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Rare Bird: As Your Mind Flies By (1970)

Rare Bird sure wasted no time in getting some music recorded. They formed in October 1969 and already had an album out within two months of their formation! How many other bands can make that claim? Apparently Tony Stratton-Smith (head of the then-newly established Charisma Records) was so impressed by the band’s demo tape that it essentially became their album. The band received some success in Continental Europe with the anti-war, anti-hate anthem “Sympathy” which actually became a hit there.

In 1970, comes their second (and unfortunately final) album with the original lineup, As Your Mind Flies By (although the band did reemerge in 1972, with an altered lineup that included guitarists, and released three more albums on Polydor until 1974, which had a mellower, West Coast-influenced feel). This was the album their reputation largely stands on, and for real good reason! Many of the songs on this album shows some pop influences like “What You Want to Know” and “I’m Thinking”, while “Down on the Floor” tends to have a stronger baroque feel, complete with harpsichord. Then you have the heavy and aggressive “Hammerhead”. This is no doubt the highlight for me on the first half of the album (side one, if you own the LP), even if it’s very short. And vocalist Steve Gould often receives no credit as he’s a great vocalist, and a rather distinctive one at that. You could never call his singing pretentious, as he was as much influenced by soul and R&B as Arthur Brown (although Gould was never as wild as Brown), yet it works great in the progressive rock framset of the band. Then comes the side-length cut “Flight”. This was, without a doubt, the most ambitious thing Rare Bird ever did! A four movement suite that goes through different changes, including some experimental passages, a bolero (actually it was the band performing Ravel’s “Bolero”) and some great organ passages from Graham Field. And I almost forgot, a choir was included on some of the passages.

Unfortunately this original lineup from Rare Bird quickly disintegrated. It’s too bad that they only managed two albums with this lineup, but it could be argued that they couldn’t really go any further (and probably true, as their Polydor albums sound drastically different from their Charisma albums, but those albums are good too, at least the two I have, Epic Forest and Somebody’s Watching as I don’t have Born Again yet). In 1976, Charisma released the compilation album called Sympathy. Although containing a nice selection, you really know how unnecessary a compilation album is if it solely concentrates on two albums (I would have a lot less problem if it also had non albums singles like “Devil’s High Concern” or the single version of “What You Want to Know” which is said to be different from the album version, but this compilation doesn’t). Organist Graham Field left to form a band with ex-King Crimson drummer Andy McCulloch in a band called Fields, who released one album in 1971 on CBS. Drummer Mark Ashton, well he was all over the place. Meanwhile the other Steve Gould and the other keyboardist David Kaffinetti formed a new edition of Rare Bird and released three albums on Polydor, Epic Forest (1972), Somebody’s Watching (1973) and Born Again (1974).

Long after the band was history, an interesting note: David Kaffinetti appeared on the movie Spinal Tap in 1984, playing Vic! He shortened his real name to David Kaff in that film. If a movie was to mock rock music (specifically hard rock and heavy metal), it only made sense to have a real rock musician appear in the film!

As Your Mind Flies By is certainly Rare Bird at their finest and a great place to know this band!
– Steve Gould: vocals, bass
– Graham Field: keyboards
– David Kaffinetti: keyboards
– Mark Ashton: drums

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