[Review] Brand X: Product (1979)

Long before Yes’ Union, Brand X released this byproduct of two different bands… featuring Phil Collins on vocals!

Kronomyth 5.0: Parallelo-brand.

This is where it gets kind of weird, like when a long-lost husband returns home to find his wife in bed with another man and suggests a menage a trois. You see, Phil Collins and Robin Lumley had sort of left the band, but then they came back for Product, only to find Mike Clarke and Peter Robinson were already wearing their pajamas, so Phil and Robin formed their own version of Brand X with John Goodsall and fretless bass player John Giblin and recorded most of an album together. The remaining members of Brand X (Percy Jones, Morris Pert, Peter Robinson, Clarke & Goodsall again) also recorded new material, and the whole thing was mashed together for Product. Oh, yes, and Phil Collins sings! So you have half an album each from two parallel versions of Brand X that runs the gamut from progressive pop (“Don’t Make Waves,” “Soho”) to Pat Metheny-styled jazz (“Rhesus Perplexus”) to Jaco Pastorius-patterned punk jazz (“Not Good Enough—See Me!,” “Dance of the Illegal Aliens”).

The jumbled album cover is fair warning of what’s inside: a motley assortment of musical ideas that are individually impressive but collectively confusing. Maybe it’s the natural byproduct of too many cooks in three different kitchens, but this has always been a difficult album to digest. That said, the results are interesting, especially where Phil adds a little dab of Abacab to the proceedings. You probably don’t need to own this album (I hardly dust it off these days), but you should hear it at least once, if only to satisfy your natural curiosity at hearing Phil Collins sing lead vocals for a band other than Genesis. (Although, where that topic is concerned, seek ye Anthony Phillips’ The Geese & The Ghost first.) I also wrote a review of this for Allmusic, in case you can’t possibly get enough of my middling, milquetoast opinion on things.

Original LP Version

A1. Don’t Make Waves (John Goodsall) (5:28)
A2. Dance of the Illegal Aliens (Percy Jones) (6:52)
A3. Soho (John Goodsall/Phil Collins) (3:47)
A4. …And So To F… (Phil Collins) (6:34)
B1. Algon (Where An Ordinary Cup of Drinking Chocolate Costs L8,000,000,000) (Robin Lumley) (6:07)
B2. Rhesus Perplexus (John Giblin) (4:06)
B3. Wal To Wal (John Giblin/Percy Jones) (3:09)
B4. Not Good Enough – See Me! (Percy Jones/Peter Robinson) (7:27)
B5. April (John Giblin) (2:40)

The Players

Brand X was actually two separate bands at this point. Phil Collins (drums, percussion, vocals), John Giblin (basses), John Goodsall (guitars, vocals) and Robin Lumley (keyboards, gunfire, chainsaw) are Brand X on tracks 1, 3, 4, 5 6 & 9. Mike Clarke (drums), Percy Jones (basses), Morris Pert (percussion), Peter Robinson (keyboards, gunfire, vocals) and Goodsall again are Brand X on tracks 2 & 8. Only Collins, Giblin and Jones appear on track 7. Mike Clarke is the same Mike Clark who played drums with Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters; not sure what the extra “e” is all about. The album was produced by Brand X, Colin Green (recording & remix engineer) and Neil Kernon (recording & remix engineer). Phil Collins is also credited as recording engineer, while Richard Austin and Reno Ruocco are also listed as remix engineers.

The Pictures

Album design by Hipgnosis and Colin Elgie. Photos by Hipgnosis, Paul Canty and John Giblin.

The Plastic

Recorded during April, June and July 1979 at several studios, including Ringo Starr’s Startling Studios and The Farm Studios favored by Genesis. Originally released on elpee and cassette on September 14, 1979 in the UK (Charisma, CAS-1147), US (Passport, PB/PBC-9840), Canada (Charisma, CA-1-2209) and Germany and the Netherlands (Charisma, 9124 045). Reached #165 on the US charts and #28 on the US Jazz charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee on August 1982 in the UK (Charisma, CHC-3) and Japan (Charisma, RJ-7620).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1989 in the UK (Virgin, CASCD-1147), on June 1989 in the US (Caroline, 1390), in 1989 in Europe (Virgin, 87119).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in 2003 in the UK (EMI, CASCD-1147).

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