Rise Above’s Relics series has been around for a respectable amount of time, repressing the kind of records that collectors have long sold their grannies and/or organs for, yet they’ve never had quite the degree of success in their field as either their mother label or the likes of Svart records, who have turned crate digging into an art form.
Still, Rise Above Relics work in the past is more than welcome and has been responsible for bringing the works of short-lived but well-loved band like Possessed and Incredible Hog to the light of day; their latest, a reissue of early ‘70s Middlesbrough mob Cycle’s self-titled debut LP coupled with a never-released demo that would have been their second record, might stick in the craw of those who forked over four-figure sums for that first album but to everyone else, it’s a godsend.
The fact that Cycle were originally named Psycle and supported the likes of Van Der Graaf Generator and Man is an early indicator of what Cycle deliver from this collection’s earliest moments – hard blues with a psychedelic flourish that only shifts further and further towards the latter as the music presses on, building upon the vibrant warmth of Ronnie Patterson’s basslines that flit easily between solid framing and the kind of extravagant runs that don’t set the scene so much as they steal it. With the sadly departed John Whittingham handling guitar and vocal duties and Norman Smith offering up kit-drubbing that couples a bluesman’s sense of easy timing with the crazed weight of Keith Moon or Bill Ward, it’s not hard to gauge just why these early tracks were legends in the making.
it throws everything from soul and desert blues to sprawling psychedelic jams into the mix without ever sacrificing their unyielding grasp of solid grooves and good times…
Rich Man, Poor Man, Pig hits hard early, a cocksure argument between Whittingham’s smoky drawl and Smith’s scattershot fills that only gets settled with the former delivering one swift solo after another; Father Of Time packs similar confidence, though leaning more towards massive cosmic swirls of sound and slick, aggressive riffing that brings to mind a T-Rex / Hawkwind jam session that never happened but by all rights should have. Only the more traditionally grounded hard blues of Mr Future really feels like a throwback – everything else seems decades ahead of its time and can still be heard loud and strong in every stoner and psych band of the past 30 years.
If Cosmic Clouds first half is a reminder of a lost period of vibrant creativity, the tracks that make up what was ostensibly Cycle’s second full-length are a bittersweet reminder of what could have been. It not only steps up the urgency of their riffs (the liner notes tell a story of an unwary fisherman walking into one of their gigs and proceeding to stuff his ears with bread due to the volume – Travelling Man is a good indicator of how much of a punch they must have packed) but it throws everything from soul and desert blues to sprawling psychedelic jams into the mix without ever sacrificing their unyielding grasp of solid grooves and good times. It’s both wildly inventive and just plain wild, and there are so many cult classic-worthy cuts on offer that it’s a wonder they never ended up spoken of in the same tones as the likes of Leaf Hound.
Everything about this release screams ‘labour of love’, from the material itself to the lush, warm production and extensive historical details documented alongside the music. Even if you don’t come away from it willing to break the bank for an original copy, it’s more than worth shelling out for yet another underground essential that many might not have known about without the dedication of heads, obsessives and the assorted record store denizens that we all secretly want to be. Seriously, get on this.
Scribed by: Dave Bowes