The Chris White Experience Presents…Sparrow (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

We spend so much of our time looking to the future for sonic saviours to appear, for the next great slice of music, for the next big thing, that we often ignore the wealth of music which has gone before. What is great about Chris White’s current revisiting and remastering of just some of the fantastic music that he has been involved in over his long and illustrious career, is that it reminds us that sometimes those longed for sonic gems have been right under our noses all along. With this in mind, his latest project is to revisit the Sparrow, a band that he produced and nourished, dust off their music and remaster the tracks with the benefit of modern studio technology.

In 1975, there were close harmony groups and there were bands who played their instruments. Sparrow where that rare thing of being a band with one foot in both worlds. The line-up was made up of already successful musicians, with bands like Tony Rivers and the Castaways, Harmony Grass and The Symbols on their CV’s and under Chris White’s tutelage they recorded an album which should have sent them into the big leagues. Sadly that age-old story, lack of label support and non-existent promotional budget, meant that the band were never able to grasp the opportunity that they richly deserved. The band was dropped and the album that they recorded was never released. But now you can explore their musical wonders as this long overdue album finally sees light of day.

As Celebration kicks things off, the deft harmony arrangements which cue the song up immediately puts you in mind of the sonic tones of Yes’ comeback album, 90125, but here are Sparrow mixing the same clever blends of pop-rock and the mass ranks of vocals as instruments, eight years prior to that iconic album. Perhaps they were just ahead of their time. And Sparrow showed a much wider sonic spectrum than those earnest kings of prog.

There are heartfelt piano lead ballads with All My Love, Oh Doctor’s doo-wop grooves, the lush Beach Boy-esque smarts of I’m Afraid and even some klezma-intoned jaunty-pop in the form of She Didn’t Forget Her Shoes. It’s a versatile album and no mistake, wandering from ornate pop to world music infusions, straight forward rock to soulful seductions.

Despite this set back, many of the musicians involved would go on to work with an array of name artists, from Cliff Richard to Steve Harley, Al Stewart, to Shakin’ Stevens to Roger Daltrey but the real loss to music and music fans was this album sitting on the shelf for 45 years. Until now that is….

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