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Climax Blues Band - Sample and Hold (LP)

Climax Blues Band - Sample and Hold (LP)

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Genre: blues-rock
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title:  Sample and Hold
Company: Virgin / Epic
Catalog: FE-38631
Year: 1983
Country/State: Stafford, UK
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: includes original lyric inner sleeve
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6373
Price: $8.00

From the outside, 1983's "Sample and Hold" had all the markings of a band running on creative fumes and contractual obligations. Signed by Virgin (and distributed by Epic in the States), the band's once vaunted line up was reduced to founding members Colin Cooper and Peter Haycock, along with newcomer George Glover on keyboards and assistance from hired guns Dave Markee on bass and drummer Henry Spinetti. Slap on a haphazard collage cover, some of the dullest song titles you seen in years and you had all the makings of an artistic snooze fest. Co-produced by John Eden and the band the album was going to be a major disappointment for anyone expecting to hear a collection of English blues-rock. 'Course fans of the band's initial blues sound had long ago fled (as had every one else), so if you bought this album it wasn't because you were interested in hearing Savoy Blues Band-styled blues-rockers. Yeah, from the outside this seemed like a bargain bin standard. With all of that stacked up against Climax Blues and virtually non-existent expectations, I'll readily admit the album turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant experience. With Haycock responsible for the bulk of the ten tracks, material such as 'Sign of the Times' and '' exhibited a likeable AOR-feel. All three members had decent voices that were well suited for this type of quasi-anonymous radio-fodder.. In fact, much of the album would have slotted well alongside mid-1980s radio standards - easy enough to picture a listener mistaking the band's cover of Graham Lyle's 'Listen To the Night' for a Dire Straits song (just check out Haycock's Mark Knofler-styled guitar moves).

- The lone Cooper-Haycock collaboration, 'Sign of the Times' was also one of the album highlights. Kicked along by Cooper's dry, craggy voice and Glover's barrelhouse piano, the song had a catchy, jumpy melody that was surprisingly catchy. It also showcased Haycock's overlooked slide guitar chops. One of those songs that snuck into your head when you weren't expecting it. rating: *** stars
- Showcasing a very commercial melody that sounded like it had been written for radio airplay (just listen to the incideously catchy chorus), 'Friends In High Places' was even better. Yeah, this may have been music as product rather than art, but it had a wonderful pop feel and how could you not smile at a couplet like "Everybody knows you've got a stack, they're saying you made it on your back ..." ? Easy to see why it was tapped as a single. rating: *** stars
- 'Doin Alright' was a pretty, but slightly anonymous ballad that someone might easily have mistaken for a Gerry Rafferty tune. rating: ** stars
- One of two covers, as mentioned above, 'Listen To the Night' has always reminded me of a Dire Straits song. The raspy vocal certainly sounded a bit like Mark Knopfler with Haycock's guitar sounding like he was channeling Knopfler. I love Dire Straits, so thought this was one of the standout performances. rating: *** stars
- 'Shine' was one of those typical mid-1980s anthem rockers that I find myself liking even though it managed to hit every rock and roll cliche known to mankind. rating: *** stars
- 'Heaven and Hell' was about as close o a conventional rock song Climax ever came ... and the surprise was that it was quite good. Anyone who enjoyed those mid-1980s hair bands (you know who I'm talkin' about), was going to enjoy this mindless slice of AOR. rating: **** stars
- Hearing a pop-itinged track like 'Walking On Sunset' is was hard to believe these guys were once blues-rockers. Commercial in the way a Firefall, or Pablo Cruise song was ... rating: ** stars
- The only Cooper solo contribution to the album, 'Movie Queen' was also an album highlight. Showcasing his ragged and interesting voice, the song was probably a little too AOR for many folks, but I've always been a softie for songs like this and Haycock's jangle rock guitar was great. rating: **** stars
- I always wondered why 'I Am Ready' sounded so atypical - more like a Bad Compamy, or free-styled rocker than a Climax track. 'Course looking at the writing credits (Andy Fraser and Frankie Miller), served to explain everything. It'd be interesting to know how they came to record the song. Anyhow, it was actually one of the best tracks on the album - very mid-1970s blues-rock that should appeal to any Paul Rodgers fans out there. rating: **** stars
- Opening up with some pretty Haycock lead guitar, 'The End of the Seven Seas' sounded like one of those radio-ready Journey, or Kansas tunes. Meant to be big, epic, with a touch of progressive sheen, when all was said and done, the results were actually pretty faceless. Hum, it really did sound like a Kansas tune ... rating: *** stars

In the UK the album was tapped for a pair of singles:

- 1983's ‘Listen To The Night’ b/w 'Church' (Virgin catalog number VS 576)
- 1983's ‘Friends In High Places’ b/w '' (Virgin catalog number )

One of those strange albums that wouldn't seem to have all that much going for it, but one that I enjoy hearing on a regular basis. As you'd expect, the album enjoyed little or no promotion from Virgin/Epic and in spite of some touring (John Edwards and Jeff Rich stepping in as rhythm section), vanished without a trace. That was followed in swift order by the band itself, though within a couple of years Haycock had resurrected the nameplate as Peter Haycock's Climax Blues Band.
"Sample and Hold" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Sign of the Times (Colin Cooper - Peter Haycock) - 4:33
2.) Friends In High Places (Peter Haycock) - 4:12
3.) Doin' Alright (Peter Haycock) - 4:59
4.) Listen To the Night (Graham Lyle) - 3:37
5.) Shine (Peter Haycock) - 4:13

(side 2)
1.) Heaven and Hell (Peter Haycock) - 4:08
2.) Walking On Sunset (Peter Haycock) - 3;40
3.) Movie Queen (Colin Cooper) - 4:20
4.) I Am Ready (Andy Fraser - Frankie Miller) - 3:18
5.) The End of the Seven Seas (Peter Haycock) - 5:40

Peter Haycock's Climax Blues Band only lasted a year or so, before he hooked up with ELO II. That left Cooper and Glover to grab the nameplate, recruiting former Hunter singer/lead guitarist Lester Hunt to continue on as a three piece, which was quickly augmented by former members John Cuffley and Derek Holt. With various line up changes Cooper continued to front the band until 2008 when he died of cancer. The remaining band members subsequently recruited Johnny Pugh as a replacement and continue touring.

For anyone interested, the official band website can be found at:
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