Brian Auger: Back From Oblivion

BRING UP the subject of jazz-rock fusion, and for sure Brian Auger will be one of the first names you think of. Over the past 25 years, Auger – with the Trinity, Oblivion Express and under his own name – has in turn invented, pioneered and developed the genre, and in such a way that he has managed to maintain the respect (and perhaps more importantly, the ears) of fans on both sides of the fence.

In that time, too, the 53-year-old Auger has worked with some of the most important names in the two fields, from the ’50s-era trad jazz men who sat in with him at his earliest gigs in London, to the likes of Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry and Georgie Fame’s Blue Flames in the 1960s, to Eric Burdon, with whom he is currently touring.

But he is most often associated with Julie Driscoll, with whom he partnered on the U.K. Top 5 single of 1968, ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’. Certainly his work with Driscoll is his most avidly collected, and the recent CD reissue of the duo’s second album, Streetnoise, has raised their profile even higher.

Auger got his taste for live performing while still at his first, and only, non-musical job, at a printer in London, in 1958. “One of the people I worked with knew I played piano, and one day he asked me if I wanted to come down and play at a gig he had at the Cottage Club in Litchfield Street,” said Auger. “I really thought I’d arrived. My first gig, and it was in the West End!”

Auger was to become a regular performer at the Cottage Club, one of the city’s leading jazz clubs, and one of the few which continued serving alcohol after regular pub hours. “It was open until one a.m., so after they’d done their gigs every musician in town used to come round, all the trad bands, jazz groups, everyone.”

A lot of visiting Americans, too, would drop by, and the 18-year-old Auger took every opportunity to talk with them, about his playing and theirs. “It was an incredible education,” he said, “but of course it meant that my grounding was exclusively in jazz.”

After about 18 months at the Cottage Club, Auger started taking himself further afield, to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, and the Flamingo and Marquee, both of which would later make their names on the London R&B circuit, but which were then the exclusive domain of the jazz band. By the early 1960s, Auger was appearing regularly at all three clubs with his regular band, the Trinity: himself on piano, Rick Laird (bass) and Phil Kinorra (drums).

“There was an incredible amount of snobbery going down at this time,” he said. “We jazz buffs really looked down on rock ‘n’ roll, and when the Gunnell brothers (promoter/entrepreneurs Rik and John) took over the All-Nighter at the Flamingo, and started putting on people like Georgie Fame and Zoot Money, there was an incredible amount of resistance from within the jazz community. To admit you liked what these bands were doing amounted to heresy.”

Auger, however, had a dark, dread secret: he did like what these bands were doing. “I was a closet Ray Charles fan,” he said. “One day I heard ‘What’d I Say’, and I loved it. Of course, I didn’t dare tell anybody about it; I’d have been run out of town. But I was quietly buying all Ray Charles’ records, and playing them when no-one was around.”

Rik Gunnell, however, seems to have had an inkling of what was going on. “He kept on at me to start playing organ. By this time, people like Jimmy Smith were becoming very well known in England; organs were turning up on records by R&B artists; but I was adamant that I would never play one myself. I wanted to remain true to the jazz scene, and by 1963, I think the Trinity was the last jazz band still to be playing at the Flamingo at all regularly.”

Gunnell was not to be put off, however. “One day he telephoned me and said that Georgie Fame had been out on the beach and had fallen asleep sunbathing. He’d been rushed to the hospital with sunstroke, there was a whole load of gigs to be fulfilled – could I fill in for Georgie?”

Auger agreed, and was promptly handed “an absolutely insane list of gigs, three a night sometimes: an early evening show at the Flamingo, then off to Stoke Newington town hall, then back to the Flamingo for a late-nighter.

“We got to the first show, at the Roaring 20s, and I looked around and there was something missing. So I went up to one of the roadies and asked, ‘Hey, where’s the piano?’ And he just looked at me and said, ‘What piano?'”

By the time the tour was over, Auger was completely at home on the organ. “I took to it like a duck to water,” he says. “Rik Gunnell never knew what he was unleashing!”

1964 saw the Trinity holding down two simultaneous residencies. As a five-piece, augmented by guitarist John McLaughlin and saxophonist Glen Hughes, they had three 45-minute sets a night at the Pigalle in Picadilly Circus; as a trio, with Auger back on piano, there were two 30-minute shows every night, next door at the Society. The two venues were linked by a common kitchen, and as one set finished, the band would rush offstage, through the connecting doors, and re-emerge ready for the next show. It was exhausting, but it was worth it. Readers of the jazz-dominated Melody Maker voted Auger both best pianist of 1964, and best “New Star.”

“But by that time I had already decided I was also interested in the R&B world. I knew it would be a controversial decision – there were a few jazz people who never spoke to me again. They felt that I had gone over to the enemy.”

Rick Laird and Phil Kinorra might not have crossed Auger off their Christmas card list, but they did lose interest in his music. In their stead, Auger recruited drummer Micky Waller, from Long John Baldry’s recently disbanded Hoochie Coochie Men, and bassist Rick Brown, and in this form the Trinity recorded what was to become the Don’t Send Me No Flowers album, with Sonny Boy Williamson.

Williamson seemed a permanent fixture on the British blues scene of the era, recording now seminal live albums with both the Animals and the Yardbirds. The Trinity, however, was perhaps his favorite band to work with; he regularly appeared at gigs, simply turning up with his harmonica and sitting in on the set, and when Auger heard that Williamson was about to return to the U.S., he convinced his manager, Giorgio Gomelski, that the Trinity, too, should record with the aging bluesman.

The session, in typical Gomelski style, was arranged for the very day of Williamson’s departure, and aside from the four main players, also involved saxophonists Alan Skidmore and Joe Harriott, and guitarist Jimmy Page.

“We hadn’t rehearsed or anything before the session; we just arrived there and I said to Sonny Boy, ‘Well, what do you feel like playing?’ And Sonny Boy said, ‘I feel like playing this’ and just ran off a riff. So I said, ‘Er, is that it?’ and he said yes, so we just set the tapes rolling and took it from there. Nobody knew what was going on, but we got the whole album done in three hours, then Sonny Boy was off to the airport.”

It was to be another four years before Don’t Send Me No Flowers finally appeared, on Gomelski’s short-lived Marmalade label; more recently it has been released under the title Jam Session, with Jimmy Page’s name at the head of the credits.

At the time, however, Auger had little time to worry about the future of the recordings. Augmented by guitarist Vic Briggs, the Trinity signed to Columbia, and was readying their first single for release, a version of Mose Allison’s ‘Fool Killer’.

“And nobody wanted to know about it,” Auger said. “The jazz people hated it as a matter of course, and the rock ‘n’ roll community all complained that it was too jazzy. It did absolutely nothing.” Copies of the single, which was released in the U.K. only, now fetch around $25 apiece.

Things were moving quickly, though. In December 1964, Auger contributed harpsichord to the Yardbirds’ ‘For Your Love’ single; now he was being courted by another British R&B legend, Long John Baldry.

Shortly before the release of ‘Fool Killer’, Baldry caught the Trinity at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester. “He sent me a message asking if I would meet with him and his manager, Martin Davis, to discuss working together.

“I was very keen; John was probably the best blues singer in Europe at that time, and working with him would launch me even deeper into the R&B thing. So I went along to this meeting, agreed that he would, essentially, be joining the Trinity, and then John said he wanted to bring along a protege of his, another Hoochie Coochie Man, Rod Stewart.”

Auger had already worked with Stewart on occasion, during the singer’s short-lived dalliance with the Soul Agents; Stewart occasionally sat in on Trinity shows. “So I had no problem with that, but then I got to thinking, ‘Well, we’ve got two male vocalists, but it’s not exactly Sam and Dave, is it? Why don’t we bring in a female vocalist as well and get a package thing going?”

The singer he had in mind was Julie Driscoll, who worked in Gomelski’s office as the Yardbirds’ fan club secretary. Gomelski dreamed of launching her as a performer, and around the same time as Brian recorded ‘Fool Killer’, he had also been called in to play piano on Driscoll’s first single, Charles and Inez Foxx’s ‘Don’t Do It No More’/’I Know You’ (Parlophone R5296; 6/65). Baldry was delighted with the idea, and by the early summer, Steampacket was a going concern.

The Steampacket story today is well-known, if only because of Rod Stewart’s involvement. More confusing, however, is the saga of the band’s recording career.

With three managers, and three record companies, involved with the individual band members (Baldry was signed to UA, Stewart and Auger to Columbia, Driscoll to Parlophone), it was never going to be easy sorting out just who had the rights to any recordings Steampacket should make. “So in the end,” said Auger, “we never made any at all. The only recording time we ever had was at nine o’clock one morning, at Advision in London, and we didn’t find out about that until the evening before, while we were playing a gig 300 miles away in Newcastle.”

