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Brand X Do They Durt?

Brand X - Do They Hurt?

The album from the Night Band’s sessions


Preface

While writing the review, I learned of John Goodsall's too early death. With him died the heart of this extraordinary jazz-rock prog pop swing combo. *1) It is a testimony to his role that the core of the album is formed by Goodsall's compositions Voidarama, Act of Will and Campodia. This review is dedicated to the memory of John Goodsall. May he remain unforgotten.


Background

In September 1979, Product came out, the first album of the recording sessions at Startling Studio. It was accompanied by an amount of publicity that was unusual for this band. *2)

This was the output of the "day band" around Goodsall, Lumley, Collins and Giblin. The results of the "night band" with Goodsall (what a busy man he was!), Jones, Robinson and Clarke were still awaiting release, as the management and record company had spoken out against a double album. They also wanted to reach new listeners and push sales with Product. Therefore, after the release of Product, the band went on a two-month tour of the UK and US. These were the last activities of Brand X with Phil Collins, who was very busy with Genesis and what would become his solo career.

Months passed and it was not until April 1980 that the songs of the "night band" were released on an album entitled Do They Hurt? In the meantime, the members of Brand X worked as session musicians for Peter Gabriel (PG3 Melt), Kate Bush (Never For Ever) and Jon Anderson (Song Of Seven), among others.


The title and the cover design

As with Product, Hipgnosis was commissioned to design the cover for this album, too.

Do They Hurt?We see a dimly lit garden path in the dark. A woman walks down towards the exit, where a crocodile awaits her. The camera catches the scene from just above the ground, so we can only see the woman's legs and the hem of her red dress or coat. Her feet are clad in shimmering reddish crocodile leather shoes. The back cover shows the scene from a higher, lateral angle. The crocodile seems more menacing, the woman frozen in screaming terror. She holds a reddish shimmering crocodile leather handbag in her hand. The reference to the album title is clear: Who is hurting whom?

"A woman stepping out in her best crocodile shoes is confronted by a real crocodile. Do They Hurt? The shoes or the annoyed croc? A classic Storm visual pun based on the title. Looking back, it's amazing that bands where so trusting. They had to give approval, of course, but rarely did anyone complain. They found, and loved, the humour in many Hipgnosis covers. And we where a humorous bunch. Storm and I could be at each others throats one minute and best buddies the next. Sometimes, though, people left because of Storms erratic behaviour and the brought projects to a grinding halt. Storm generally shrugged it off. Snappy like a crocodile sandwich.", explains Aubrey Powell *3

The liner notes on the back cover are particularly interesting for fans of Monty Python because they were written by none other than Michael Palin. Palin is a friend of Robin Lumley’s who asked him to write a few words for the album. He did, at some length. There are, apparently, parallels to the Holy Grail film. *4)


Songs


Noddy Goes to Sweden (Jones) - 4:30

The album's opener first appeared a year earlier on the B-side of the maxi single of Soho. *5) The piece was written by Percy Jones and, surprise surprise, it shows the possibilities of fine bass playing. Jones is accompanied by drummer Mike Clarke, percussionist Morris Pert and keyboardist Peter Robinson. After a crashing drum storm, it steams, bubbles and hums in a minor key. It sounds as if a cat danced across a keyboard with a weird tuning. Jones "sings" distortedly in vocoder voice.   

The short song sounds improvised rather than well-structured or carefully composed. It is a testament to Brand X's sense of humour that they chose such a disturbing, funky bass homage as the album opener.


Voidarama (Goodsall) - 4:21

Now the album really takes off and continues the philosophy of Product. Guitar arpeggios come in, Phil's drums pick up the rhythm, John Giblin's bass adds its bit. A beautiful soloing electric guitar defines the piece. From minute two, a jazzy break occurs by means of a keyboard swirl. Robinson and Lumley complement each other on piano and keyboards. Finally, the music slides into the familiar ups and downs of the Brand X sound to disappear into gentle keyboard carpets. Weather Report and the Mahavishnu Orchestra were the inspiration. Here we hear the "Day Band" playing.


