Sunday, August 9, 2015
The Action-Rolled Gold (2002)
Before breaking up, The Action recorded demos for an album that was to be called Brain. The album never saw the light of day, and members of the band (three of them, though not singer Reg King) would go on to form the band Mighty Baby. As far as the great, unfinished masterpieces of rock and roll go, Rolled Gold should rank very high on any list. While it's an imperfect album (certainly thanks to most of these songs residing in "demo" status), even what we're given ranks along the best of any group's work in the 1960s. Rolled Gold's fourteen songs are likely not sequenced the way an official album would have been released (though "Come Around" makes a splendid opener), and the sound is raw and sourced from acetate. But the performances, as ever, are incredibly lively. Reg King's vocals, for example, on "Look At The View" are incredibly powerful and raw. His repeating of the song's title gives credence to the idea that these guys were working their butts off, and took the demo sessions very seriously (not to imply anybody denies this). Throughout the release, King's vocals are truly better than ever, and his blue-eyed soul singing style perfectly merges with a raw R&B influence that was surprisingly absent on their early tracks. If anything, though this album feels poppier than their early songs, the vocals and performances are rougher. There is no doubt The Action were a better pop group than mod-R&B combo. Along with "Come Around", the title track of the would-be album "Brain" is a deserved classic, with perfect wah-wah guitar that is incredibly understated. The wah-wah is used as a rhythm guitar, and never dominates the song with overdone effects. The drums drive the track, which continuously repeats the same chord progression, but with intensity every time. Other songs, like "Icarus", "Something to Say" and "Strange Roads" showcase The Action's lead guitar work effectively. The guitar work never shows off and fits the songs perfectly. One of my favorite songs on the collection, "Things You Cannot See," is approached totally differently, with a lead acoustic guitar and bongo drums. It's an understated, almost folky track, that shows how deep their songwriting talent was. And on "Really Doesn't Matter", the group shows that they can still belt out a beautiful blue-eyed soul style These songs originally saw an official release in 1995, and the 2002 CD Rolled Gold presumably sounds pretty similar to other variations of this release. It's also, again, worth repeating that these songs were demos, and as such, don't even sound mastered. Whereas something like Smiley Smile was finished by a producer, the songs have an incredibly raw sound, with every song having a different aesthetic mix-wise (some songs have drums louder than guitars, other the opposite way, bass levels vary within songs) which is something a mastering job would smooth over. This is not a complaint however, as the raw-ness of the demos is one of the best parts, and there are many examples I could think of where demos sound more raw and energetic than finished albums (something like the band Tomorrow comes to mind!).