At first sight the name of the band Eyes Of Blue didn't ring any bells for me. However when you look at the people who were in the band you become interested after all. This by now legendary Welsh band then consisted of Gary Pickford-Hopkins and John Weathers. The first one used to be one of the two lead singers in Rick Wakeman's backing band at the time of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (1974) and The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table (1975). Furthermore, he used to be in Wild Turkey and died in 2013. The second one was for many years the drummer for Gentle Giant and played with Man. The line up of the band was completed by singer Wyndham Reese, keyboard player Phil Ryan (ex-Ancient Grease, Pete Brown, Big Sleep), guitarist Ray "Taff" Williams (ex-Neutrons, Ian Gomm, Bonnie Tyler) and bassist Ritchie Francis (Buzzy Linhart, Big Sleep).
They did win the famous' Beat Contest' Prize in 1966, which was launched by the British music magazine Melody Maker. That led to a contract with the progressive sub label Deram (Decca). After a few singles were released they were picked up by producer Lou Reizner. He recorded with them their debut album, Crossroads Of Time, between March and July 1968 in London. It was finally released in early 1969 by Mercury Records. Eleven songs were found on the original full-length album. Esoteric Recordings were responsible for the first official CD release of the album (fully endorsed by the band) and made sure it has been remastered from the master tapes. Besides the original album tracks it includes the rare bonus track Q III.
It also has also a booklet, which fully restores the original album artwork and features a new essay with rare photographs. The album had at the time a fine mixture of original compositions and two covers. One of them is the-for me-unknown 7 + 7 Is. A song written by Arthur Lee and recorded by his band Love on June 20, 1966. The other one known by almost everybody and has the title Yesterday. This version with two singers sounds very good and has some real elements of early progressive rock music. The album's title track and Love Is The Law were penned by the legendary Graham Bond, who also wrote the original album notes. Love Is The Law sounds a bit like The Animals hit Do Not Let Me Be Misunderstood. It is one of the many songs on the album on which the organ has a leading role and moves the music into early progressive rock territories. It's on those tracks that this instrument does not get into to spotlight that much that the sound of sixties comes more to the surface moving many times into the musical direction of The Beatles. Therefore it wasn't that strange that they covered one of their all time classic compositions.
Another album was released after their debut. Unfortunately we didn't get a review copy of In Fields Of Ardath. The album was released in the Spring of 1969 and didn't feature Wyndham Rees. It seems the album was more "progressive” in feel, touching on a range of influences from psychedelic rock, rhythm and blues, jazz, Indian and classical music.
The mix of sixties beat music and early progressive rock influences on Crossroads Of Time was for me a rather pleasant one. Sure the album sounds very dated to the current ear but it doesn't mean you can't enjoy it when you play it almost fifty years after its original release date. People who know Gary Pickford-Hopkins and John Weathers from their contributions in the progressive rock scene in the seventies will have to listen to this release without any doubt. They might be as much surprised and entertained as I was myself!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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