[Review] Alan White: Ramshackled (1976)

White uses his newfound cachet to make the full-length record that Griffin (his original band) never did.

Kronomyth 1.0: White knight to Griffin four.

The decision that each member of Yes should release a solo album was a silly affair, resulting in some widely divergent music—both in terms of quality and composition. Alan White and Patrick Moraz, the newest members of Yes, not surprisingly released the least Yes-like albums, although both The Story of I and Ramshackled were (perhaps somewhat surprisingly) quite good. A lack of enthusiasm for Alan White’s album among Yes fans likely had more to do with the fact that it was not an overtly progressive album, instead showcasing elements of funk, rock and even reggae that invited comparison to The Tubes, 10cc and Lenny White at times, but rarely Yes.

Although credited to White, the record is really a group effort featuring many of White’s old bandmates, who had appeared together briefly in Griffin, the band White had been in when he was “discovered” by John Lennon. White is a top-rate rock drummer and it’s a pleasure to hear him play on these tracks, but if you’re looking for a window into Alan White the songwriter, it never appears. Instead, Pete Kirtley and Kenny Craddock write most of the material and do a fine job of providing some really good ideas that range from lovely instrumental interludes (“Marching Into A Bottle”) to faux reggae (“Silly Woman”).

Several songs on Ramshackled remind me of The Tubes’ first two albums: compressed white funk with a slightly progressive edge. That would describe “Oooh Baby” (which is better than it sounds), “Giddy” and “Darkness.” The singer even sounds like Bill Spooner, although I’m sure that’s coincidental, since no one in 1976 was trying to sound like Bill Spooner, not even Bill Spooner. (And, yes, I am obviously search-optimizing this page for “Bill Spooner.”)

The song most likely to catch the attention of Yes fans, the people who would presumably buy an album with Alan White’s name and face on the cover, is “Spring – Song of Innocence,” which features the voice of Jon Anderson and (we’re told) the guitar of Steve Howe. It appears to be a Pete Kirtley adaptation of a William Blake poem and, well, it’s pretty gay. Sorry. The preceding “Avakak” is actually the better prog number and the brighter showcase for White’s drumming abilities.

It’s a bit of a shame that more people haven’t heard this record. I would have been interested in another Griffin album, moreso than Peter Banks’ failed Empire, but not everyone gets a big break in the music business. Kudos to White for using his limelight to highlight his talented bandmates, and also for understanding that a vanity album of drum solos and fifties covers would have cheated listeners out of a good record.

Original LP Version

A1. Oooh Baby (Goin’ to Pieces) (Pete Kirtley) (5:30)
A2. One Way Rag (Ken Craddock/Colin Gibson) (4:01)
A3. Avakak (Colin Gibson/Ken Craddock/Pete Kirtley) (6:51)
A4. Spring – Song of Innocence (William Blake/Pete Kirtley) (5:00)
B1. Giddy (Ken Craddock/Colin Gibson) (3:09)
B2. Silly Woman (Pete Kirtley) (3:12)
B3. Marching into a Bottle (Ken Craddock) (1:58)
B4. Everybody (Colin Gibson/Ken Craddock/Pete Kirtley) (3:10)
B5. Darkness (Parts 1, 2 & 3) (Ken Craddock/Colin Gibson)

Original 8-track version
A1. Oooh Baby (Goin’ to Pieces)
A2. One Way Rag
B1. Avakak
B2. Silly Woman
C1. Spring – Song of Innocence
C2. Giddy
C3. Marching into a Bottle (Part 1)
D1. Marching into a Bottle (Part 2)
D2. Everybody
D3. Darkness (Parts I, II, III)

The Players

Alan White (drums, percussion, vocals), Kenny Craddock (keyboards, vocals), Colin Gibson (bass guitar, percussion), Peter Kirtley (guitar, vocals) with Jon Anderson (vocals on A4), Bud Beadle (solo sax, flute), David Bedford (orchestral arrangements, conductor), Madeline Bell (backing vocals), Vicki Brown (backing vocals), Steve Gregory (tenor sax, flute), Steve Howe (guitar on A4), Henry Lowther (trumpet), Alan Marshall (vocals), Andy Phillips (steel drum), Joanne Williams (backing vocals). Produced & engineered by Alan White and Bob Potter.

The Pictures

Sleeve concept & design by Ian Vincentini. Fine art by Henry S. Hodgson.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in April 1976 in the UK (Atlantic, K 50217), the US (Atlantic, SD/TP 18167) and the Netherlands (Atlantic, ATL 50217) with lyrics insert.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc on December 31, 1994 in Japan (Atlantic, AMCY-23).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc on March 24, 1998 in Japan (Atlantic, AMCY-4050).
  3. Re-released on super-high material compact disc on October 21, 2015 in Japan (Atlantic).

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