16 March 2014

Head West - Victoria/ Changes

Label: Pop Music
Year of Release: 1969

Head West are a reasonably known name in two occasionally intertwining circles of music lovers - Fleetwood Mac fans and lovers of psychedelic pop. The former are familiar with the band due to them being Bob Welch's outfit prior to joining the post-Peter Green, pre-"Rumours" line-up of Mac, the latter are usually aware of their inclusion on a "Circus Days" compilation album with the brooding and eerie "Some Day".

Don't let that track fool you, though. In reality, Head West were yet another very late sixties group to combine the harder edges of soul with driving rock riffs, and "Victoria" and "Changes" leave you in no doubt as to their true leanings.  This is sledgehammer stuff, "Victoria" beginning with pounding drum patterns before settling - if "settling" is the right word - into a more laid-back arrangement with angsty, hollered vocals. The flip "Changes" struts its stuff and has more of a groove to it and would be more likely to get spins with certain kinds of backwards-looking DJs (like me).

While all members of the group - including Robert Hunt on organ and Henry Moore on drums - were American in origin, they shipped themselves over to Paris in 1969 to begin a career on the French live circuit. The reasons behind this decision are undocumented, but Welch later described this as being an impoverished existence of sleeping on floors and living off beans and rice.  While it seems likely to me that Head West would have packed a massive punch live, it's perhaps easy to understand how they never won over the French public enough to chart an album or single or even enjoy better quality cuisine while they were there.  Good though it was, none of their work was truly outstanding in an already crowded sub-genre, and after one flop eponymous album in 1970 and three years of getting nowhere fast, the band split and returned to base. This proved to be a fortunate decision for Welch at least, as he very quickly scored a job with Fleetwood Mac on return, though his time with that group was turbulent. 

After his stint with Mick Fleetwood and his cohorts was done, he went on to have a hugely successful solo career in America, scoring a platinum album in 1977 with "French Kiss". Sadly, tragedy struck in 2012 after complications from spinal surgery left him in serious pain with no prospect of improvements to his health. This directly lead to his unfortunate suicide in June of that year. I would like to think that the sound of "Changes" here will help enlighten people to the fact that this was a musician whose scope was incredibly wide - he took in soul, funk, blues, rock and disco music throughout his chequered career, and that's something which genuinely can't be said of most of the musicians we've discussed on this blog so far. 

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