Although best remembered for massive hits ‘Magic’ and ‘January’, there was always far more to Pilot’s career in the 1970s. The Scottish pop-rockers released four albums between 1974 and 1977 containing well crafted pop and rock elements which, at their best, should’ve placed the band high on a pantheon of pop alongside 10cc and Andrew Gold. Instead, they’re sometimes remembered – somewhat unfairly – as part of the decade’s pop pin-up fare. Just take one listen to the giant fanfare that heralds the arrival of #1 hit ‘January’, with its multi-tracked guitars and enduringly jubilant vocal performance, or David Paton’s complex bass runs that cut through the heart of ‘Magic’, and it’s obvious there was far more to Pilot than generic pop.
The obviously titled ‘The Albums’ brings together all four of the band’s four major releases for the first time, including the first ever UK CD release for their ‘Two’s A Crowd’ LP from 1977. As those who’ve treasured their vinyl copies of the first two albums will suspect, this is a collection that features a fair amount of great material, but shows how Pilot weren’t always the most consistent among the decade’s pop-rockers.
The 70s were an incredibly fertile time for music. The decade began with the earlier purveyors of hard rock and metal – Deep Purple, Black Sabbath et al – and ended in a similar fashion with bands like Iron Maiden and Saxon spearheading what had been dubbed the New Wave of Heavy Metal. Somewhere between the two metal-oriented goalposts, funk begat disco and progressive rock roamed the landscape like a giant self-indulgent behemoth; punk inspired a generation to create DIY sounds and the likes of ELO, David Essex, 10cc and Pilot were at the forefront of pop perfection. David Bowie and Marc Bolan bought androgyny into the mainstream and Roxy Music looked and sounded like they’d been dropped to earth by aliens. Looking back – maybe with some rose-tinted glasses – the 1970s seemed to be a time when new musical ground was being broken month after month.
As is their tradition, Cherry Red Records and their many associated subsidiaries have dozens of fantastic box sets and reissues lined up for the year’s second and third quarters. As we move firmly into Spring, Real Gone picks a few essentials lurking just over the horizon.