The 1960’s spawned a generation of guitarists who paved their way to stardom through vast amount of session work. Arguably the most celebrated of these players are Ritchie Blackmore and Jimmy Page, but for these genuine megastars, there were a legion of other six string heroes who worked every bit as hard – or harder – but never reached “household name” status. Unless you’re the kind of fan who devours sleeve notes and credits with as much enthusiasm as the music itself, names like Clem Clempson, Geoff Whitehorn and Jim Sullivan, for example, might not be too familiar, and yet, if you love 60s, 70s and 80s rock, chances are you own a record or two featuring those guys.
Ray Fenwick is another musician who has maintained a presence for several decades, but has never seemed to get his full due. Beginning as a session man in the 60s, he’s played with some of the greats. ‘Playing Through The Changes’ – a three disc anthology from 2021 – shows off a chunk of his legacy more than admirably, pulling tracks from a very busy career. What it may lack in consistency it makes up for with variety, and unlike so many rock-based anthologies devoted to a singular talent, it doesn’t rely on too many really obvious recordings you’ll own elsewhere – purely because the nature of Fenwick’s work means there aren’t any obvious compilation filling hits and standards. There are a lot of oddities – which aren’t all good, naturally – but, in the main, it’s an enjoyable musical adventure.
In the late 60’s, singer-songwriter Graham Bonnet scored a massive hit single with cover of the Bee Gees’ ‘Only One Woman’ as part of pop duo The Marbles. Like so many pop acts of the era, The Marbles’ time at the top was brief. Neither of Marbles’ follow up singles or their album made anywhere near the same impact and they split soon after. Graham could’ve returned to his hometown of Skegness having at least briefly been a star, but realising he had more to give, he plugged on. He first made the move into recording advertising jingles as a means to pay bills, before releasing a couple more unsuccessful singles in the early 70s. Material for a solo album was recorded in 1974 but shelved for over forty years. After an appearance in the 1975 UK comedy film Three For All – starring his then partner Adrienne Posta – Bonnet finally made a step in a more positive direction career-wise when he signed a deal with the small Ring-O record label, with whom he released two full length albums, ‘Graham Bonnet’ (1977) and ‘No Bad Habits’ (1978).
For a lot of rock fans, Glenn Hughes first came to prominence when he joined Deep Purple in 1974. In the few years leading up to that big breakthrough, he’d spent time working as bassist/vocalist with British rock band Trapeze. Although not big sellers, their first two albums were solid affairs, that showcased some talented musicians. 1970’s ‘Trapeze’ (produced by Moody Blues man John Lodge) presented a five piece band indulging in 60s freakouts and although enjoyable in its own way, almost felt dated by the time of its release in the May of that year. With Black Sabbath’s debut (released three months earlier) opening up new avenues for rock and the release of Deep Purple’s ‘In Rock’ literally a few weeks away, it was clear that Trapeze already sounded like yesterday’s men. By November, Trapeze had undergone an overhaul in both line up and sound and for their second album,‘Medusa’, the band’s core of Glenn Hughes (vox/bass), Mel Galley (guitar) and Dave Holland (drums) had reinvented themselves as a hard rocking power trio, cranking riffs in a style that often sounded like a tougher version of Free. With the previous hazy psychedelia having morphed into something harder and clearer, Hughes’s vocals were allowed to truly soar for the first time. A solid album, ‘Medusa’ showed a band who were truly on their way, but the best was yet to come…
Every so often, a record producer comes along whose mastery of the studio takes on a legendary status. The early years of pop showed off the technical talents of George Martin and Phil Spector; the world of disco gave a platform to Quincy Jones and Geogio Moroder (Quincy’s hand in making Michael Jackson’s ‘Off The Wall’ a global success cannot be understated – it’s a stunning sounding record) and the rock scene gave Martin Birch plenty to apply a distinctive style.
In 2018, Croatian hard rockers Animal Drive released their debut album ‘Bite!’ on Frontiers Records. With plenty of hard rock crunch, the record drew parallels with the heavier end of Skid Row’s early output, as well as showing off more than a passing fancy with the late, great Ronnie James Dio. The record featured at least a half dozen cuts that were well worth hearing, but if anything, it was the Dio-tastic ‘Time Machine’ with its heavy but melodic riff which best demonstrated the band’s skills.