Act of Will (Goodsall) - 4:43

This Goodsall song begins with sparkling guitar and vocoder vocals by Goodsall himself, whose fine guitar work also dominates this track. The rather rocky song will put off the jazzers. It starts quietly and develops into a banger towards the end. As with Soho, the song was probably intended to serve the commercial market. Soho, however, seems more mature, composed better and, with Phil's vocals, more capable of conquering the mainstream. The song leaves us with the bland aftertaste that it is only the little brother of Soho.


Fragile (Jones, Robinson) - 5:26

Brand X AdvertDrums, percussion and bass start off a  Jones/Robinson composition. Fine xylophone sounds complement each other with exquisite keyboard. Goodsall's guitar sounds lovely weird and the bass pumps wonderfully. Whenever it seems to get too quiet, the tempo is increased. Around the four-minute mark, the reviewer feels he can hear the rhythm of Queen's Another One Bites the Dust. Fine light funky jazz-rock, reminiscent of the Masques album.


Cambodia (Goodsall) - 4:31

The third Goodsall piece of the album begins with a quiet solo guitar. More and more instruments gather around it until the piece evolves into stirring sound play. The music becomes denser and more threatening, as it rises towards a brilliant progressive guitar solo. Clarke's drums calmly drive the sonic hurricane forward. A compact, progressive stadium rock song that would have fitted well on the Product album. The secret highlight of the album and a tribute to the dead of the Vietnam War.


Triumphant Limb (Goodsall, Giblin, Lumley, Collins) - 7:34

This is the „day band“ composing and making music. The listener hears a calm beginning with keyboard and bass that transitions into jazzy banter. Goodsall's guitar rocks, the duo on the keyboards improvises weird sounds and Collins plays some great drums. This is Brand X's typical jazz-fusion rock that characterised their first two albums. It undulates into a tour de force of sounds with solos from various instruments until it ends quite suddenly with a drum roll. The triumphant statement of a hip band of jazz - fusion - rock!


D M Z (Jones) - 8:39

The album ends with this playful and carefree jazz-rocking piece, which is the longest at over eight minutes. Bass and keyboards dominate the scene. One can imagine sitting in a South American bar with a cocktail listening to these sounds. Goodsall shows his characteristic "choppy" guitar playing. Truly one of the great of his trade. Clarke's drumming is quite up with Phil Collins‘s. The composition is a successful conclusion of a solid Jazz - Rock - Fusion - album.


BadgeAll in all

Do The Hurt? was the last album Brand X released on Charisma. *6) The record company lost interest in this extraordinary, but financially not very profitable music - despite the fact that Do They Hurt? continued on the path of simplifying the sound that they had embarked on with Product. Act of Will is a good example for this. However, the album lacks the effervescence of its predecessor – it feels like a collection of outtakes from the Product sessions. It is significant that the two recorded pieces of the "day band" that found their way onto the album sound the most homogeneous. They probably diluted the clear cut between day band and night band recordings so they could still put the name Phil Collins on the album.

Despite it all, it has become a solid album between jazz rock, prog and rock. It has the typical Brand X signature: Bubbling bass lines, weird guitar runs, cool drumming and colourful keyboards. Here you can hear a number of  experts in their field jamming blithely away without losing the structure.

If you have the courage to discover extraordinary music you should dedicate a little of your time to Do The Hurt? It's definitely worth it!


Author: Thomas Jesse
Translation: Martin Klinkhardt



Remarks:
*1. See: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialBrandX/
*2. As usual, many thanks to Steffen Gerlach for his profound history of the band!
*3. From: Aubrey Powell, Vinyl. Album. Cover. Art, The Complete Hipgnosis Catalogue, London 2017, S. 281
*4. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_They_Hurt%3F
*5. See here
*6. There would be one more album called Is There Anything About? in 1982, with which Brand X fulfilled their contract with Passport Records in the U.S.


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