IF — If (review)

IF — If album cover Album · 1970 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Sean Trane
If is England’s answer to Chicago or Blood Sweat & Tears, and with no small surprise the UK answer approaches Chicago’s quality and easily surpasses BS&T. But comparing If to Chicago is at best unsatisfactory and at worst is misleading: not more instrumental than Chicago (and no trumpet or trombone), If is also less of a straight brass rock outfit, and more of a real jazz rock group, often coming close to Colosseum or Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. The septet is based around wind players Dave Quincy and Dick Morrissey, the main songwriters. The original line-up on this album will remain unchanged much like their US alter-ego Chicago for quite a while.

Starting out on the absolutely delightful Reaching Out On All Sides (also issued as a single), the group shows a real knack for writing inventive jazzy tunes that have a rock edge, while making it interesting for demanding music fans. All Sides comes with a good searing guitar solo, underlined by Mealing’s organ, then the saxes come in a very Heckstallian fashion. Hodgkinson’s voice is fairly close to Chicago’s singer. The lengthy instrumental About The Box is probably the A-side’s highlight, with Morrissey’s flute drawing a long solo before the two saxes cut away in a Heckstall manner, allowing for Smith’s guitar to wallow much like Clempson’s did. This second track is probably the most Colosseum-like of the album. Rounding off the first side is the 7-mins What Can A Friend Say, which boasts a very brassy rhythm’n blues, in this case reminiscent of Chicago or The Flock, but boasting yet another stellar electric guitar.

The flipside is made of four shorter tracks, with the rapid 100 mph soul number “Woman, Can You See?” track, where the repeating sax riffs and chorus and a sizzling solo of the same instrument. Conscious Mind did not steal its name, as it is easily the easiest track on the album, this being the attempt at mass exposure via the single. Best forgotten if you ask me. Dockland is a strange and slow (almost doomy) track, which seem to emphasize dark atmospheres, but Smith’s guitar is again the main solo instrument, again a bit reminiscent of Hiseman’s tribe. The closing Promised Land is an upbeat funky track that contains plenty of intricate arrangements, but cannot escape a pop feel, but positively said. The bonus tracks are no added value as they are the single version of two album tracks, therefore only adding a déjà-entendu feel.

Recently, Repertoire records just re-issued the first two in a mini-lp format, and I only wish they’d get the license to do the same with the next two, but whether this is likely is difficult to say since the first two were issued on Island records, while the next two were on United Artists. In either case, this first album is an absolute must for those wanting to find the perfect link between brass-rock (since If did not have brass instrument proper, but woodwind instruments) and jazz-rock.
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