Saturday, 12 May 2012

The Flame - The Flame (1970)

South African band The Flame was formed in 1963 by brothers Steve and Brother Fataar on guitar and bass respectively.  Originally named The Flames, various members came and went until 1967, when third Fataar brother, Ricky (drums) and friend Blondie Chaplin (guitar, vocals) completed the ultimate line up.

The band released several soul/pop covers albums in Africa and became one of the country's most popular acts.  In 1968 South Africa was becoming more segregated and made it impossible for the band to play to a white audience, so with Ricky still only 16 years of age, they left their home land, seeking success in the UK.

Whilst playing in London they were spotted by Beach Boy Carl Wilson (on a tip from Al Jardine) who liked the band so much that he signed them up to the Beach Boys new record label Brother.  The Flame would be the only band, other than the Beach Boys to release music on Brother. The band moved to LA to record an album, with Carl Wilson taking the role of producer.

The self titled LP was released in 1970.  The album opens with "See The Light", an up tempo rocker in the mould of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and includes a killer George Harrison style guitar sound, especially on the riff during the outro. This track was chosen as the single to promote the album in the USA and UK.  "Make It Easy" wouldn't sound out of place on Badfinger's "No Dice", in fact, the whole album is comparable Badfinger at their best.  "Don't Worry Bill" and "High's and Lows" are pure Abbey Road, the latter includes some pretty neat Moog action too. The two ballads on the album "Lady" and "Dove" are tastefully played without any cheesiness or cringe worthy lyrics. "See The Light", again like Sgt Pepper, is reprised at the end of the record, this time slowed down with the guys really letting rip on the vocals.

I've owned this album for around ten years now and it's one I come back to time and time again and is one of those rare records that doesn't make me want to skip any track.  They're all good.  Power Pop fans wanting to check out the roots of the genre should track this album down asap and anyone with a quadraphonic hi-fi set up will also dig it as it was the first record (to my knowledge) to be released in quadraphonic sound.  The album even came with instructions on how to position your speakers!

Following the album's lack of big sales, Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin were asked to join the Beach Boys replacing Dennis Wilson who had broke his hand putting him out of action for a while and Bruce Campbell who had just departed.  They are present on "Carl and the Passions" and "Holland" and contribute vocals and even songwriting credits on both albums.

Ricky Fataar went on the play the role Stig O'Hara in the Rutles then moved into session work playing with artists like Ian McLagan, Bonnie Raitt and Crowded House.  Blondie Chaplin released three solo albums and has played as a session guitarist with the likes of Rick Danko, David Johansen and the Rolling Stones.

For more information on The Flame check out Bas Mollenkramer's excellent website here.

1 comment:

  1. Bravissimo!!! Great beatlesque music! I love it! Thank you!