Playing Through The Changes : The Anthology (1964-2020) RAY FENWICK
Released this Friday this compilation will be of interest to many, especially some from the local music scene. Where to start with Ray? Well firstly i’ve sadly not had the pleasure of meeting him, which given the amount of bands and projects he’s been involved in is surprising, however i know some of you reading this have, so any innaccuracies that follow are entirely mine and i’ll stand corrected. Ray is one of Rock’s supreme journeymen whose career has spanned over 6 decades and has encompassed a myriad of genres from Ska to Hard Rock. He is not only a gifted guitarist but also a singer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and a noted session player. I strongly recommend that you follow the link to https://www.cherryred.co.uk at the conclusion of this piece for more information as i would need a book to do full justice to his story. In short he began playing guitar at an early age fully encouraged by his parents and by the age of 15 joined his first band Rupert & The Red Devils and though underage trod the established path to playing the seedy clubs of Germany & Holland where in the latter he would later play frequently having met & befriended Jan Akkerman & Focus. Returning to the UK he joined The Excels (formed by another Ex Red Devil) the infamous Don Arden became their booking agent and off they went to the South Of France to play on the more salubrious Riviera, making the acquaintance of Brigitte Bardot along the way (lucky man!). After this sortie he joined The Syndicats replacing the outgoing Steve Howe, then utilising his connections he moved on to Dutch band Tee Set. By 1967 he’d joined The Spencer Davis Group as they entered their second phase after the departure of Steve Winwood. I’m particularly fond of this period that started with ‘Time Seller’ as i really enjoyed the shift to psychedelia the band experimented with. Although Ray wasn’t on ‘Time Seller’ he did play on the excellent ‘Mr Second Class’. After 2 years with The SDG Ray was off again to pastures new with The ian Gillian Band via recording some sessions with Bo Diddley along the way. By 1974 he’d become part of rock band Fancy who had a surprise American hit with a cover of ‘Wild Thing’. Fancy were a group of session musicians put together by Ray’s long term mentor and friend celebrated music arranger Mike Hurst. In the eighties another of Ray’s projects would come together as Forcefield (in 3 incarnations) more of which later. As is plainly obvious Ray has been a very busy and ubiquitous figure in the industry and i’ve only really scratched the surface. This new release compiled with Ray’s full involvement consists of 3 CD’s containing 61 tracks housed in a very sturdy fold out digipack crammed with photo’s and an exhaustive booklet with tells the extensive story of this remarkable career. CD1 is rich with the many facets of Ray’s playing from the opener ‘Mercury High’ Gillan Band track through to Ska represented by The South Coast Ska Stars ‘Range Rider’ the groove laden rock of Fancy & ‘She’s Ridin The Rock Machine’, Spencer Davis, Rupert & The Red Devils, Eddie Hardins ‘Wind In The Willows’ Ray’s sublime take on The Shadow’s ‘Apache’ and joy of joy’s the mod revival sound of old friend Tich Turner’s Escalator ‘Are You Wiv’ are just some of the other delights and highlights. CD2 is more rock and project orientated kicking off with Forcefield’s (Mk1) cover of ‘Smoke On The Water’ (a track we’ll return to at the conclusion). Artists featured include Tee-Set, David Coverdale, Roger Glover (& friends) Eddie Hardin’s Wizard Convention, Forcefield (Mk2), Hardin & York & Graham Bonnet. And if you are someone reading this who thinks i haven’t been aware of Ray through all these tracks, well maybe, but you will have heard him as a kid growing up if you watched kids TV as he also co-wrote the theme to ‘Magpie’ included here, boy has this guy been prolific. CD3 is another eclectic mix featuring the Ian Gillian Band, Forcefield (Mk3), Eddie Hardin, Mike Hurst, Spencer Davis, Bo Diddley, a wonderful version of Mason Williams ‘Classical Gas’ featuring Cozy Powell and 2 tracks from Ray Fenwicks White Lightning ‘Shine It On Me’ & ‘Mail Box’ both featuring our very own local lad Pete Prescott on lead vocals (there’s a rather endearing photo of the band featured on the inside of the compilation….hair metal rules!). It’s Pete that gets the final word on this marvellous compilation. I rang him as i was somewhat puzzled as to why any band would record a cover version of the iconic ‘Smoke On The Water’ (as referred to earlier kicking off CD2 as Forcefield), doing it as a live number i could understand, i’ve heard a million rock bands do that. But to record it is surely superfluous?. Over to Pete, it came about when he was living and gigging in Switzerland in the mid-80’s where he made the acquaintance of one of the singers from the band The Far Corporation who had a hit in 1985 by covering LZ’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’ (masterminded by Boney M creator and producer Frank Farian). spurred on by this if you can cover an iconic song like that…so Ray, with an eye on the Japanese market (who love their metal) invited Pete, Cozy etc to Catsfield Studio’s where he was working to record SMOTW. So that’s answered that, thanks Pete. I apologise for my lack of Forcefield knowledge! So in conclusion, this is a fascinating collection of work spanning a remarkable career and space has precluded me from all the story but i trust i have whetted your appetite. Ray has been an influence and a helping hand to many a musician local and otherwise and Lemon Records have done a fine job with this package celebrating his many talents. Enjoy.
for more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk