Thursday, December 30, 2021

Wally - Wally (1974 uk, insightful psych prog folk rock, 2015 japan SHM remaster)

Wally was an English rock band in the mid-seventies that played a mixture of prog rock and country, often labelled as progressive country. They hailed from Harrogate, Yorkshire and were led by singer-songwriter Roy Webber (lead vocals, acoustic guitar). Back then they recorded the albums Wally (1974) and Valley Gardens ((1975). After the second album they disbanded, but in 2009 they made a comeback which resulted in the re-release of those two albums and the recording of a new one. Therefore a lesson in history and an overview of their albums seem to be appropriate here.

Maybe the most important event for the band's career was the participation on the New Act competition in 1973. It was organized by Melody Maker, a well-known music magazine in those days. Wally made it to the finals at London's Roundhouse. However, they didn't win but they came to the attention of 'Whispering' Bob Harris, one of the judges of The Old Grey Whistle Test. The ultimate winner Druid recorded two fine progressive rock albums: Toward The Sun (1975) and Fluid Druid (1976). The runners-up prize for Wally was the recording of a session for Harris's BBC radio show The Monday Program. He took the band under his wings and succeeded in getting a record deal with Atlantic Records.

The eponymous debut album was co-produced by Harris and no one less than Rick Wakeman. The album shows a band that music wise had a lot to learn. The music is a fine mixture of prog rock and country. The lap steel guitar played by Paul Middleton, and the violin played by Pete Sage are responsible for the country-like sound, but the music contains elements from Irish folk music as well. They're closer to being a folk band than a symphonic band on this debut. The use of the Mellotron, Hammond organ and harmonium fooled some people since the only track that comes near to prog rock is the fourteen-minute track To The Urban Man containing some strong psych sound effects and fuzzy guitar layers. Another track that approaches prog music to a certain extent is the opening track The Martyr. It's an eight-minute, mostly instrumental flight of fancy that almost seamlessly moves between prog and pop. 

After its release the band got managed by Brian Lane, best known as the manager of Yes. He organized a series of tours for them that would take them to countries like Japan and the United States. They also supported Yes and appeared on The Old Grey Whistle Test. 
by Peter Willemsen
1. The Martyr (Paul Gerrett) - 8:04
2. I Just Wanna Be A Cowboy (Roy Webber) - 4:08
3. What To Do (Roy Webber) - :37
4. Sunday Walking Lady (Roy Webber) - 2:44
5. To The Urban Man (Jim Slade, Roy Webber) - 13:57
6. Your Own Way (Alan Craig, Roy Webber) - 5:38

*Roy Webber - Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
*Pete Cosker - Lead Electric And Acoustic Guitars, Vocals, Bass Guitar
*Paul Gerrett - Fender Rhodes Electric Piano, Hammond Organ, Mellotron, Harmonium, Grand Piano, Harpsichord, Vocals
*Pete Sage - Electric Violin, Bass Guitar, Mandolin
*Paul Middleton - Lap Steel Guitar, Bass Guitar
*Roger Narraway - Drums, Percussion
*Bob Harris - Strings Arrangements 
*Rick Wakeman - Strings Arrangements, Producer