Argent: In Deep (Epic)

WHEN I INTERVIEWED Colin Blunstone for Let It Rock one of the points that he made several times was that Argent were just about the most incredible studio band he had heard. He’s not totally unbiased, for Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone were the leading lights of the fabulous Zombies. But on the strength of this album, it’s extremely difficult to disagree with Colin’s judgement.

With previous Argent records I’ve had reservations, because of the patchy material — brilliant in places, as in ‘Hold Your Head Up’ and ‘Celebration’ from the All Together Now and Ring Of Hands LPs, but at other times distressingly ordinary. On In Deep, for the first time, every song has an existence in its own right, starting with the excellent ‘God Gave Rock and Roll To You’, a version which seems longer to me than the single, and is correspondingly more gripping, with well drawn passages of light and shade and good use of stereo.

That’s followed by Parts One and Two of ‘It’s Only Money’ composed, as was the first track, by Russ Ballard, who has to be one of the most promising writers around having already scored with Blunstone’s ‘I Don’t Believe In Miracles’. The two-partner has an insinuating soul riff, which might be guessed from the James Brown-ish title, but Argent don’t use the cacophony of brass with which J.B. has by turns exhilarated and devastated us. Instead, the separation of the instruments is a feature, and Rod Argent’s organ and Russ Ballard’s guitar completely fail to interfere with each other, preferring gently to take turns. The final track on the first side is a Moody Blues-ish epic with a lot of mellotron and Bob Henrit’s J.Arthur Rank show on what are described as a Tam Tam gong and an orchestral bass drum. Generally, it’s a good song, but I don’t think Argent/White songs (that’s Chris White, another Zombie of the past, and now producer for both Argent and Colin Blunstone — there his is again!) quite make it compared with the Russ Ballard variety.

The first track on the reverse is the only one about which I’m not positive, Rod Argent’s piano pieces are a little strange and not appealing, but ‘Christmas For The Free’ restores my good feelings, Rod Argent singing lead vocal with a very pure voice, and Derek Griffiths (part of you-know-who’s band) playing a tasty little guitar solo in the temporary absence of Russ Ballard. From there on it’s straight forwardly good music up to the end, with the Emerson-ish ‘Candle On The River’ and finally Russ Ballard’s lightweight but amusingly old timey ‘Rosie’ with pub piano and confusion. Altogether a worthy contender for your £2 plus, and certainly possessing one of the finest slices of continuous music I’ve heard this year.

© John ToblerLet It Rock, June 1973

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