[Review] Rare Bird: Epic Forest (1972)

Graham Field having left for proggier pastures, the remaining birds battle for the remains on Epic Forest.

Kronomyth 3.0: A broken wishbone, a shattered dream.

Rare Bird left the fields for the forest and forsook the intricate designs of their last album for a more direct route. Despite the tantalizing name, Epic Forest features shorter songs driven by conventional rock rhythms that suggest Wishone Ash or early Kansas on the heavier cuts and Crosby & Nash on the acoustic cuts. (An observation that many other reviewers have made, btw, proving that I really add nothing to the conversation.) That’s not to dismiss the new Rare Bird out of hand; the acoustic numbers (“Darkest Hour,” “Hey Man,” “Fears of the Night”) are as interesting and evocative as anything that BJH was playing at the time. Yet Graham Field seems to have taken the band’s primary progressive weapon—the towering spires of celestial organ—with him to his new endeavor (named, wait for it, Fields), and no one steps in to fill his shoes.

The band still has some progressive fire in their belly (“Turn It All Around,” “Epic Forest”), though you can’t help but wonder whether they can (or care to) sustain it over time. The organ and guitar solos feel rushed, for example, as if the band were checking off a box and moving on to the next thing. Even the arrangements feel hurried, or at least compressed, some of which can be blamed on poor production I suppose. I suspect the reason that the acoustic numbers are more agreeable is that they’re allowed to breathe. The breathless performances of “Baby Listen” or “Birdman” are tantamount to musical hit and run.

As consolation, the record included a free three-track single with “Roadside Welcome,” “Four Grey Walls” and “You’re Lost,” lingering longer than it might. If you were excited at the progress made on their last record, you’ll need to temper that excitement with the reality that half of Rare Bird had flown the coop in search of greener pastures. In its place is a mix of hello and goodbye, a sudden shift in strategy from organ-driven epics to shorter, tighter (but still imaginative) rock songs. Not a bad record by any means, but a different journey than their last and one less likely to engage proggers who had packed in preparation for a purportedly epic adventure.

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Original LP Version

A1. Baby Listen (3:25)
A2. Hey Man (5:53)
A3. House In The City (4:24)
A4. Epic Forest (9:16)
B1. Turning The Lights Out (4:45)
B2. Her Darkest Hour (3:33)
B3. Fears of the Night (3:19)
B4. Turn It All Around (4:45)
B5. Title No. 1 Again (Birdman) (6:05)

Bonus 7-inch record (also included with CD reissues)
10. Roadside Welcome
11. Four Grey Walls
12. You’re Lost

Bonus, bonus CD tracks (1998)
13. Devils High Concern
14. Sympathy (single version)
15. What You Want To Know (different version)

Tracks 1-9 written by Dave Kaffinetti/Paul Karas/Ced Curtis/Fred Kelly/Steve Gould.

The Players

Ced Curtis (lead guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals, percussion), Steve Gould (lead vocals, 2nd guitar, harmony vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion), Dave Kaffinetti (electric piano, piano, Hammond organ, Farfisa organ, percussion), Paul Karas (bass, vocals, harmony vocals, percussion, beads), Fred Kelly (drums, percussion, congas) with Ashley (percussion on B1), Paul Holland (percussion on B4, B5), Chris Kelly (percussion on B5), Paul Korda (percussion on B1), Nic Potter (percussion on B1). Produced by Rare Bird & Paul Holland.

The Pictures

Photography by Malcolm Robertson. Design by Alex Marshall.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in 1972 in the US (Polydor, PD 5530), the UK (Polydor, 2442 101) and Israel (Polydor, 2478 057). UK version features gatefold cover and bonus 7-inch record with “Roadside Welcome,” “Four Grey Walls” and “You’re Lost.”

  1. Re-issued on expanded 15-track compact disc in 1998 (Red Fox, RF 604).
  2. Re-issued on 12-track compact disc in 2007 in the UK (El/Cherry Red, ACMEM99CD).

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