Sunday, July 05, 2009
Dick Heckstall-Smith A Story Ended
From out of the margins...
A Story Ended
Best known for his work initially with Graham Bond and later Colosseum, Dick Heckstall-Smith’s one and only solo album was released in 1972. Celebrated in some circles for being able to carry off Roland Kirk’s trick of playing two saxes at the same time, he also doubled up as a composer of distinction.
Recorded in the wake of Colosseum’s demise, he teamed up with lyricist Pete Brown and perhaps it’s no surprise the writing doesn’t sound a million miles away from those sinewy, winding tunes Jack Bruce specialised in somewhere between Song For A Tailor and Out of the Storm.
Heckstall-Smith’s democratic instincts means that his fiery sax playing never particularly dominates the tunes which are delivered by a cast of supporting players who change from track to track.
No less than four vocalists (Paul Williams, Mark Clarke, Chris Farlowe and Graham Bond) wrap their not inconsiderable lung power around Brown’s often oblique but always poetic observations.
Although this occasionally causes a slightly uneven gait, the full-blooded forward momentum of the performances is never fatally undermined. A Story Ended reminds us that whilst the histories of progressive rock often celebrate the big names of the field, excellence was often being pursued in the margins and footnotes as well.
Throughout the record, blues, jazz and rock are often ambitiously posited next to one another and carried off with aplomb and distinction. The Pirate's Dream, (dating back to Colosseum but never realised by the band) is finally nailed in all its 11 minute, multi-part epic glory.
This package comes with several bonus tracks which document what Dick did next; a collection of live tracks which may or may not be Colosseum or Dick’s outfit, Manchild. A Story Ended prophetically marked Heckstall-Smith’s departure from music for several years.
With his passing in 2004 this is as good as a testimony to his capabilities as you’re likely to find.