The band hurtled back to London, got to the studio, and then spent the next hour wondering what to play. Finally the band, exhausted, aborted the session, and when Steampacket split in September 1966, their recorded legacy amounted to a handful of film clips, and nine songs taped by Gomelski during a rehearsal at the Marquee Club.

The first of these, ‘Can I Get A Witness’, leaked out on a semi-legal French album, volume six in BYG’s Rock Generation series, in 1971. Four years later, the same company released the remaining eight songs as Places And Faces (BYG 529 906), and in 1976, the British Charly label reissued the album as First Of The Supergroups, an apt title given all that the individual members were to go on to achieve.

They themselves, however, neither approved nor profited from the album release, and it was to be 1989 before any Steampacket recording was given a full official release, ‘Can I Get A Witness’ reappearing on Rod Stewart’s four-disc Storyteller album. Since then, ‘Witness’ and ‘Baby Take Me’, together with a third recording which certainly features both Auger and Driscoll, ‘Baby Come Home’, have appeared on the British Thunderbolt label’s The Original Face anthology (CDTB 085).

But if Steampacket was moribund, vinyl-wise, Stewart, Auger, Driscoll and Baldry were not. All four released solo singles during this period, the scarcest, of course, being Stewart’s rendering of Sam Cooke’s ‘Shake’, for which Auger wrote the distinctive arrangement.

However, neither Auger’s own ”65 Green Onions’, released in August (and recorded at the same session as ‘Fool Killer’) nor Driscoll’s ‘I Didn’t Want to Have to Do It’ (backed with a reprise of ‘Don’t Do It No More’ – Parlophone R5444; 5/66) are exactly common; indeed, with ‘Shake’ having since reappeared both on single and sundry compilation albums, it is now the easiest of the three releases to find.

Also frustratingly obscure is the Mockingbirds’ ‘You Stole My Love’ (Immediate IM 015; 10/65), which features Driscoll as backing vocalist behind future 10cc mainstays Graham Gouldman and Kevin Godley. Gomelski, incidentally, co-produced the single with Ian Samwell Smith. According to legend, Driscoll also appears on several other early Immediate singles, again in a non-starring role. As Sony continues its exhumation of the Immediate vaults, the sharp-eared listener should keep an ear out for her contributions.

Steampacket finally split in September 1966, and while Stewart and Baldry both went on to bands which, in their own way, eventually duplicated the original Steampacket formula, Shotgun Express and Bluesology, Auger set about forming a new four-piece Trinity.

With Driscoll joining Clive Thacker (drums), Gary Boyle (guitar) and, following the swift demise of Shotgun Express, Dave Ambrose (bass), the Trinity made its vinyl debut with two new singles: Auger’s ‘Tiger’ and Driscoll’s ‘I Know You Love Me Not’/’If You Should Ever Leave’ (Parlophone R5588; 4/67). Neither was greeted by anything approaching success.

With these two singles, the emphasis was on Driscoll and the Trinity as separate entities. By the summer, however, constant live work had melded the band into a very cohesive whole, and with Gomelski having now launched his own Marmalade label, work on a full Brian Auger-Julie Driscoll and the Trinity album commenced.

Open was to highlight both Driscoll’s stunning vocals, and Auger’s increasingly jazz-rock-oriented organ playing: of the first two singles from the album, ‘Black Cat’ was credited to Auger alone; the two-part ‘Save Me’ to Driscoll and the Brian Auger Trinity. But while ‘Black Cat’ was to prove popular enough for Auger to record a new, Italian-language, vocal (and also became Auger’s first U.S. single, released here by Atco), it was ‘Save Me’ which mapped out the future of the Trinity.

Due to a record company foul-up, Open did not appear in the U.K. until some three weeks into the band’s promotional campaign; giving it up for lost, Gomelski decided to take the tapes to France to see if he could arrange some kind of damage control.

He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. The Trinity was still all but unknown in the U.K. when ‘Save Me’ rose to #1 on the French chart, and when the band arrived in Paris at the start of a short European tour, it was to find Driscoll, at least, feted as a superstar.

“It was so strange,” Auger recalled. “We got to the airport and everybody was chasing after Julie, but a few people who couldn’t keep up with her dropped back and started talking to me, wondering who I was: one of the production team, perhaps? Someone from the record company?

“This continued during the interviews we had that day, and it was only later, at dinner, that I discovered what was going on. Someone from Polydor (Marmalade’s distributor) came by with copies of the single, and it was only credited to Julie. There was no mention of the rest of us anywhere on the record!”

