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Brand X Product

Brand X - Product


A personal word ahead:

Product was the first Brand X album the reviewer bought at the time of its release. He came across it because of a sticker that said "incl. Phil Collins. The Voice Of Genesis" and an advertisement in the German Musikexpress music magazine *1. Reviewing this album is therefore very special for him, and he begs your understanding if his remarks go beyond objectivity.


Background:

In 1979 / 1980 Charisma launched a major advertising campaign to increase demand for Genesis products. Tony and Mike's solo albums were advertised in magazines, as was the Brand X album, which was presented as Phil's baby. This secured greater attention for Product.

Phil was back from Canada after a failed marriage and had time and desire to make a lot of music again. Since the management of Brand X met with resistance from the band members (especially Percy Jones) with their desire for commercialisation, they came up with the idea of bringing back musicians who had left the band in addition to the current line-up. Phil was quickly convinced and the others followed. So they had musicians for two band versions. Besides Goodsall, Jones, Robinson and Clarke, there was Lumley, Giblin and Phil. Even Pert showed up at the recording sessions from time to time. *2

In April 1979 they booked time at Ringo Starr's Startling Studios in Ascot. *3 They rehearsed and recorded in two shifts: Goodsall, Lumley, Collins, Giblin working during the day and Goodsall, Jones, Robinson, Clarke in the evening. Yes, good Goodsall did double duty.

The result were songs that would have filled a double album. But it was decided to put the songs on two albums and release them one after the other. The first one would contain the more commercial material of the daily band. They went on tour with this album and released the songs of the night band six months later.

The first album of the Sessions, Product, was released in September 1979. The release was accompanied by a 7" single of the song Soho (B-side: Dance of the Illegal Aliens - short version). Charisma did not even shy away from releasing this song on a 12" maxi with the non-album tracks Noddy Goes To Sweden (night band plus Pert), and Pool Room Blues (day band with Jones and Robinson) on the B-side.

The band went on a month-long tour of England and the USA with two keyboard players and Phil for the last time. Phil then left for good to have time for Genesis and a solo career. It was not until a year after the recording sessions that the night band's album Do They Hurt? was released in April 1980.


Title and artwork:

ProductAfter the Masques interlude, Hipgnosis was again commissioned with the cover design. The people around Storm Thorgerson created one of the most colourful and bizarre artworks in their history. In the centre we see a man stepping into a drinks machine. The action takes place at a station entrance. This scene is broken up by comic-book illustrated pipes, chemical apparatus and a scientist pouring a liquid into a glass. How are we to interpret the title and the cover?

"The dictionary defines the word 'product' as a result, consequence, outcome, effect, upshot, by-product, spin off and legacy. A thing or person that is the result of an action or process.

That is exactly what the picture is about. A scientist designs a product - a fizzy drink - in a lab. The machine that dilivers the drink fails to function properly. The result? The frustrated purchaser vents his rage on the vending machine. Negative behaviour as an indirect consequence of a lab technican creating a fizzy drink will have a further repercussion for the young man because of his actions. The butterfly creates a tsunami. It's a philosophical conundrum. The photography and illustration work particularly well here, due tot he well-thought-through narrative. There´a propper storyline and the position oft he subjects and the stylization oft he picture work in tandem.", erklärt Aubrey Powell *4

So, Brand X create a product that leads to changes in the behaviour and to emotional outbursts of the consumer?


The songs:

SohoThe reviewer refers the order and choice of songs that were used for the vinyl LP. The CD edition saw changest:

 

LP

Side one

1 Don't Make Waves (Goodsall) - 5:28

2 Dance of the Illegal Aliens (Jones) - 7:50

3 Soho (Goodsall, Collins) - 3:38

4 ...And So to F... (Collins) - 6:29


Side two

5 Algon (Where an Ordinary Cup of Drinking Chocolate Costs £8,000,000,000) (Lumley) - 6:10

6 Rhesus Perplexus (Giblin) - 3:59

7 Wal to Wal / Not Good Enough - See Me! - 10:44

7a. Wal to Wal (Jones, Giblin)

7b. Not Good Enough - See Me! (Jones, Robinson)

8 April (Giblin) - 2:36


CD

1 Don't Make Waves (Goodsall)

2 Dance of the Illegal Aliens (Jones)

3 Soho (Goodsall, Collins)

4 Not Good Enough-See Me! (Jones, Robinson)

5 Algon (Where an Ordinary Cup of Drinking Chocolate Costs £8,000,000,000) (Lumley)

6 Rhesus Perplexus (Giblin)

7 Wal to Wal (Jones, Giblin)

8 ...And So to F... (Collins)

9 April (Giblin)


AdvertThe decision was made in favour of the LP, as the compilation offers a fine dramatic finale with And So To F as the conclusion of side 1. Wal To Wal and Not Good Enough – See Me! build one on the other. Splitting them is tantamount to dismemberment.


Don't Make Waves

The album begins with a five-minute cracking rock song. The listener rubs his eyes in surprise. Wasn’t this supposed to be jazz fusion rock, not a piece with vocals and a catchy beat?! Phil Collins sings "properly" for the first time on a Brand X album. The guys never sounded so like Genesis as on this song. Vocals, drums and structure make you think of Phil's original band. Perhaps the style can be described as prog-pop-jazz-stadium-rock. Goodsall, who composed the song, plays solid guitar, Giblin's bass is concise and Phil's drumming is unmistakable.


