British progress rockers Spring illustrate just how haphazard and random things can happen in the crazy world of entertainment. The band had been slogging on the live circuit for a few years, building up a small but loyal following, thanks to the band’s impressive live show, thanks in part to the antics of frontman Pat Moran. One night, as they were returning to England from a show, their van broke down in the tiny town of Monmouth, Wales. Happening on the scene was an influential studio owner, Kingsley Ward, who was impressed with the struggling group, which led him to introducing them to producer Gus Dudgeon, who helped get them a deal with RCA.
The band’s self-titled debut album is an enjoyable collection of songs, and although it is hardly a definitive statement for the group, it’s a promising enough album that should have set the stage for greater, more cohesive albums. Not unlike the debut Led Zeppelin album, Spring is the sound of a young that’s stumbled upon a formula that works, and the first fruits are exciting, Vocalist Pat Moran has an amazing voice, one that doesn’t get caught up in show-off falsetto or vocal histrionics.
Take, for instance, “Shipwrecked Sailor.” Stylistically, it’s not unlike the previously mentioned Led Zeppelin, but instead of instantly reaching for the highest stratosphere like Robert Plant, Moran plays his hand closer to his chest. You know he could take the song to that place, but he resists, leaving the listener on the edge of their seat. “Golden Fleece,” the following number, continues along those same lines; a payoff is hinted at, not delivered, but that’s okay, because you know something exciting is going to happen.
Those two songs are hard, solid jewels hidden in an otherwise mellow jazz-rock affair. If anything, the rest of the album is gentle, wistful; “Grail” and “Inside Out” are cool blasts of gentle jazz, never breaking much of a sweat, lovely little pop nuggets. “Song To Absent Friends (The Island)” is a straight piano ballad, not unlike Elton John—unsurprising, considering the production of Gus Dudgeon.
Unfortunately, Spring’s diversity of sound should have been a warning sign. Two factions in the band formed—one wanting to continue in the epic rock direction, while the other wanted to explore the jazz-rock side. The album’s commercial disappointment resulted in the band being dropped as they began work on their second album, and shortly after that, the band quietly called it a day, a premature ending to a promising band.
The second disc of this reissue features a cache of songs taken from the sessions for the second album, and it illustrates why the band’s sudden demise was such a loss. If there were stylistic differences to be had, you certainly can’t hear them here. Instead, what you hear are songs that are vastly more mature than the debut album, showing a potential for a more potent jazz-rock style that a myopic vision of the immediate present caused the band to lose sight of just what a good thing it was that they had. “Fernleigh Avenue,” “Painted Ship,” and “Hendre Mews“ are mellow rockers, while “Fool’s Gold” and “High Horses” are heavier, more electric than anything else here, and show a potent live sound in the making.
Spring’s lack of sales and the band’s quick demise would wind up to the record’s benefit. It soon became an obscurity, eventually becoming one of the most sought-after progressive rock albums of the era with the original album trading for hundreds–if not thousands–of pounds. while Moran would go on to become a notable producer and sound engineer, until his passing in 2011. Spring stands as a testament to a band with great potential, but whom bad fortune silenced; this expanded edition rights that wrong, an impressive document of a young, doomed band.
Categories: Album Reviews