The error was corrected on the band’s second French single, Donovan’s ‘Season Of The Witch’ (again released as a two-parter), and by early 1968 the Trinity had chalked up a third hit, with an otherwise unavailable rendition of Dylan’s ‘I Am A Lonesome Hobo’.

Elsewhere, too, things were moving with considerable speed. In January, the Trinity appeared at the annual MIDEM conference in France, and it was then, Auger recalls, that the British press finally started to take notice of the group. “Someone from BBC2 came up and said that if we wanted to appear on any of their music shows we should let them know. There was suddenly an incredible amount of interest, and by the time we were ready with the next single, we were already the hottest thing around.”

The new single was to be an eerie re-recording of Bob Dylan’s ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’, then familiar only from the surreptitiously circulating Basement Tapes. It was to become one of the biggest hits of the year, yet Auger remembered that it was selected almost by default. “Giorgio called me up one day and said ‘I have this tape coming from Bob Dylan.’ I asked him where it was and he said, ‘Bloody Manfred Mann has it.’

“Well, I thought that was it, by the time they’d finished, there’d have been nothing left. And of course, they took ‘Mighty Quinn’, and when we finally got the tape the only things of any quality left were ‘Tears Of Rage’ and ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’. We went for ‘Wheel’s On Fire’.”

But creating a new arrangement for the song was not going to be easy. “Dylan’s version was simply him singing and playing guitar, with this walking bass going through it. I tried setting a heavy backbeat to it, but it just sounded so wrong, so corny, so I went about it a different way; losing the beat, keeping the walking bass, and adding a string line with this horrible giant Mellotron which kept running out of tape in the middle of things.”

In a year which was to see the British chart explode with dynamic eccentricity – Arthur Brown’s ‘Fire’ was also imminent – ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’ stands out as one of the most distinctive, and distinctively haunting singles of all. A #1 on the then all-important New Musical Express chart, it also rocketed to #5 on the BBC’s own chart, and in its wake Open, after six months of near-dormancy, leaped into the Top 20, coming to rest at #12.

The band’s third single was a version of David Ackles’s ‘Road To Cairo’, and to promote it the Trinity launched into a three-week promotional tour, the crowning glory of which was to be a live performance on the then-prestigious Eamonn Andrews Show. On that night, however, a studio breakdown forced the postponement of their slot; Andrews’s offer of a second appearance had to be turned down. The band was off to Europe the following day.

There they discovered that with no prior notice from Gomelski, or indeed any explanation, what had been “the Brian Auger Trinity featuring Julie Driscoll” had suddenly become “Julie Driscoll and the Brian Auger Trinity,” a strange reversal which, says Auger, led immediately to a distinct lack of trust both in Gomelski and in his management maneuverings.

Matters worsened in September, when ‘Road To Cairo’ was released again, bearing Driscoll’s name alone, “which completely destroyed any credibility Giorgio had left,” according to Auger, and even set the band wondering if Driscoll had a role in this game of musical chairs.

Such an obvious source of discontent within the band was compounded by its ever-increasing workload. “Giorgio was just piling things onto our schedule with no concern for whether we had the time or energy to do them,” said Auger. “We were all exhausted. Julie and I had been on the road continually since Steampacket, and we really needed some time away to recharge our batteries. Julie in particular was suffering. Overnight she had become this enormous superstar and she was having a lot of trouble adjusting to it. Finally, just before Christmas, she announced that she didn’t think she could carry on. The trouble was, she didn’t know when she would be going.”

To prepare themselves for the inevitable split, the Trinity set about recording their own first “solo” album. An eclectic brew dominated by Auger’s haunting organ (and previewed with a single of Auger’s radically reworked version of the Beatles’ ‘Day In The Life’), Definitely What? was released toward the end of 1968 to much applause but few sales, a poor showing which was only emphasized when Gomelski succeeded in licensing Auger and Driscoll’s 11-song catalog of Columbia/Parlophone singles to the budget Music for Pleasure label.

Released here by Capitol, and recently reissued on CD in Japan, Jools & Brian is a remarkably convenient way of obtaining over $100 worth of obscure U.K. singles. Upon its initial release here, it never got higher than #194 on the Billboard charts.

Despite that poor showing, the band was dispatched into the studio for two weeks to record its own next album, after which they were off to the U.S. for the first time.

