Few would doubt the musical pedigree of either John Lennon or Pete Townshend. Furthermore, many more would correctly acknowledge the role that the late John Peel played in championing new musical talent.
When the three of them collectively enthused over a band back in the early seventies, it would have been crazy to ignore the advice.The band in this case was Medicine Head, a somewhat eccentric British manifestation of the period.
In recognition of this Angel Air Records has released Medicine Head’s Radio Sessions 1971-1977. It consists of seventeen tracks, recorded over a six year period from their earlier career.
Perhaps the most familiar memories of Medicine Head is seeing them as the early duo of John Fiddler and Peter Hope-Evans that appeared on UK television's influential Top Of The Pops, and Top Gear (as it was then). Yet they would also go on to develop into a full five-piece band.
The hugely informative liner notes tell us that it was an early airplay that prompted John Lennon, Manfred Mann, and Pete Townshend to contact John Peel to make sure that he was aware of Medicine Head.
John Fiddler and Welshman Peter Hope-Evans were based in that hotbed of talent, the Midlands. It was an area that was to give us Black Sabbath, The Move (and latterly ELO), the late Kevin Coyne, the wonderful Roy Wood, and most of Led Zeppelin.
Then along came The Mission, as they were originally known, to add to the regions growing legend. Soon they were signed to Peel’s Dandelion label for which they recorded their first three albums. Chart success followed with the single “(And The) Pictures In The Sky” which opens the Radio Sessions album.
In 1973 perhaps their best known single “One And Is One” reached number three in the UK singles chart. It also appears here, alongside other well known singles such as “Rising Sun” from 1974, and “Slip And Slide”.
Their sound owes much to their blues influences which are reflected in the inclusion of their excellent version of Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues”. “Coast To Coast”, “To Train Time”, and “Rainy Day Blues”, among others, all display something of a rougher blues-rock flavoured edge. Meanwhile, “But The Night Is Young”, from 1971, takes us nicely into ballad territory.
With the distinctive sound of the so-called ‘Jew’s Harp’ of Hope-Evans featuring strongly they established a trademark style built largely upon the often underrated excellence of John Fiddler’s writing.
However, it is the jointly written “Rock ‘n’ Roll Kid” that steps the collection up a gear whilst the beautiful Fiddler penned “Morning Light” from 1973 eases us back down with one of the albums undoubted gems.
Again the album notes tell us that this is the band that had made it into the Guinness Book Of Records for the most encores, such was their on-stage impact. This was also the band that at various points featured Keith Relf, Tony Ashton, and Morgan Fisher and who released an album called Dark Side Of The Moon a year before the better known Pink Floyd one.
Hope-Evans co-wrote another lovely moment with “Only To Do What Is True”, another track that highlights the quality that they seemed to have on tap. This is further underlined by “How Does It Feel?” from 1972 which is followed by their best known singles “One And One Is One”, “Rising Sun”, and “Slip And Slide”, one of the sexiest records of all time.
John Fiddler has subsequently gone on to work in both British Lions and Box Of Frogs as well as establishing himself as a solo artist. In 2000 he released the highly recommended The Big Buffalo, an album well worth checking out.
Meanwhile, Peter Hope-Evans has worked with the legendary Ronnie Lane, Pete Townshend, as well as Roger Chapman from Family, and Tears For Fears, among others.
This set captures the very best of Medicine Head in session during a period that produced the majority of their impressive output. The sound quality is as clear as can be expected and in some cases is, if anything, surprisingly good.
Perhaps the best description of this band comes from the much missed John Peel who succinctly referred to Medicine Head as “a rare treat.” Just listen to 1976’s “(I Ain’t Cryin’) Over You”, to prove his point.
Meanwhile, please don't forget to check out the excellent catalogue of releases available through Angel Air Records by also calling in on their website.