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Family: Music in a Doll’s House (1968)

Music in a Doll’s House is the debut album from this eclectic British rock band, Family, and is by far their most psychedelic. It’s also one of my all-time favorite psychedelic albums ever. This band never made it in America (they were quite a bit more popular in their native England) which is a real shame, to say the least. Apparently the reason for that was the band had some really bad blood with Fillmore East/West promoter Bill Graham when they performed in the US at the Fillmore East (Roger Chapman actually had a fistfight with Graham). The band had quite an influence on Genesis in their early days, as the band’s lead vocalist, Roger Chapman sounds a lot like Peter Gabriel, except with much more vibrato. Chapman is one of the great rock vocalists, in my book, and just by listening to Music in a Doll’s House, you can see why. And for all those wondering where Richard Grech of Blind Faith came from, he came from this band, and appears on this album, as well as Family’s following album, Family Entertainment (1969) before going on to Blind Faith. Perhaps the second best known member of Family was bassist John Wetton, who was previously a member of Mogul Thrash (a Colosseum-related band, because of the presence of James Litherland), and later finding his fame and fortune with King Crimson (during the Larks/Starless/Red-era), Uriah Heep, U.K., and Asia. Wetton isn’t on Music in a Doll’s House, he was on a later Family album, that is Fearless (1971). Music in a Doll’s House is a real classic. “Mellowing Grey” is one of the more mellow numbers, sounding something like The Moody Blues (particularly the use of Mellotron) or the earliest works of Genesis (only a lot better than From Genesis to Revelation in my book). “Me My Friend” is way cool, sure the band used some rather dated use of phasing here, which was common to 1967-68 psychedelia, but despite that, it’s a great song. I also really like “Mr. Police Man”, which is an almost bluesy number. Other favorites of mine include “Peace of Mind”, “Winter”, and “The Breeze”. “Never Like This” was written by Dave Mason, and it could have easily fit on an early Traffic album (but that should come as no surprise). Either he written this song for Family, or it was a song Traffic rejected and he gave to Family. “Voyage” is one of the less structured songs on the album, and tends to put more emphasis on strange electronic effects, so some might regard that as one of the weak points of the album, but it doesn’t bother me any. Music in a Doll’s House is incredible. Frequently late ’60s psychedelic albums get criticized for not standing the test of time very well, but every time I listen to this album, I am amazed how well this stands up to repeated listens. It’s a real solid album and real easy to get in to. Certainly you can tell this is a late ’60s recording, thanks to the use of phasing, electronic effects, strings, horns, even Mellotron, but it’s a very well done album, and it’s little wonder why I regard this as one of my favorite in the psychedelic genre. Essential album and one of the finer examples of late ’60s psychedelia.
– Roger Chapman: lead vocals, harmonica, tenor saxophone
– John Whitney: lead guitar, steel guitar
– Jim King: tenor and soprano saxophone, harmonica, vocals
– Ric Grech: bass guitar, violin, cello, vocals
– Rob Townsend: drums, percussion

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