Auger and Driscoll were writing songs in the studio, at the same time as rehearsing a string of cover versions they wanted to record. “We were getting into a variety of new artists who we wanted to introduce people to,” said Auger: “Laura Nyro, Nina Simone, Richie Havens…we also wanted to do the Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’, which I hated when I first heard it. It was Jose Feliciano’s version that I liked.”

Then there was Gomelski’s “creative input.” He wanted to erase one Driscoll vocal, despite Auger describing it as one of the best performances she ever turned in; and he was still very unhappy about including Auger’s ‘Tropic Of Capricorn’ even after the album was released, which makes it seem all the more remarkable that that was one of three Streetnoise songs included on the new Marmalade sampler, 100% Proof (the others were ‘Let The Sunshine In’ and the brief ‘A Word About Colour’).

With all of this going on, it is amazing that the band not only turned out a double album, but turned out a great one at that. Viewed today as the band’s swan song, at the time it was simply the beginning.

One single was pulled from the album, ‘Indian Rope Man’. A fair-sized hit in Europe, Atco opted not to release it here, preferring to wait until the tour was in full swing. No one had any doubts that the Trinity was about to become as big in the U.S. as they were elsewhere.

But it was not to be. Just days after the Trinity earned a double encore at the Fillmore East (where they were supporting Steppenwolf), and with Streetnoise hanging around the edge of the Top 40 (it stalled at #41), Auger and Driscoll finally confronted Gomelski, who had promised that to avoid the fast-growing tension between the band and himself, he would not to even appear on the tour. The row ended with Driscoll walking out of the room, and the band.

The Trinity returned to Britain, and while Atco tried to at least create some interest with a posthumous release for ‘Save The Country’, Auger regrouped all three incarnations of the Trinity for the 1970 album Befour. Released on RCA, and spawning two very scarce singles, ‘Just Me Just You’ and the minor (#100) hit ‘Listen Here’, Befour was both a return to basics and a look ahead to Auger’s next project, Oblivion Express.

An original lineup which included guitarist Jim Mullen, bassist Barry Dean and future Average White Band drummer Robbie McIntosh, toured both continental Europe and the U.S., markets which have remained faithful to Auger over the two decades since then. (Interestingly, McIntosh’s replacement in the Express, Steve Ferrone, was also destined for the AWB.)

And while the band’s first, self-titled album, did little in sales terms, by late 1971 there was no bigger draw on the jazz-rock circuit. Indeed, Auger became the first musician ever to take first place in both the rock and jazz categories in the prestigious West German Rock & Folk magazine poll.

A second Oblivion Express album, A Better Land, was released toward the end of the year, trailered with the band’s first single, ‘Marai’s Wedding’. And as Auger himself acknowledged, his 1970s singles catalog continues to provoke great interest among collectors. “Not many people bought them, even I don’t have them all,” he said, “so while the albums do still turn up, the 45s are very hard to get these days.”

1972 saw Oblivion Express move into its period of greatest commercial success. Second Wind, the band’s third album, scraped to #170 before the band had even played the U.S.

The following year, Closer To It climbed to #64 and spent nearly eight months on the Billboard album chart, remaining there even after the Express’s next album, Straight Ahead, moved in on its way to #45.

1974 also brought a very unexpected hit single when ‘Happiness is Just Around The Bend’, Oblivion Express’s own latest single, was taken to #35 by New York soul trio the Main Ingredient (RCA 0305).

A second single from Straight Ahead, the title track, was also released, while CBS, the Express’s European label, put out perhaps the scarcest of all of the band’s singles, a France-only coupling of ‘Inner City Blues’ and ‘Light On The Path’, from Closer To It.

Live Oblivion rounded out a phenomenal year, and in 1975 Auger and his family moved to the U.S., to concentrate on what was now his number one market. He was rewarded when he topped the Jazz Organist poll in Contemporary Keyboard magazine, edging his old idol, Jimmy Smith, into second place two years in a row.

A second volume of Live Oblivion, and a new studio album, Reinforcements, closed Auger’s RCA career; in 1976 he signed to Warner Brothers, and while RCA enjoyed some success with The Best Of Brian Auger, accompanied by the ubiquitous lost single, ‘Foolish Girl’, Oblivion Express chalked up their seventh straight hit album, Happiness Heartaches.

(A second Oblivion Express Best Of was released simultaneously in Italy [RCA NL 42724] with a slightly different selection of tracks.)

Oblivion Express split in 1977, and Auger moved immediately into one of the most eagerly awaited reunions of the decade, pairing up again with Julie Driscoll.

Now working under her married name – her husband is jazz pianist Keith Tippetts – Julie had all but vanished from the public eye in the years since the Trinity broke up.

Two U.K.-only solo albums, a self-titled effort in 1971 (Polydor 2480 074), and Sunset Glow in 1976 (Utopia UTS 601), bookended guest appearances on albums by Ellis, Carla Bley and, of course, Keith Tippett’s own projects; those aside, her most notable appearance was alongside her brother-in-law Brian Godding on the now legendary 1971 Blossom Toes reunion album, Workers Playtime, released under the name BB Blunder (United Artists UAG 29156. U.K. only).

Encore, the pair’s reunion, remains a stunning album, closer to rock than either Tippetts or Auger had strayed in years, and featuring a handful of cover versions which were at least as well-chosen as those which bedecked Open and Streetnoise: ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’, Jack Bruce’s ‘Rope Ladder To The Moon’, and Traffic’s ‘No Time To Live’. The Washington Post described the album as an “indispensable addition to every jazz fusion library,” but neither the recording nor the promotion of the album went at all well, and, according to Auger, “By the time it appeared, Warners had just about given up on it. They stuck 30,000 copies out and forgot the whole thing.”

For the collector, Auger’s career since 1978 has been relatively straightforward. A three-year silence was broken in 1981, with a new band, Search Party, and album, Planet Earth Calling, a Grammy nominee for the year’s best instrumental rock album.

Two years later, while working with the La Scale Milan Ballet, he recorded his first solo album, Here And Now. Originally released in Italy and France alone, Here And Now spawned one single, the Italy-only ‘Hurricane’. (The full album was later released on vinyl in Austria, Switzerland and West Germany, and on CD in the U.S. and Canada.)

A new ad-hoc band, featuring Auger alongside Back Door’s Colin Hodgkinson and the Spencer Davis Group’s Pete York, produced the live-in-Germany Steaming in 1985; York also joined Auger and Chris Farlowe on ‘Olympic Rock And Blues’, a direct-to-disc recording made in Germany in 1988.

Auger also became involved in the West German television production Superdrumming, appearing on two of the three CDs released from the series, all of which are currently available in Europe only. And, again with York, he joined an all-star aggregation on SuperJam, a CD release for the music from another West German TV series, Villa Fantastica. Also present on this Germany-only release are Dick Morrissey, Zoot Money and Maria Muldaur.

Since 1990, Auger has been working with Eric Burdon, in a band which is now something of a permanent fixture on the live circuit in this country and abroad. Plans for an album are now fully advanced, with Auger boasting, justifiably on the strength of the duo’s live performances, that this will be the album they have both been threatening to make for so long.

Auger has also taken part in an Oblivion Express reunion, in Florida in February 1992, and he is currently negotiating not only for the CD reissue of that band’s entire catalog, but also a brand new Oblivion Express album.

But his most fervent hope is that someone, somewhere, will finally reorganize and reissue his ’60s output. Since their demise, the Auger-Driscoll Trinity has become one of the most chronicled bands of their era, thanks to a slew of well-meaning, but hopelessly muddled compilation albums.

Genesis, released by Polydor in 1974, for instance, combines cuts from OpenDefinitely What? and Streetnoise, but makes no attempt to separate them out for the listener. The following year’s Flashback, and the Germany-only Star Portrait (Polydor 2625 008), are better, in that they rely in the main on Driscoll vocal tracks, but still the absence of any informative sleeve notes is infuriating. (They also ignore the fact that Auger’s share of the royalties goes to the Save the Children fund, an arrangement which has been in place for some 20 years now.)

“Over the years there have been dozens of compilations sneaking out all over the place,” Auger complained. “And what they do is simply jumble up outtakes, odd album tracks and singles, with no sense of chronology, nothing to tell the listener who plays on what or when it was done.”

It would not take much effort to redress the balance. With Streetnoise already back on the shelves, all that would be needed, Auger said, are back-to-back releases for Open and Definitely What?, padded out with the Trinity’s non-album output (and the Italian language ‘Black Cat’). With Jools & BrianDon’t Send Me No Flowers and the Steampacket tracks then reappearing with full annotation, the story would be complete.

“I hope it will happen,” Auger said, “if only for those people who come up to me at every gig with another strange compilation whose logic defies even me.”

© Dave ThompsonGoldmine, 14 April 1995

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