by Rick Krueger
“Wait … Phil Collins was in another band at the same time as Genesis? And melancholy ballads weren’t involved?”
Too right. Brand X was the ultimate mid-1970s anomaly — a British jazz-rock band. Not that there hadn’t been others before them — see Colosseum and Soft Machine in their various permutations. But these guys (along with Bill Bruford’s band after the break up of UK) tackled the genre from a more oblique direction. Where American jazzers like Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock pumped up the groove, piled on the lightning fast solos and followed in the funky footsteps of electric Miles Davis, Brand X fused an abstract sense of melody and harmony, a floating beat with clattery accents, and an overall whimsy that evoked both the Canterbury scene and the early albums of Weather Report to great effect. And boy, could they play!
Guitarist John Goodsall and fretless bassist Percy Jones were the linchpins of the band, with various keyboardists, drummers and percussionists slotting in over the years. Once Collins connected with Brand X in 1975 (he had played with Jones on Eno’s Another Green World), just as they’d secured a recording contract, the results were dynamite. Unorthodox Behaviour, Moroccan Roll (on which percussionist Morris Pert played “things that he hit while the tape was running, including the QE2, Idi Amin, and undiscovered parts of Scotland”) and the concert recording Livestock were easily the peak of the band’s output — plenty of busy interplay, combustible shredding and fearsome unison riffs, but also delicacy, spaciousness and power held in reserve.
Now, Goodsall and Jones have reformed Brand X and hit the road to deserved acclaim. But Wait … There’s More! Live 2017 shows this new version of the band in fine form, focusing on tracks from the three albums mentioned above, spicing up their classic recipe with just the right amount of fire and funk. Goodsall rings the changes from spacy chording to savage solo work; Jones’ bass constantly sings and bubbles, driving the band onward — and popping up to take the lead when you least expect it. New keyboardist Chris Clark is an excellent foil, listening hard, supporting the other players with elegance and consistently bringing the goods with dexterous electric piano and synth solos. Drummer Kennard Denwood (who spelled Collins when Brand X toured, playing a couple of tracks on Livestock) and percussionist Scott Weinberger evoke the Collins/Pert engine room, add a little extra stomp, and propel the proceedings forward with vigor, dash and guts.
If you’ve heard Brand X before, you’ll love their current incarnation. If you haven’t, and you enjoy jazz-rock, you really should check this out. But Wait … There’s More! is a gem. Here’s a bit of the opening track, “Nightmare Patrol.”