Sassafras: Expecting Company

Legendary 70s Welsh rockers’ debut, with bonus tracks.

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Originally signed to George Martin’s Air label, Sassafras released their first album in 1973. They hoped it would be bracketed by the public with the likes of Argent and Wishbone Ash, but that sort of high profile wasn’t to be.

Maybe some found Terry Bennett’s slightly rasping, astringent vocals hard to take, but the real business of Sassafras is in the melodic sensibility of bassist Ricky John Holt and the dual guitar work of Ralph Evans and Dai Shell, who do not so much duel as cheerfully converse on the likes of Electric Chair.

They run through an impressive gamut of styles – Busted Country Blues sees them twang like Harlech good ol’ boys, while Across The Seas Of Stars wafts hankeringly across balladic rock waters, hinting at a wistful sensitivity.

But then comes the worse than cringe-making School Days which is as politically incorrect as Shell acknowledges it to be in the sleeve notes. ‘She was a schoolgirl who was sharing my bed,’ runs the lyric, prompting you to reach with a shudder for the fast-forward button. Sadly typical of the times, but at the risk of being self-censorious, they might have considered dropping it for the reissue.

David Stubbs

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.