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Album Review

On the surface, the Groundhogs could easily have become one of the dozens of British "blooze and boogie" bands that cropped up in the late '60s and early '70s in the manner of Savoy Brown or Foghat, but Tony (T.S.) McPhee's ideas and ambitions were just eccentric enough to push the band into directions too challenging for most mainstream listeners, and as with much of their catalog it's McPhee's sense of invention that makes 1974's Solid memorable. Recorded in McPhee's home studio with Clive Brooks on drums and Peter Cruickshank on bass, most of Solid's nine numbers are anchored by the sonic overdrive of McPhee's guitar playing, which twists blues figures through psych and progressive frameworks, while the doomy poetics of his lyrics don't so much establish the mood of the songs as reinforce the tone of the music. While Brooks and Cruickshank are a fine rhythm section, giving these songs the muscle and backbone to make the most of their hard rock leanings, this is obviously McPhee's show, and an impressive show it is. Not too many guys would think to lay a Mellotron or a fuzzy synthesizer over a heavy blues jam, or run his recordings through such a remarkable maze of phase shifting and ping-pong panning, but in his own small way McPhee's music is in the grand tradition of the great eccentrics of British rock, and that windmill-tilting spirit is what Solid is all about — it's not a freak masterpiece like Thank Christ for the Bomb or Who Will Save the World?, but if you dug the twists and turns of those albums you owe it to yourself to give this a listen.

Biography

Formed: 1963

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The Groundhogs were not British blues at their most creative; nor were they British blues at their most generic. They were emblematic of some of the genre's most visible strengths and weaknesses. They were prone to jam too long on basic riffs, they couldn't hold a candle to American blues singers in terms of vocal presence, and their songwriting wasn't so hot. On the other hand, they did sometimes stretch the form in unexpected ways, usually at the hands of their creative force, guitarist/songwriter/vocalist...
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Solid, The Groundhogs
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