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Album Review

After Family concluded their second stateside tour in mid-1971 they were again to face personnel changes as John Weider (bass) was replaced by John Wetton (bass/guitar/vocals) just in time to chip in for Fearless, their sixth long-player in four years. Listeners who had enjoyed their then-recent platters might have been a bit nonplussed when confronted with this disc, as the combo's direction was notably altered. Wetton brought along his trademark propulsive performance style, which is immediately evident on the heavy mid-tempo opener, "Between Blue and Me." John "Charlie" Whitney (guitar/mandolin/percussion) presents some expressive strings weaving through Wetton's full bottom-end bombs. The decidedly English "Sat'd'y Barfly" recalls the inebriated vibe of lighter-weight numbers à la the Faces, while the Ladbroke Horns do little to help as a prominent tuba rhythmically poots along. Poli Palmer's (keyboards/vibes/flute/percussion) roly-poly piano further conjures up a barroom setting while pulling the tune together. As if the juxtaposition of those tracks wasn't incongruous enough, the slightly off-kilter and trippy "Larf and Sing" features a breezy four-on-the-floor backbeat that predates disco in chronology only. It drops out for a jazzy a cappella chorus that could easily be executed by the Hi-Lo's or the Four Freshmen. Whitney's wah-wah is also a focal point as it slithers in between the verses. Another of the album's best offerings is the "Spanish Tide"/"Save Some for Thee'" medley. Highlighted is the combination of Roger Chapman's powerful warbling and Wetton's sturdy vocal timbre. The pair shine against the intricate melody, brought to life by a well-balanced blend of Whitney's acoustic fretwork. On the funky rocker "Take Your Partners," the bandmembers maneuver their interaction with an aptitude and skill that would arguably best any jam-based aggregate of the day. Concluding Fearless is the sinuous "Burning Bridges," sporting a Chapman lead that is almost uncomfortable in its palpable sense of foreboding. Whitney's muted mandolin likewise has a haunting, ruminative quality as it dances and seemingly mocks the simmering tempo. Although admittedly uneven, Fearless was the first of two Family titles to make an impact in the States, where it peaked at a modest number 177 in February of 1972. [This version of the album includes bonus material.]

Customer Reviews

What Can I say??

I bought this album when it first came out. No one I knew in LA, Calif at the time was into what I was into anyway. I found the oferings from Family to be tasty..tight..literate...bordering on Prog rock of the highest level. It was only a small leap to go from here to things like "Gentle Giant. Be-Bop Deluxe, and the Masters..Genesis. It was not for nothing that Roger Chapman..frontman to this band..was considered for a time to replace the already-left Peter Gabriel in Genesis...and Phil Collins..onstage..used to blatantly rip off Rogers deft twirls and hand gestures...such as they were VERY say the least. This is one of the bands all should enjoy it once.

Lingers years after you last played it

Like G-Bear I bought the vinyl when it first came out (yes I still have my vinyl) and played it until my brain was saturated. Great music, very original -- not Corporate Rock by any stretch of the imagination. You have to LISTEN rather than treat it as elevator music! Family's finest (IMHO) are Music in a Doll's House and this album. What makes a classic? Music you find the DJ in your head playing, 30 years on.

A Progressive Rock Must-Have

There is some clever music here, folks. Much of this album found heavy rotation on FM progressive rock and college stations in the early 1970s. If you can remember the days when the DJ pretty much played whatever he wanted, this album will bring back some memories, and songs you haven't heard in over 30 years. The good news is: this music was inventive, reflected outstanding musicianship, and holds up incredibly well today. Highlights: tracks 2, 3, and 10.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s

A blues-based band with art rock inclinations, Family were one of the more interesting groups of hippie-era Britain. Fronted by the deft and frequently excellent guitar playing of John "Charlie" Whitney and the raspy, whiskey-and-cigarette voice of Roger Chapman, Family were much loved in England and Europe but barely achieved cult status in America. While bands like Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, and the Keith Emerson-led Nice (and later Emerson, Lake & Palmer) sold lots of records, Family, who frequently...
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Fearless, Family
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