Picture the scene, it’s 1970. The Nice, who were considered one of the true beginnings of the progressive rock movement in the late ‘60s who blended classical music, jazz, psychedelic, and hard rock, called it a day after the release of their official album Elegy. Keith would form Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Lee Jackson formed Jackson Heights, and Brian Davison formed his own group Every Which Way.
Brian looked to other members he had crossed paths with as The Nice were in the UK touring during that time period. Davison’s drumming was and still is to this day, incredibly brilliant. And for him to find members for his new band, he didn’t have any trouble with that.
He recruited Skip Bifferty’s Graham Bell on Lead Vocals, Guitarist John Hedley, Flautist and Reeds’ Geoffrey Peach, and Alan Cartwright who would later join Procol Harum for their performance with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in 1972. Like The Nice who had powerful arrangements to their music, Every Which Way had more of a jazz sound than Davison’s time with The Nice.
Originally released on Tony Stratton-Smith’s Charisma label, who had signed Audience, Genesis, and Van der Graaf Generator, Mercury Records in the States, and reissued by Esoteric Recordings during the pandemic, Every Which Way recorded their only eponymous debut at Trident Studios in London with engineers Malcolm Toft (James Taylor, The Beatles, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and David Bowie) and Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, Cheap Trick, Starcastle) on the helm. Most of the compositions was written by Bell himself to reach that higher ground that was needed.
Now this wasn’t a supergroup mind you. In the original publicity text by Paul Roewade he wrote that Every Which Way “isn’t a supergroup. There are no superstars here. In many ways the music here is so much intense – yet at the same time relaxed – than so much of the product issuing forth from the super-people.”
The mournful acoustic opening track ‘Bed Ain’t What It Used to Be’ has a George Harrison-like arrangement from the All Things Must Pass, Creedence, and a pre-‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ sessions with a gothic background as if Bell pays nod to Gary Farr’s vocal textures before Hedley’s bluesy walk into the unknown, makes us uncertain for the future while Peach’s smoky nightclub sound on his sax, will chill you to the bone.
‘Castle Sand’ has a mystical quality throughout its lyrical boundaries. It showed Every Which Way’s fantasy side if you will as Peach’s flute blends well with Bell’s acoustic guitar and vocal lines, setting up the medieval structure of the King’s demise, and the damage he has caused to his kingdom.
Speaking of mystical quality, they return to the Folky landscapes once more in ‘Go Placidly’ with its pre-Marshall Tucker Band’s nod to ‘Can’t You See’ while diving into the psychedelia pool with the Leslie speakers in hot pursuit in its pre-AOR sound on ‘All In Time.’ But it’s the galloping drums and bass arrangements that Davison and Cartwright go in this ramming speed sound before Peach sends an alarming wail on his Sax for ‘What You Like’.
The closing track of ‘The Light’ sees Hedley and Bell walking into uncharted corridors with wailing improvisations that encounters heavy blues and howling sax’s from Peach’s sax work. You feel Bell’s pain on a down and luck guy who is trying to make a buck from the work that he’s done, but no luck in making in the big leagues. But once Peach and Cartwright go into this mournful midsection, you know that there’s no turning back.
Kind of a Sabbath-like touch from their self-titled debut that came out the same year. But once they add that mighty punch near the very end, Davison, Bell, and Hedley return to form once more by closing out the curtain to drop as they go out in a big bang.
When the album was released, the band lasted a very short time before calling it a day. And in the Post-Which Way period, Brian teamed up with Lee to form Refugee with Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz from Mainhorse and Yes, Alan joined Procol Harum, Graham did two albums for Charisma. One with Arc entitled Bell + Arc in 1971, followed by his sole self-titled album in 1972, Hedley would later work with Last Exit, Johnny Morris on The King’s Breakfast in 1979, and The Dallas Boys.
And for Peach, prior to Every Which Way, he worked with Sandie Shaw and a band called Sleepy on the single, ‘Rosie Can’t Fly’. While Bell, Cartwright, and Davison have passed on in the afterlife, it’s quite intriguing to see why their sole self-titled debut was so far ahead of its time. Maybe because they just weren’t ready for it at the time, or they wanted to hear Nice-like sound, we don’t know.
But it’s such a rare treat to see what Brian was doing to go beyond the symphonic rock orientated sound that he was known for. And for using Nan Cuz’s cover painting from the book, In The Kingdom of Mescal: A Fairy Tale for Adults, it’s a very striking image that they used, because it tells a story. And the music fits well with the cover.
So it’s time to give Every Which Way, the proper recognition it deserves, and the amount of respect for Brian’s legacy that Esoteric has unleashed three years ago during those tricky times when the world shut down due to the pandemic.