Brand X: Nuclear Burn

Jazz-rock meltdown.

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Although Brand X are often erroneously regarded as a Phil Collins 70s side-project, he is only on around half the tracks of the band’s six albums packed into this four-CD collection. He wasn’t even their original drummer although it’s fair to say the group only really got moving after he joined keyboard player Robin Lumley, guitarist John Goodsall and bassist Percy Jones, fellow pro musicians who liked nothing better than to wind down with a jazz-rock jam.

Their 1976 debut Unorthodox Behaviour catches that buzz as they sharpen up in the studio and discover how good they are collectively. Accusations that they are ‘Mahavishnu lite’ are actually a backhanded compliment; amid the instrumental flash, frenetic rhythms and mood swings they never forget the value of a good riff or a melodic flurry.

The feelgood factor continues on Moroccan Roll which adds percussionist Morris Pert and takes an Eastern musical slant to keep everyone focussed while setting tighter boundaries on solo indulgences.

Livestock proves there is no studio trickery involved, but Collins’ Genesis commitments are limiting his involvement and he’s gone by Masques while Lumley concentrates on production. The pattern is already set for their replacements, however, and you are hard-pressed to notice the changes.

For 1979’s Product and 1980’s Do They Hurt? Brand X turn into an eight-piece collective (including a part-time Collins) recording in various combinations, veering between commercial pot-shots and decidedly less commercial mood swings. If you can embrace the schizophrenia, it’s an invigorating ride that includes some great prog rock instrmentals./o:p

Hugh Fielder

Hugh Fielder has been writing about music for 47 years. Actually 58 if you include the essay he wrote about the Rolling Stones in exchange for taking time off school to see them at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1964. He was news editor of Sounds magazine from 1975 to 1992 and editor of Tower Records Top magazine from 1992 to 2001. Since then he has been freelance. He has interviewed the great, the good and the not so good and written books about some of them. His favourite possession is a piece of columnar basalt he brought back from Iceland.