Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wally - That Was Then (2009)

Yep, you read those tags right. Progressive Rock and Country. IT MUST BE THE END OF THE FUCKING WORLD!!

Well, not really. Wally were an ambitious sonic coalition of odd chaps from Yorkshire who came to brief prominence in 1973 when they placed 2nd in a contest hosted by music newspaper Melody Maker to weed out potentially innovative new bands for the various U.K. labels to rally behind. Despite the silver medal however, they caught the interest of a judge and managed cut a deal with Atlantic Records. Their self-titled debut was issued in 1974, with keyboard wankmeister of Yes-fame Rick Wakeman at the production reins. The band would produce another record the following year and tour with Wankman's parent band, but disbanded by '76 due to lack of sales and being dropped from Atlantic's lineup...

I won't get into the rest of their history because it's boring as balls, so on with the review: That Was Then is a 2009 remastered compilation of Wally's two 70's records, a Best-Of in a sense...except no tracks are left out. What makes the deal even sweeter is that the band themselves remastered and compiled this stuff, not Atlantic Records. Hooray for independent releases!

Anyway, what we have here is a treasure chest stuffed with some fine-ass tuneage with a rare crossover appeal. For those of you that love that old time country feel with a Baroque twist, the shorter pieces here will be a true treat indeed ['Nez Perce', 'Sunday Walking Lady', 'I Just Wanna Be A Cowboy'] while fans of Yes and Pink Floyd will be savoring the depth & complexity of the passionate 10+ minute epics that occupy opposite sides of the record ['The Reason Why', 'To The Urban Man'].

Instrumentally, there's a lot of mandolin, guitar and some totally boss technical choppin' in all the sweet spots throughout many of these songs, but its the attention-grabbing vocal harmonies that serve as this compilation's strongest point. Lead singer and steel guitarist Roy Webber is quite the romanticist; he comes across as a huskier Jon Anderson in range, yet at the same time is armed with that rare quality of invoking a vague morbidity when you least expect it (a gift that famous desperadoes like Johnny Cash or Townes Van Zandt had in spades) despite the heights his drawl can climb on occasion, and these compositions are all the more compelling with his presence at their helm.

To those who believe a prog. country album cannot be done, give the novelty of That Was Then a click & a whirl. Who knows, maybe you blighters will fall in love with these guys as much I have over the last year!

Listen Here - "I Just Wanna Be A Cowboy"

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