Review – Baker Gurvitz Army: Neon Lights – The Broadcasts 1975 – by JohnWenlock-Smith

I reviewed a live Baker Gurvitz Army release last year and raved about just how good a unit the band were as evidenced on that great live set. So imagine the joy I felt when I heard that a box set of hitherto unreleased recordings and 2 DVD’s of the band live, including an expanded version of their live set for the German TV show Musikladen, a live Old Grey Whistle Test session and a BBC Radio In Concert show was to be released in January 2024.

Sheer musical heaven for me as a long time admirer of the band, a band that I first heard in 1974 or 75, I can’t remember which exactly, I have loved the band ever since. I immediately made contact to secure this for myself and today it arrived and is every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be. Parts of this set I already have, including a Video CD (remember those ill fated release’s in the early to mid 1980s?). Well, this is a proper version of that recording. Also here is an updated and expanded version of their ‘Live at Kings Hall, Derby’ CD from the early 2000’s, again with two extra tracks. As always on these sets, there is a degree of repetition but having it all in one tidy little box with great sleeve notes is fabulous

Once again, you can appreciate the strength and sheer power of the band as a unit, a five piece with Ginger Baker on drums, ex-Seventh Wave man Peter Lemer on keyboards, Paul Purvitz on bass and ex-Sharks vocalist Steve Parsons (A.K A Mr Snips) whose vocals allow Adrian Gurvitz room to play some very tasty lead guitar throughout.

For me, it is the opportunity to actually see and experience the band in my own front room that is the treat here and it is great to finally to be able to do this some nearly fifty years on from their short tenure as a band. I was too young to actually go to see these for myself, even though they played at Birmingham Town Hall in 1976. I do wish I had taken that opportunity back in the day, I’m sure I would have been blown away by them live. Instead this live footage is definitely an acceptable alternative and one I can repeat whenever I want to.

Despite several tracks being duplicated across the five discs (3CD’s and 2 DVD’s), there is sufficient variation in the different versions to still be of interest, especially for a fan boy like me! As always, great care has been taken with the sound, remastered to a very high standard by Ben Wiseman at Broadlake Studios in Hertfordshire.

The band are all on very good form on all of the recordings and it is wonderful to see ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris again introducing the band. Visually their stage setup is pretty standard, drums at the rear with keyboards to the left, bass front left, guitarist stage right and vocalist to the centre and together the five people on stage recreate their albums to perfection and even allow for extended takes of certain songs, all of which adds to the excitement and the atmosphere that the band generate.

For those fortunate enough to have been at any of these shows they certainly were treated to a highly impressive set of music and, remastered it all sounds great with no drop outs at all. Which, for recordings as old as these are, is remarkable and definitely captures a band on the rise, Sadly, as we now know, the death of their manager in a light aeroplane crash over Scotland was a blow from which the group never recovered and so it all fell apart. Baker went back to playing polo again, whilst the Gurvitz brothers teamed up with Moody Blues’ drummer Graeme Edge for his two solo albums and a string of live shows. Steve Parsons released a solo single and got involved with some punk and new wave projects but nothing that made any huge impact, he later revived The Sharks band and continued to make music once more.

Fate has derailed many a promising career, and she certainly did that here, the rifts were never healed and the band split up never to return! With Baker’s death in 2019 that dream died with him. It was a terrible loss to the world of music, however, thanks to the diligence of Esoteric, once again the Baker Gurvitz Army can March forward for a whole new raft of listeners to discover their unique and often different style of heavy rock for themselves.

For those who know of this fine band this set is a treasure trove of delights, I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it highly.

Released 26th January, 2024.

Order from Cherry Red here:

Baker Gurvitz Army: Neon Lights – The Broadcasts 1975, 3CD/2DVD Box Set – Cherry Red Records

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