Ever since the CD boom of the 90s, the market has been flooded with easily affordable and easily accessible rock compilations. These sets, often adorned by artwork showing a guitar or having a car and open road theme have typically been aimed at the undemanding listener – the kind of person wishing to revisit the classic rock singles of their radio filled youth; the kind of person who’d happily listen to Thin Lizzy’s greatest hits in their car forever. You’d think the market would eventually run out of these people as their target market, and yet year after year, cheap comps featuring Thin Lizzy’s ‘Boys Are Back In Town’, Rainbow’s ‘Since You Been Gone’ and Free’s ‘All Right Now’ seem to fill supermarket shelves continually.
Following a string of relatively commercial albums throughout the 90s, The Fall’s music took on a massive shift in the early 2000s. Aided by an entirely new band, Mark E. Smith went back to rough and ready garage rock basics for 2001’s relatively lo-fi ‘Are You Are Missing Winner’.
When The Almighty opened the Donington Monsters of Rock Festival in 1992, they sounded like a band ready to take on the world. Their second album, 1991’s ‘Soul Destruction’ had been hugely popular among UK rock fans and despite a key line-up change that saw guitarist Tantrum replaced by Alice Cooper sideman Pete Friesen, their third album – the soon to be released ‘Powertrippin’ – further showcased a band that seemed absolutely unshakable.
…And indeed, upon its release, the reviews for ‘Powertrippin’ were hugely positive. With its heavier stance and some brilliantly crafted songs, it quickly became a fan favourite. Peaking at #5 on the UK album chart, it also became The Almighty’s biggest commercial success. It clearly wasn’t successful enough for the label bigwigs, though, as Polydor Records dropped the band the following year.
As the 60s drew to a close and musical fashions began to lean towards heavier sounds, The Gods renamed themselves Head Machine and headed back into the studio. The resulting album – the dubiously named ‘Orgasm’ – featured a couple of songs that sounded like 60s psych jams in bigger boots; others forged their way into the new hard rock sounds, following the example set by Deep Purple. Although it wasn’t necessary the most coherent record, it was an enjoyable one. It failed to be a commercial success and the band split almost immediately. A few months on, the core of Head Machine – Ken Hensley (gtr/keys) and Lee Kerslake (dtums) – resurfaced as the core of a new rock band Toe Fat with previous mod hit maker Cliff Bennett, whose Rebel Rousers had seen him providing vocals for a band that included Chas Hodges and legendary session pianist Nicky Hopkins.
Toe Fat released two albums between 1970 and 1972, both of which spent approximately two decades out of print between the early 70s and mid 90s. Both albums crept out on CD for the first time in 1994 thanks to the German label Repertoire Records, but the official nature of these reissues remains open to question and those CDs quickly became impossible to find, making Toe Fat a 70s curio that – much like Head Machine – went largely unheard by all but the most ardent Uriah Heep collectors. A double disc reissue from BGO Records briefly made the Toe Fat recordings available in the States, but for UK audiences, their work remained elusive.
Ever since the CD boom in the 90s, the market hasn’t been short of rock compilations. There have been literally thousands of collections of 70s rock classics flooding the market, often very similar in nature. You’d think they’d only be a finite amount of people willing to put their hands in their pockets for discs containing Rainbow’s ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ and Hawkwind’s ‘Silver Machine’, but still they come…and in huge numbers.