Dance of the Illegal Aliens

Here’s the familiar Brand X sound. A wonderful bass line is accompanied by keyboards and guitar who play relaxed music. Phil drums sophisticatedly and gives the piece support. The piece goes all but quiet at around 3:00 before the music literally explodes. Up and down it goes with the wonderful dance, which has nothing at all to do with the song Genesis would put out some years later. In the second half, bass and guitar create an ominous mood, which is lightened by tinkling keyboards. A xylophone (Pert) can be heard. A solo by Goodsall heralds the unfortunately faded-out end of the song reminiscent of Weather Report.


Soho

The confusion of the jazz rock purist stirs again. Phil sings again. Street noises fill the room, poppy percussion, strumming guitar and pumping bass join in. This is more pop than we have ever heard from Brand X. The melodic line hints at the coming development in Genesis. Sounds a bit like Illegal Alien, or vice versa. Phil wrote the song together with Goodsall. If this piece had horns, it could also have been wonderful on Face Value.


...And So To F...

The third track on which Phil (who wrote it on his own) has left his mark. Certainly the most rounded piece of music from Brand X, which is unfortunately attributed to Phil because he would play it at his solo concerts. The band plays as if from a single mould: a tense introduction with guitar and drums is followed by the main part with xylophone, bass and keyboard carpet in the background, which ends in a furious finale with key changes, vocals, pumping bass and booming guitars. The piece experiences an almost unbearable climax and is the perfect live favourite. However, it is still far away from the jazz rock we hear on Unorthodox Behaviour.


Algon (Where an Ordinary Cup of Drinking Chocolate Costs £8,000,000,000)

ProductBrand X can be accused of having a penchant for unusual titles. Is the piece, as its name promises, related to space rock? Not at all! The excursion to Algon begins with massive swirling drums until it becomes quieter after half a minute. A wonderfully serene, pearly keyboard takes over and duels with a gentle bass. Two minutes later we hear the swirl of the beginning again, pushed to extremes by wild xylophone interludes. Then piano again - and bass runs that continue to develop the ups and downs. Phil plays another Wot Gorilla? here, while Goodsall's guitar leads the piece towards the brilliant finale. This is Brand X fusion rock at its best. It's more cumbersome than the previous number, complex, eerily percussive and never forgetting the melody line.


Rhesus Perplexus

The listener can expect a beautifully jazzy gem dominated by the acoustic guitar. It shines with cool bass lines, sparkling piano cascades and a funky Collins and could also easily have been on Masques. Unfortunately, at only four minutes, it's far too short.


Wal to Wal / Not Good Enough - See Me!

a) Wal to Wal: The title refers to the Wal bass guitars that Jones and Giblin play. What do you get when you have two bass players and a drummer playing together while the rest of the band takes a coffee break? Correct - bubbling, humming, hammering sound that last for three minute, *5 ... only ...

b) Not Good Enough - See Me!: ….to be replaced by a drum and keyboard excess. A weird guitar goes on the rampage. After just under three minutes, it quiets down with a soloing bass. The sounds you can get out of a bass! Drums come in and drift softly until minute five. A floating synthesizer opens the next jazz rock tour de force, referring to the beginning of the piece and Goodsall's solo.


April

The album ends wonderfully relaxed. Warm bass sounds are accompanied by synthesizer blankets and nature sounds. *6


To Sum It All Up:

Brand X have succeeded in creating a varied album with Product that quotes many musical styles. It takes up elements of prog, pop and rock and interweaves them with jazz. Phil Collins’s growing fame is cleverly used, for example, to open up new markets for the album with his singing. As expected, this is at the expense of complexity and recognition value. It is therefore not surprising that the follow-up album Do They Hurt? led to a dead end and the band finally disappeared into insignificance for a long time.

Brand X follow many bands of that time in simplifying of their sound and becoming more commercial. Genesis would follow this path as well - but they were much more successful than the jazz rockers.

Nevertheless, Product is fun and still doesn't sound very dusty today. It is an important step for Phil from a pure musician to a composer and successful solo artist.

The album gives you an insight into a very own style of music and winks as it invites the listener to jazzrockprogswing.


By Thomas Jesse, English By Martin Klinkhardt (April 2021)


Remarks:
*1. Musik Express, Nr. 10, 1979, S. 22: https://www.musikexpress.de/wp-content/uploads/zeitung/musikexpress/J0XDnniCR7hrL/index.html#/html5///page/22
*2. As always, many thanks to Steffen Gerlach for his excellent and extraordinary history of the band in his Brand X special!
*3. See: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tittenhurst_Park
*4. From: Aubrey Powell, Vinyl. Album. Cover. Art, The Complete Hipgnosis Catalogue, London 2017, S. 268
*5. This is the very first time Phil experiments with the Roland Drum Machine, even pre-Duke https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_CR-78, Wal To Wal Bass: https//Walbasses.co.uk
*6. The band liked this piece so much that a longer new arrangement was released as A Longer April on Is There Anything About? in 1982


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