The Shape Of The Rain: "Unreleased Recordings 1966-1973"
(Background/Hi-Note Music, HBG 123/14)
From Aural Innovations #19 (April 2002)
This is quite a nice collection of tunes (rehearsals and demos, mainly) from '60s British psyche group Shape of the Rain, though the term "psychedelic" should be considered in a more generic '60s context that mirrors the bluesy, folk/country tack of the American West Coast groups from the same period as opposed to anything overtly acid-oriented. Having never heard their original-album counterparts, I can't give any comparisons, but this should be very useful for completists as well as an introduction to the group, though the recording quality of the tunes are adequate, so I don't feel that compelled to seek out all the alternate takes.
"Broken Man" kicks off the disc from a '67 session, a great blues-rock stomp perhaps comparable to something early from Welsh group Man; less quirky, but catchy and with an interesting change-up at the chorus. Jumping right ahead to '73, "I Don't Need Nobody" is solid white-boy blues, but no one could have ever convinced me that this was recorded in the '70s. Strangely, the group must have never changed their gear or recording equipment, because all the '70s material on this disc could easily fool the listener as being '60s recordings, and certainly their style never deviated from the original course.
"We're Not Their Boys" is again from a '73 session, but retains a freewheeling folksy '60s naivete that is whistful and endearing. "Hello 503" freaks out a bit more toward the end with appropriately fx'd vocals complimenting the theme of the roboticisation of human beings in the technological age. The next bunch of tunes are from the earliest sessions ('66), reflected in the hissy tape quality - something I've actually grown to enjoy, as the tunes are still perfectly coherent, while giving their sound a more obscure dimension. This session is definitely a high point, at times reminiscent of the Stalk-Forrest Group recordings (precursor to the brilliant '70s phenomenon Blue Oyster Cult), though the latter came later. Especially cool is "Whillowing Trees", dreamy '60s "garden-psyche" at its best. From the same session, "Spring" has classic wah-guitar, a lovely folky vocal melody and that wonderful '60s bulbous bass sound. From here, the quality of tunes seems to drop off a bit, though "Big Black Bird" and "Everyone the Fool" are stand-out tunes.
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Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg