Brand X – Is There Anything About? (1982/1996)

Brand X - Is There Anything About? (1982/1996)
Artist: Brand X
Album: Is There Anything About?
Genre: Jazz Rock / Fusion
Label: Columbia
Year Of Release: 1982/1996
Quality:

Tracklist:
01 – Ipanemia (04:13)
02 – A Longer April (07:23)
03 – Tmiu-Atga (05:09)
04 – Swan Song (05:37)
05 – Is There Anything About (07:53)
06 – Modern, N…And Effective (03:58)

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Personnel:
– John Goodsall / guitar
– Robin Lumley / keyboards, backing vocals, co-producer
– John Giblin / bass, backing vocals
– Phil Collins / drums, percussion
– Peter Robinson / keyboards (6)
– Percy Jones / bass (6)

With:
– Raphael Ravenscroft / saxophone (2)
– Stephen Short / drum machine (4), backing vocals, co-producer
– Ed Carson / handclaps (3)

The most mystifying chapter from Brand X’s already relatively opaque and messy history. As is known to fans, in early 1979 Brand X recorded a whole bunch of songs with different line-ups that were used to fill up the albums Product (1979), Do They Hurt? (1980) and Is There Anything About? (1982). The last of these was released two years after the band had broken up. One might assume that the record company refused to release it earlier because they didn’t deem it commercially viable, but was the market really that much more friendly to this kind of music in 1982 than in 1980? And did the band members really still want this patchwork, consisting of two new songs, two remixes of old songs and two leftover improvisations, to be put out after three years? Why is the track listing so strange and why does producer Steven Short receive two songwriting credits when he wasn’t involved with the other two albums and couldn’t have been present when these songs were originally recorded?

There seems to be very little information about this album on the web but my theory initially was that what remained of the recordings was handed over to Short, either by the band members out of contractual obligation or by the record company who wanted to milk these for all they were worth, who then recorded some overdubs and put this album together without the involvement of any former Brand X member. Amusing though this idea might have been to me, it was sadly debunked when I bought the CD and read the liner notes which reveal that, at the very least, keyboard player Robin Lumley was involved with the release to a large degree, but no John Goodsall, Percy Jones, Phil Collins or any other Brand X alumni.

I believe the opening track “Ipanaemia” is the only song on here that was at the time of its recording intended for release in the same form as it’s presented here. “Swan Song” credits Short for co-writing as well as “syndrums and vocals”, which leads me to believe that this may have originally been an improvisation that was later overdubbed and reworked into a proper song by Lumley and Short. “A Longer April” is of course a reworking of “April” from the Product album, turning what was once just a pleasant filler track into a more full-fledged song in its own right, but the sax part must have been recorded in 1982 as well. Likewise, “Modern, Noisy And Effective” just reuses the backing track from “Soho” (also from Product), and the rest of it must have also been played by Lumley no earlier than 1982 as it’s synth only and sounds more like Yellow Magic Orchestra than Brand X (a YouTube commenter noted the, likely coincidental, similarity to the Rainbow Road theme from Mario Kart 64, which now makes me unable to control my laughter every time I hear the song). The final two tracks like I said are just some leftover jams. Actually, calling TMIU-ATGA (“They’re Making It Up As They Go Along”) a jam is bit of an overstatement; it’s more like a sound check. It adds to the humour for me because it contributes to my impression that they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel when putting this album together.

But the craziest part is that I actually like it. There’s a charm to it all, and everything comes together just nicely enough to keep your interest for its short running time. It may be the weakest album from this era of the band but for fans it is still worth the effort of seeking out.
Review by Mirakaze

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