FANNY’S previous album. Charity Ball, may not have been the best album of the last eight months, but it was probably the one I played most, the one that somehow almost seemed to sneak its way onto the turntable when I wasn’t looking.
It was an album that got to be like a good pair of jeans, something you felt comfortable and easy in, and so I listened to it more often than anything else. Now mighty Kinney has disgorged the new Fanny album, recorded last December at Apple. I’ve only been wearing it a few days, but it fits fine.
Fanny, as most will know, are the four girl rock and roll band who are the pride and joy of slavering male chauvinist pig audiences and liberated sisters alike. They combine the virtues of a good pop group and a good rock band with consummate ease. The brunt of the singing and songwriting duties are no longer on the shoulders of Nickey Barclay (keyboards), and for my own personal taste that’s a turn for the worse, for guitarist June Millington’s writing and singing are a trifle too bland. To compensate, they play two borrowed numbers, the Beatles’ ‘Hey Bulldog’ and Smokey Robinson’s ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’ with infinite venom and power and far more conviction than they gave Stephen Still’s ‘Special Care’ on Charity Ball.
Good things abound, for example Nickey’s caustic ‘Borrowed Time’, a vitriolic look at a posturing rock and roll star featuring her coarse and contemptuous voice at its very best, and brass deluxe from the ubiquitous Jim Price and Bobby Keyes. Or maybe you’d prefer ‘Rock Bottom Blues’, a classic ’50s style rocker telling of the trials and tribulations of the rock and roll life-style. Alice de Buhr (drums) makes a momentous vocal debut here, sailing into the song with a cutting edge like a buzz saw and a sublime disregard for the niceties of pitch. And for you country rock freaks, there’s ‘The Sound And The Fury’ with some lovely (though uncredited) pedal steel. If it’s June playing, then Rusty Young and good ol’ Uncle Jerry G. better look to their laurels. She plays some pretty fair slide on ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’ (currently available as a single), though she sure ain’t no Johnny Winter. Nor no Duane Allman.
Despite the loss last year of Duane ‘Skydog’ Allman, coke freak extraordinaire and one of the finest rock musicians ever to pick up a guitar, the Allman Brothers Band keep right on hittin’ the note. The ghost of Duane still casts a shadow, though, and 3 of the 4 sides of Eat A Peach (subtitled “Dedicated to a Brother”) feature his work. The band’s other guitarist, Dicky Betts, even overdubs slide guitar at one point on the ‘new’ side.
Two full sides of Eat A Peach are given over to a 35 minute exploration of all the rhythmic and harmonic possibilities of Donovan’s ‘There is a Mountain’. Recorded live at the same gig that produced their Fillmore East double, it’s a staggeringly fine piece of music that at its best gets you off in the same way as the Dead’s ‘Dark Star’. It sounds different each time you hear it, depending on how your own particular vibes are at that given moment, but at those times when you and it are operating on equivalent frequencies (translation: wrecked out of your skull), it’s quite magic.
© Charles Shaar Murray, Oz, May 1972