I don’t believe I had ever heard the term ‘brass rock’ before reading reviews of Brainchild‘s first (and only) LP, Healing of the Lunatic Owl. Sure, I’ve had some run-ins with Chicago, but I was yet-unaware there was an entire scene of this sort of music at one point. Brass rock as a proverbial sub-sect of jazz rock and fusion virtually disappeared towards the second half of the 1970s, and especially now the blend of psychedelic fuzz, British R&B and peppy trumpets sounds fairly dated. In spite of that retrospect, I’m quite surprised this jazz-rock sextet never received more attention than they did.
Although Brainchild‘s relative instrumental novelty is arguably enough to give them relevance with the jazz family tree, the composition and energy on Healing of the Lunatic Owl is almost entirely rock-based. The songwriting- regardless of quality- is fairly straightforward, and were it not for the glaring use of trumpets, there would be nothing in the music to betray a potential connection to jazz. Rather, Brainchild strikes me as a fuzzy, sometimes Krautrock-ish reflection of the wake of late ’60s psychedelic trends in Britain. The turn of the decade met with a stark change in the sound of rock music; between the two decades, Brainchild certainly sounds rooted moreso in the former. Bill Edwards’ lead vocals are fairly typical for their time, trying to find a balance between poppy hooks and left-field theatricality- I personally think he succeeded, even if his voice lacks distinctiveness.
Brainchild are clearly skilled musicians across the board, but their greatest strength on Healing of the Lunatic Owlis this ability of theirs to balance out instrumental sophistication and hooks. Whether you want to call this progressive rock, jazz or something else entirely, that golden ratio is a rare find- too often, the artists you’ll see trying to make this blend sound bland or scattered. While the uncharacteristically melancholic “Sadness of the Moment” is the only tune here that manages to hit me on a directly emotional level, every song on Healing of the Lunatic Owl is distinct. If there’s anything I can think of that implies the makings of a potential classic album, it’s that feeling of every song having value. The music generally isn’t compelling enough for me to rank it among the ‘greats’ of its era, but there are quite a few folks out there who acknowledge the album as an obscure masterpiece, and for that, I am thankful.
1. Autobiography (3:35)
2. Healing Of The Lunatic Owl (5:05)
3. Hide From The Dawn (6:50)
4. She’s Learning (4:13)
1. A Time A Place (8:55)
2. Two Bad Days (3:55)
3. Sadness Of A Moment (4:08)
4. To B (3:52)
* Harvey Coles – bass, vocals
* Bill Edwards – lead guitar, vocals
* Dave Muller – drums
* Chris Jennings – organ, piano
* Brian Wilshaw – saxophone, flute
* Lloyd Williams – trumpet