Delivery – Fools Meeting

Delivery - Fools Meeting

As was often the case for progressive albums released on the cusp of 1970, Delivery‘s one and only LP Fools Meeting sounds torn between prog innovations and the blues and psychedelic obsession of the late 1960′s. In the case of this Canterbury Scene proto-supergroup (most of the members would go on to great success with the likes of CaravanGong and Soft Machine, among others) it’s the fetishized American blues rock that keeps them grounded in the past. Although they do it well, it ultimately holds Fools Meeting from being as distinguished and memorable as some of the records these musicians would work in later incarnations of their careers.

When it comes to this late Sixties’ British response to longstanding American blues tradition, I’m most inclined to point the finger at the first two records from Led Zeppelin’s career; there was no doubting where most of Zeppelin’s influence was coming from, but they added a new kick that made it interesting. Delivery does much the same on Fools Meeting, with the notable exception that while Led Zeppelin amped up blues with the fuzz of hard rock and proto-metal, Delivery has imbued the style with the nuance and interplay of jazz music. It’s an incredibly promising combination, and when Delivery successfully manage to pair the two, the result is significant. “Miserable Man” in particular is a fantastic example wherein Delivery nail the atmosphere of both styles. Disappointingly, as the album progresses, the jazz aspect becomes less prominent, leaving the dated blues rock to preside, complete with predictable 12 Bar songwriting patterns. Delivery‘s jazz rock still finds its way through the cracks in the form of the occasional saxophone solo (as is the case in “Fighting it Out”, but the excellent promise of Delivery‘s style doesn’t feel realized here. Very fortunately for after-the-fact listeners however, the scaled fusion of jazz with psych and rhythmic rock would found the basis of the Canterbury Scene.

While the musicianship on the album is appropriately strong, the most memorable element of Delivery‘s music is undoubtedly the smoky voice of Carol Grimes. Although she’s the only member that wouldn’t have a lasting impact on the Canterbury Scene past Delivery, her vocals are excellent, wrapped up in a confident vibrato and charismatic presence that might warrant comparison to Robert Plant’s bluesy howling on the early Zeppelin albums. More common comparisons to Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick are not beyond reason, but Carol Grimes takes a fiercer approach to her vocals. She would go on to play with a host of blues and jazz acts as the years went on, and while her post-Delivery albums might be worth checking out for her voice alone, it’s something of a disappointment that we didn’t get to hear her voice in any more progressive rock. With a voice like hers, I’m surprised she didn’t become more of a legend. There’s a gaggle of female vocalists in the ‘occult retro rock’ scene today that are trying to sound exactly like her, most probably without ever knowing it. Of course, none have ever truly succeeded.

To my chagrin, the Canterbury Scene has generally alluded my progressive rock listening experience. For what it’s worth, Fools Meeting is more than enough to pique my interest in the style, with the full knowledge that the album has only scratched the surface. Carol Grimes and Delivery have earned their respective spots as quiet legends in the British rock pantheon. Especially if you’re a fan of CaravanGongHatfield and the NorthNational Health,Soft Machine or any of the other bands these guys would play future roles in, Delivery should stand as an excellent history lesson.

Tracklist:

1. Blind To Your Light (5:05)
2. Miserable Man (8:28)
3. Home Made Ruin (3:23)
4. Is It Really The Same (5:44)
5. We Were Satisfied (4:02)
6. The Wrong Time (7:50)
7. Fighting It Out (5:48)
8. Fools Meeting (5:27)
9. Harry Lucky (3:41)
10. Home Made Ruin (alternate take) (2:56)
11. Is It Really The Same (live) (5:19)
12. Blind To Your Light (live) (5:29)
13. One For You (7:43)

Line-up:

* Steve Miller – piano (Caravan)
* Phil Miller – guitar (Matching Mole, Hatfield & The North, National Health)
* Roy Babbington – bass, string bass (Soft Machine)
* Pip Pyle – drums (Gong, Hatfield & The North, National Health)
* Carol Grimes – vocals, percussion

Guest musicians:
* Lol Coxhill – soprano, tenor saxophone
* Roddy Skeaping – violin on “Miserable Man”
* Richard Sinclair – bass on “One for You”

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