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Rare Bird: Rare Bird (1969)

Rare Bird was an early British prog rock band. The band formed in October 1969, and got their debut album out the following month, which is really quite an accomplishment, since it usually takes a band a year or more after their formation to get an album out, not to mention it usually takes two or three months to get the album out after the band records it.

This was the very first album ever released on Charisma, the same label that gave us Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator/Peter Hammill, Lindisfarne, Capability Brown, and even Monty Python. Rare Bird was an odd band, for they had two keyboardists (David Kaffinetti on electric piano, Graham Field on organ), as well as bassist (Steve Gould, who also handled vocals), and drummer (Mark Ashton), but no one on guitar. It’s interesting to note that Kaffinetti later appeared on the infamous 1984 movie of a mock heavy metal band, This Is Spinal Tap. By that time, his name was shortened to David Kaff. He played Vic on that film.

Rare Bird had a rather unique sound and the powerful vocals of Steve Gould helps. The album has some really great prog rock numbers like “Beautiful Scarlet”, “Iceberg”, and the ever sinister “God of War” (my favorite). The album also features “Sympathy” which was actually a hit for these guys in Continental Europe. Written, obviously, during the Vietnam War-era, the song features lyrics I feel are just as relevant today (if not more so): “Sympathy is what we need, my friend/’Cause there’s not enough love to go around” and “Half the world hates the other half/and half the world has all the food/and half the world lies down and quietly starves/’Cause there’s not enough love to go around”. In this era of conservative politicians screwing us all, and threats of going to war in the Middle East, it’s real easy to relate to this song.

“Times” is an odd one, because it starts off sounds like a 1950s song, sounding like how Little Richard might sound like if he played organ rather than piano, then the second half goes in to more typical prog rock territory. There are a couple of other shorter pieces like “You Went Away”, “Nature’s Fruit”, and “Bird On a Wing” which are all great songs.

I always felt Rare Bird’s debut is a bit underrated compared to their 1970 followup As Your Mind Flies By, in fact I actually prefer this album to As Your Mind Flies By (which is a fine album, by the way). More great music, particularly if you like early, organ-driven British prog rock.
Year of release: 1969
– Steve Gould: vocals, bass
– David Kaffinetti: electric piano
– Graham Field: organ
– Mark Ashton: drums

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