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Bedlam – ‘Live In Binghampton 1974’

Every now and again, an album emerges from the vaults of rock ‘n’ roll history that represents a snapshot in time:  a moment when those who produced it were right at the top of their game, while at the same time on the cusp of transformation and transition…

Bedlam - Live In BinghamptonThis is exactly the case with this long lost offering from the long forgotten (by many) Midlands quartet Bedlam.  Originally formed in 1966, the three founder members – guitarist Dave Ball, his older brother Denny on bass and vocals and a drummer by the name of Colin Flooks (aka Cozy Powell) – pottered about in various bands together for a while before coalescing as the short-lived Big Bertha.  Having gone their separate ways and found some degree of success (Dave Bell with Procul Harum, Denny with Long John Baldry and Powell with Jeff Beck) the trio got back together in 1973 under the name The Beast – subsequently changed to Bedlam after, as Dave describes it in his liner notes, “some clown in America laid claim to the name”.

Recruiting vocalist Frank Aiello (who previously had worked with them briefly in Big Bertha), the band recorded one album – a seminal self-titled work, produced by the legendary Felix Pappalardi – toured the UK, Europe and the US, before the success of Powell’s solo ‘Dance With The Devil’ single (it reached No 3 in the UK charts in January 1974) and the subsequent demand for the drummer’s services forced the project onto the back burner once again…

On March 5th, 1974, Bedlam played a gig at a radio station in Binghampton, New York, as part of the aforementioned US tour:  it was broadcast live across the States, and, of course, dozens of bootleg tapes emerged and were circulated.  Nigh on four decades later, the various tapes of the studio recording of the show were collected and pieced together by Denny Ball to produce an as accurate as possible recreation of that historic night…

Like the studio album which preceded it, the material itself is pretty standard heavy blues rock:  the live versions do lose some of the sensitivity of the studio ones – most noticeably on opener ‘I Believe In You’, which sacrifices its original funky bass line for a more standardized vibe – but nevertheless capture the energy of a band seemingly determined to end what they knew was going to be another phase in their career on a high, as reflected on the loose enjoyment of ‘Set Me Free’.

bedlamThe session closer ‘The Fool’ (which follows a beautifully restored version of the original broadcast’s anarchic interview section) is a typically elongated jam session which clocks in at slightly more than 20 minutes and makes for a more than decent example of the unit’s combined musical abilities and truly evokes the era when you could just chuck everything (including the kitchen sink) into a live radio broadcast and get away with it and captures the energy of what these classic radio broadcasts were all about.

Shortly before Powell’s untimely death in 1998, there had been talk of a Bedlam reunion:  two years later, with Uriah Heep’s Russell Gilbrook behind the kit, a few gigs did indeed take place.  According to Dave Ball’s liner notes, there continues to be talk of putting the band back together – and even a new album… as the guitarist notes: “stranger things have happened”… In the meantime, ‘Live In Binghampton’ is another small reminder of the huge talent that was Cozy Powell and the amazing contribution he made to the development of rock and metal as we know it today…

Track list:

I Believe In You / The Beast / The Great Game / Set Me Free / Interview / The Fool / The Beast (Studio Remix)

‘Live In Binghampton 1974’ is out now on Angel Air Records.  To buy your copy, click on the Amazon banner at the top of the page.

To keep up with developments, log on to Dave Ball’s official website:  www.worldslump.com

About Mark Ashby

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