Sunday, 16 December 2012

Brian Protheroe (1974-1976)

Brian Protheroe's music career started in 1963 when he joined Roger Hicks and Bill Thacker in a folk trio named Folk Blues Incorporated (FBI). Around 1965 the group moved to London, where they were playing regular gigs at folk clubs such as Les Cousins in Greek Street and The Troubadour in Earls Court. Following his brief stint as a folkie, Protheroe spent the next seven years as an actor in the theatre, but he continued to write music in his spare time and even joined the Albion Band on Hohner Clavinet for a short time in 1970.

In 1973, Protheroe was playing the part of a pop singer in Death On Demand, a play in which he would perform some of his own compositions and it was during this time that he was spotted by a representative from Chrysalis Records who would sign him up for three albums over the next three years.

Brian Protheroe
"Pinball" was the first single to be released by Protheroe for Chrysalis in July 1974, entering the UK charts at number 40 before peaking at 22 gaining him his first and only hit record. The song was included on Sean Rowley's "Guilty Pleasures" compilation album back in 2004 which led to renewed interest and eventually saw his back catalogue being remastered and reissued on CD. The album that followed the single, also called "Pinball", followed. A nice album full of jazzy pop with with plenty of Protheroe's scat vocals scattered(!) across the thirteen tracks. The album is good and has it's better moments, "Mickey Dollar Dreams" has some neat backwards reverb and "Goodbye Surprise" rivals the album's title track with it's cool moodiness but would have been better off without the cheesy brass parts. On the whole the album sounds like a Jazz-light version of Bowie's "Hunky Dory". Good, but not essential.

For me, the best song on the album (and Protheroe's best tune) is "Fly Now" which was the second single, released in early 1975 backed with "Clog Dancer" (also on the LP). "Fly Now" borrows a bit of piano from Lynsey De Paul's "Sugar Me" and grooves like McCartney's "Monkberry Moon Delight", bouncing along for a modest two minutes and twenty seconds. This should've been a big hit but failed to make an impression on the charts and ending up in the bargain bins across the country.

1975 saw the release of a second album "Pick Up", a less jazzy affair than the debut and sounds like a cross between mid 70's Elton John and Bill Joel. This is my favourite of the three Brian Protheroe albums and contain a couple of his best compositions, "Gertrude's Garden Hospital" a Gilbert O'Sullivan-esque tune (any song that ends with the line "Shut ya gob!" is fine by me) and "Good Brand Band", which was his final single released by Chrysalis.

"You/I" was Protheroe's third and final album and he went all out with some epic production and lengthier songs, four of the ten tracks exceed the five minute mark and sounding a lot like Christopher Rainbow in places. "Every Roman Knows" has always reminded me of a Pilot song but I can't think which one. "Under The Greenwood Tree" is a great folk track with flute and features a guest appearance from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, a nice song but sounding a bit out of place on here. Album closer "Face And I" is a big ballad with Abbey Road guitar lines and a grand exit to his music career. Quite possibly, Brian had had enough of the music business rather than the music business having enough of Brian by 1976 and following the "You/I" album he returned to the stage where he remains to this day.

I'd featured Brian Protheroe's "Fly Now" on my 3rd Bite It Deep mix back in July, but here it is again. Diggg...

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