London Underground – Honey Drops

After very good “Through A Glass Darkly” and 7 years break, London Underground strikes back with new (3rd) album and re-formed line-up. The only original member which left in the band is organist Gianluca Gerlini, who joined forces with Alessandro Gimignani (drums) & Fabio Baini (bass). As much as I liked previous rhythm section of Stefano Gabbani (also vocals) & Daniele Caputo (both from very impressive formation called Standarte), I still have to say that I love new sound of London Underground: instrumental only psychy/jazzy/proggy organ-driven power trio. “Honey Drops” is a really entertaining release filled with highly energetic new versions of some well known & totally obscure rock classics from 60′ and 70′ + few original compositions of the band. It’s also worth noticing that despite being Hammond-drenched prog trio, London Underground doesn’t sound like ELP or Triumvirat at all. They music is much more rooted in 60′ & early 70′ psychedelic rock, jazz, blues, rhythm&blues and early progressive rock.

1. “Fanfare” – album begins wonderfully with their own version of “Fanfare/Fire Poem” originally recorded by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. And of course it’s an instrumental, so we can listen to entire “background” music which was used as a “base” for Arthur Brown’s crazy poem. Gianluca Gerlini really knows how to play this track, you’d swear that it’s resurrected Vincent Crane bashing his trusty organs again here! Fantastic playing and superb idea to give a new life for music which was already long forgotten. BTW mellotron intro is truly splendid too.

2. “Ellis Island” – London Underground’s version of Brian Auger’s classic instrumental track is also top notch. Very jazzy performance as always loaded with swirling organ, but this time we can also hear supportive wah-wah, funky guitar licks played by guest: Riccardo Cavalieri. In general it’s very faithful to Auger’s original but I still think it was worth to re-new it, especially that Sergio Taglioni added some nice Moog fragments here too.

3. “Jive Samba” – very lively tune which (as sources says) was originally played by Cannonball Adderly. I can describe it as schizophrenic samba with energetic organ chops and crazy-ass electric piano bashing in the middle. Sounds very exotic (Latino percussion style etc.) and groovy. I can only compare it to early Santana (but without leading guitar) or – even more – Keith Emerson’s debut album called “Honky”.

4. “Honey Drops” – first band’s own composition (or maybe I just don’t know who composed original…) is darker & more progressive then previous two tracks. Lots of gloomy organ leads, fuzzy electric guitar & omnipresent mellotron waves. Riccardo Cavalieri also plays some nightmarish viola in the background which add special dimension to the music. London Underground really knows how to play dark & energetic in the same time. Truly recommended.

5. “Midnight Cowboy” – I read that this one is a cover of the main theme from soundtrack (composed by John Barry) to movie called “Midnight Cowboy”. But I’ve never heard the original so I can’t compare. Anyway it’s a really good & relaxing piece of music led by atmospheric organ layers, mellotron outbursts & rhythmic acoustic guitar. Very pleasant & melodic.

6. “Faster And Faster” – superb cover of instrumental originally performed by very obscure French group called Eden Rose. Just like London Underground, Eden Rose was also organ-driven band (however they had guitarist as a steady member) so both versions aren’t so much different. However LU’s cover includes much longer & weirder improvisation section and sounds fresher in general. Great organ runs as always!

7. “Dharma For One” – this guy’s version of this Jethro Tull’s folky instrumental is a real treat. Instead of flute-led track with boring drum solo (as in JT’s version) we have an organ-driven highly energetic heavy prog here with tremendously heavy organ riffs (reminiscence of Vincent Crane’s work in Atomic Rooster). In general it seems that LU’s “Dharma for One” was rather inspired by equally impressive Exclamation Mark’s version than Jethro Tull’s original one. (P.S. Exclamation Mark was a little known pre-Black Widow band which recorded one album in 1969 with “Dharma for One” in it). Anyway superb Hammond performance and suitable saxophone addition in courtesy of guest Stefano Negri!

8. “Queen St. Gang” – perfect cover of instrumental originally released by famous pre-Egg band called Arzachel. Overall very faithful to the original, only addition of some background synch-orchestra (arranged by Sergio Taglioni) makes a slight difference. But I don’t mind that it’s so similar to original, ’cause I’m always glad to hear this track which is a pinnacle of British psychedelia for me. But I have to admit that Gianluca Gerlini wasn’t able to recreate the same schizophrenic, high-pitched organ sound which only Dave Stewart knows how to play.

9. “St. Helens” – this one seems to be the second track originally composed by London Underground but unfortunately it’s definitely the weakest one here. It’s too much dominated by Sergio Taglioni’s electronic sounds created on Moog synthesizer. In the end we have some more audible organ chops but it doesn’t change a thing that “St. Helens” is a poor experimental track which doesn’t suit the rest of the album. Uneven & rather tiresome four minutes.

10. “Norwegian Wood” – probably my favorite track on “Honey Drops”. In theory it’s a cover of The Beatles’ song but in fact only the main melody from the beginning reminds us about it. More or less LU’s “Norwegian Wood” is a long organ improvisation in the vain of Atomic Rooster’s instrumentals, while the end of the track is a strange collage of sounds similar to quirky intros/outros played by Vanilla Fudge on their debut album.

11. “Waiting For The Lady” – seems to be the 3rd composition wrote by London Underground. Unfortunately just like “St. Helens” it’s quite poor track. Very repetitive drums work (like machine) and boring, steady organ sounds. However later we can listen to some very nice viola section which I surely enjoy.

12. “Jive Samba”(Radio Edit) – in the end there is a single single edit of “Jive Samba”.

All in all “Honey Drops” is a fantastic album which should please all fans of retro-prog and instrumental psychedelia. Particularly I’d like to suggest it to fans of jazz/blues-rock organ master Brian Auger, heavy prog Atomic Rooster and psychy/soul Lee Michaels, but I think that all fans of early 70s prog acts (like Cressida, Beggar’s Opera, Aardvark, Quatermass etc.) will love this staff too. If you like “Honey Drops” material you should also check out band called Captain Hammond which is organ-led trio with similar but slightly more R’n'B/soul oriented music.

Anyway “Honey Drops” is a superb album and almost 5 starts worth, but because of 1-3 weaker tracks I will have to give it 4,5 stars rating.

Best tracks: “Norwegian Wood”, “Fanfare”, “Dharma For One” & “Honey Drops”

1. Fanfare (2:43)
2. Ellis Island (3:10)
3. Jive Samba (5:56)
4. Honey Drops (6:22)
5. Midnight Cowboy (4:19)
6. Faster And Faster (5:32)
7. Dharma For One (2:59)
8. Queen Saint-Gang (4:16)
9. Saint-Helens (4:02)
10. Norwegian Wood (5:33)
11. Waiting For The Lady (2:40)
12. Jive Samba (3:11)


* Gianluca Gerlini / Hammond C3, piano, wurlitzer, fender rhodes, mellotron
* Alessandro Gimignani /drums
* Fabio Baini /bass
+ guests
* Stefano Negri /sax
* Riccardo Cavalieri /acoustic and electric guitars,violas
* Sergio Taglioni /moog,mellotron and synful orchestra


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