The heavy-hitting raga pioneers get anthologized. Here's hoping they'll finally receive their long overdue honor.
If Jimi saw his stone free, the band the guitarist's English follower Mick Hutchinson created with organist and reeds player Andy Clark felt no need for superficial euphemisms to set out their wares on the ensemble's third album, 1970's "Retribution", their second out of three laid down for Decca and spread here over two discs. Both men graduated from SAM GOPAL'S DREAM, and the raga vibe they caught from the Malaysian-born tabla-driver is all over the duo's debut on this label, 1969's "A=MH2", but on tracks like "Improvisation On An Indian Scale" and "Improvisation On A Modal Scale" that bookend the album, Hutchinson took it much further, lining sharp riffs, adventurous solos and relentlessly funky strum over Clark's brass-and-percussion bedrock. Way ahead of its time with the world music almost scientific exploration, it induces a trance-like state, so there's no need for acid to go space-out in the instrumental - save for the choir in "Impromptu In E Minor" - swirl.
An infectious flamenco of the baroque-tinged "Acapulco Gold" from "Retribution" and "Man's Best Friend" from 1971's "Gestalt" show that the guitarist could apply his classical skills on acoustic ever so straight, like no other rock axeman in the late '60s, yet the title track rages in the bluesy sea where Clark delivers demented Hendrixesque mantra before leading the now-quartet into an Ellington-like piano journey. Here, "stoned" can also mean "rock solid", and "Death, The Lover" effectively stalks the SABBATH swamp, while organ solo in "Best Suit" reveals a prog thread in this "Little Wing" rewrite. And then "Gestalt" tackles much more experimental matters, from the pure jazz of "Disorientated" - in two Part One's for the dizziest of effects - to the heavy folk of "The Light Burns On", rough 'n' sweet acoustic ballads such as "Boat In The Morning Mist" and the sitar-imitating "Orientated" to swing it all back to the East drones.
Yet towards the end, the initial impetus was clearly lost, as was the direction, so the demise must have been inescapable. But obscurity for a band so bold and adventurous? This compilation should take CLARK-HUTCHINSON out from the dark recesses of the Brit rock pantheon and place them closer to the pedestal.