pick-of-the-monthArgent In Deep. Though humble and lacking pretension, it remains one of the great un-sung albums of its decade. It is certainly Argent’s best-ever studio album.

Label: Talking Elephant
Time: 8 Tracks / 45 minutes

Whenever a great album is re-released it is a reason to celebrate. Another generation of music lovers can discover it, and to my ears and heart, Argent’s In Deep is a great album. It may not have matched the Joshua Trees and Automatic for the Peoples for volume of sales, or stood shoulder to shoulder with OK Computer for sheer innovative, visceral impact, but there are other kinds of greatness.  My record collection was always incomplete in the times when In Deep was missing. It has had staying power across four decades and still ignites emotion.

Celebration is quite appropriate. In Deep starts with gratitude for rock and roll and then begins what was originally Side Two with a track called ”Be Glad,” ending it with the upbeat “Rosie.” That said, it also plumbs despair and does a bit of preaching.

It is very much a disc of two halves. The first is largely written by the inordinately-talented Russ Ballard and (with the exception of a somewhat self-conscious fade-out and fade-back-in) is virtually perfect. Anyone who thinks that “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” is a Kiss or Petra song has missed out on a beautifully-judged original with sweeping, swelling bursts of organ. “It’s Only Money” – so good that they wrote it twice – is here in its single version, but also as a harder, riff-based track.  The side ends with “Losing Hold,” as memorable and loveable as any of the singles. If it were biologically possible, it would ache from every pore. This is almost as good a twenty minutes as any in rock.

The second half is a very different affair that begins with an attempted epic and ends with a bit of an East End knees up (“Rosie”). The eponymous Rod Argent and producer Chris White pen most of these. The schizophrenic “Be Glad” goes through so many sections during its nine minutes that it’s like watching a piece of time-lapse film. Like most of this half, it is piano-based, and veers from classical instrumental (one piece sounding like it has fallen off Holst’s Planet Suite) through ballad to rock. The legendary BBC DJ Alan Freeman managed to get two jingles from this track alone.

“Christmas for the Free” could have been written by Paul McCartney as it starts two tracks that investigate suffering, overpopulation, homelessness and a loving response:

“Joy to the world at Christmas…
Meanwhile the promises and bodies are broken, Jesus,
Bloody in this winter wonderland. Where is the love of Jesus? Where is the love of peace?
Where are the people who promised us comfort?
Why are they quarrelling their needs?
When this is the day of Jesus; when this is the day of peace
Joy to the world at Christmas time
Jesus, this is Christmas for the free.”

The seven-minute “Candles on the River” is the other. A single B-side, it is rockier  -and would sound even more so if it were set among the A-sides. With a bluesy undercurrent and a substantial Jon Lord-like organ solo that blends into a band instrumental, this is like their more earnest equivalent of “Lazy.”

Perhaps it was their penchant for writing ‘proper’ songs over riffs that took away some of their fame in the ‘70’s.  Too classical to satisfy the air-guitarists, too rocky for the pop market, and too lacking in rock star gravitas (I still remember Ballard calling out, “Pretend we’re the Beatles!” in one live show – that was a fail on all levels), they fell between several stools.

But their musical status was already secure before even recording In Deep. Half the band was part of the Zombies, whose Odessey and Oracle made the Top-100-albums-ever lists from both Mojo and Rolling Stone magazines, while Ballard’s song-smithery has produced hits for artists as wide apart as Three Dog Night, Santana, Hot Chocolate, Abba’s Agnetha Faltsgog, and of course, Rainbow, penning the grammatically-challenged “Since You Been Gone.”

Time has taken little away from the quality of this release. Though humble and lacking pretension, it remains one of the great un-sung albums of its decade. 



Derek Walker

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