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