If you caught the reviews and music of Ten Mile Tide (here) and Hot Buttered Run (here), then you're gonna love these guys (<-- non-sexist usage, thar's gals here too, Lemuel!) 'cause they inject a much more traditional marriage of the American and European forms of the style. Here in the States, the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and many of the San Fran bands pretty much nailed our version to the floorboards, but, over in England, Man and ensembles like Hawkwind were coming at it from different angles. Same idea, different vibe, and I've always held Man's Be Good to Yourself at Least Once a Day as a pinnacle jam LP.
Jamming is nothing more and nothing less than improvisation, but, to earn the title as a band, ya hafta jam a lot, not just in the middle eight for four bars. Seconds on End fills that bill quite well. In fact, their take on the Beatles' Dear Prudence reminds me strongly of Pure Food & Drug Act's transmutation of Eleanor Rigby. With Seconds On End, though, there's a very strong prog under-ribbing to the musical architecture, and that makes all the difference in the world. The guitars of Nick Peters and Pete Sawyer see to this and flesh many songs, such as "Piece of You", to burnin' and groovin'.
The weakest points in the ensemble are its vocals. When she's on it, as in Dear Prudence, Carrie Adler possesses a sweetly ringing voice (plays a righteous oboe too, a sadly neglected instrument in modern music), but falls through a bit on Revelator, going too flat. Likewise, Harris Teague's rough approach has a pleasant saw edge to it, a bit like Eric Bloom's (Blue Oyster Cult), but is rarely melodic when it should be. However, the music more than carries the day in the jam mode above garagey vocals, a commonplace for the style. Hell, Phish isn't exactly giving Johnny Mathis a run for the money either, and Mario Lanza and Kiri Te Kanawa weren't going to sing for the Grateful Dead at any point in time that I could see.
The core of Seconds on End is that just-mentioned pair of guitarists who write most of the songs, but Brian Vandemark is a marvelous bassist, colorful as hell and eternally inventive, his lines a pure pleasure in cuts like Delta. Jae Hendrickson backs him up with the percussives, mostly eschewing the John Bonham Thud-Clunk School (except in Love to Burn) for an equal part in the rhythmic conversation. Put everything together and you have an ensemble graduating from high amateur status into the pros. Prime the bong, uncork the brandy, and set back a spell for a journey to Trip-Out Land.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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