both Ham-era albums with nine more songs, allegedly joined under the working title Unspoken Words).

Although, let us not exaggerate. Bloodrock were not all that outstanding in their prime, merely worth getting to know if you are a sucker for 1970 — and whichever direction Ham could take the survivors in the mid-Seventies would probably be a dead end, so I guess it's all for the better that we did not get to see the Bloodrock Disco Album, not to mention the Bloodrock Hair Metal Comeback, or be subjected to the «Bloodrock Dig Their New Indie Label So Much They Have Decided To Release Two New Albums Each Year For The Sake Of Their Three Fans» reality show. Having run out of blood (and out of rock) back in 1972, at best, they could be opening shows for the likes of Styx, and how much more embarrassment could this world stand?


  1. Fast forward to 2011, and see Yes as an opening act for Styx. ;-)

  2. A whimpering end to a truly inscrutable career. Never before or since has a real life rock band so closely resembled a cast of secondary characters from a Dostoevsky novel - the minor, shadowy ones who exist in a perpetual quagmire of self delusion and self destructive behavior, living out their morbidly fascinating lives in exasperated expectation of a salvation that never quite comes.