Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Creation - Action Painting (2017, Numero) - A critique.

For some, what if the British Invasion wasn't an invasion, so much as a breach or even a de minimus sideswipe?   We can't attribute such a notion to omnipresent heavyweights like The Beatles, Stones, Kinks and The Who, but what about acts that registered on a lower tier in their native UK...and perhaps not at all on the Yankee side of the pond?  Chestnut, Hertfordshire, England was ground zero for The Creation, a band whose stature was minimal in proportion to their aforementioned contemporaries, but their cumulative value and influence seemingly grew exponentially in the decades following their 1968 dissolution. 

In their initial 1966-68 lifespan, The Creation failed to release a proper full length on their own home turf, but dispensed a volley of singles according them with not one, not two, but four career defining signature songs - "Painter Man," "Biff, Bang, Pow," "Making Time" and "How Does it Feel to Feel."  Sonically, they were a loose amalgam of The Who, Small Faces, and to a lesser extent, the Monkees.  They weren’t as unkempt as the Troggs, or as dizzying as Floyd, and they certainly didn’t pack the harmonies of the fab four...yet there was something incendiary to The Creation, albeit even if they didn't set either side of the Atlantic alight.   Numero Records has recently and thoughtfully endowed us with, Action Painting, comprising the entirety of their original sixties recordings, spread across two fully loaded CDs, packaged in a sturdy hard-shell case.

The first half of Action predominantly concerns the Creation's commercially available studio recordings, that have been sliced and diced over the ensuing decades in myriad compilations and reissues.  The first of those collections, We Are the Paintermen came to light in '67 while the quartet was still active, but I should mention it was only available in Germany.  Furthermore, the Creation only earned one Top-40 in the UK, "Painter Man," which barely scraped the charts in October 1966, eking in at a modest 36 at best.  From my per-view, as someone who hadn't been conceived until the seventies, these fellows didn't sound or even look particularly different than what was coming off the Brit-prop production line.  But the fact that (relatively) current artists like Ride and Teenage Fanclub have taken Creation classics to task speaks volumes of the enduring effectiveness of the band's original material.

Whether they charted or not, the Creation really did have songs.  Some would argue they benefited from having two different front-men (though not simultaneously).  Original singer Kenny Pickett was ousted from the band in 1967 by former bassist Bob Garner.  Pickett didn't part without writing some of The Creation's most well known pieces, namely "Try and Stop Me," "Biff, Bang, Pow," and the less spoken of but melodically winsome "Nightmares."  The mod-stomping kick of "Making Time" might as well be worth the price of admission alone.  Garner's ascension to vocalist and prime mover also came with increased song-penning duties, and he brought the fan-favorite, "How Does it Feel to Feel" to the table.  "...Feel" was a mildly woozy, slow motion romp, predating the kind of modus opernadi that Marc Bolan would perfect in a few years via T. Rex. Again, it's one of The Creation's signature pieces, but five different versions populating almost a full tenth of Action Painting spells overkill to me.  Pickett would rejoin his former cohorts in 1968, but by then it was largely over. 

The second disk commences with four songs from the precursor to The Creation, The Mark Four, a competent, if not terribly innovative beat band, who like the Beatles cut their teeth gigging in West Germany.  The meat and potatoes of the second half of Action Painting emphasizes a raft of fresh stereo mixes of virtually every key Creation composition and then some, and also delves into some ace rarities, not the least of which is a stirring reading of Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone."

As mentioned a little north of this paragraph, following their 1968 dismantlement affection for the Creation blossomed not only in Britain, but the US and points beyond.  By popular demand, the band sporadically reunited in the eighties all the way into the '00s.  Both Pickett and Garner have since passed away.  Action Painting is a more than thorough document of The Creations halcyon era, and makes a compelling argument that the sixties didn't belong solely to the Beatles, Stoines and Who.  Sample and purchase direct from Numero, Amazon and iTunes.  

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