Dear Mr Time - Grandfather- The Dear Mr Time Anthology [Grapefruit Records/ Cherry Red - 2021]
Grandfather is the three-CD anthology of Dear Mr Time- an Essex band that started out in the ’70s as a prog band, later re-group in the 2010s as a blend of light prog/ pop-rock. And it certainly shows how a band’s sound can dramatically change over the years- for better or worse, depending on your musical preferences!
The release is presented in a card slipcase- this takes in each of the CD’s in their own card slips. We also get a twenty-four-page inlay booklet-which takes in a nine-page write-up about the band, a good selection of flyer/ poster artwork, and of course full credits for all the three CDs on offer here.
Dear Mr Time where Formed Chelmsford Essex in 1969. The band brought members of two other local groups - Chris Baker ( lead guitar/ backing vocals) and John Clements(Drums) from the Shoo String Band, and Barry Everitt( organ, piano, lead vocals) and Dave Sewell( bass guitar) from the John MacIntyre Collection.
The first disc in the set takes in the band’s 1970’s debut album Grandfather- this was original released on small label Square records, making it one of the more collectable/ sort after 70’s prog records. The original album took in twelve tracks, with this CD adding in a whopping thirteen bonus tracks. The debut album really does feel like a fairly even blend of their two key influences- early King Crimson, and The Moody Blues, with some nods towards other rock bands of the period along the way. Sure there are a few touches of the band own fare/ flavour added in, though there’s nothing terrible distinctive/ unequal on offer. The album moves from bonding piano keys and bass guitar roll of “Out Of Time”, which feels a little like a more rocked-up later day Beatles track. After its firework sampled beginning “Yours Claudia” opens up into a barren-but-soothing clean jazz guitar tinged ballad, with hushed sing-song vocals & hints of strings. “A Dawning Moonshine” starts off rough ‘n’ ready hard blues rock, having a sort of early Blue Oyster Cult vibe, before switching to mournful yet pumping groove with organ, guitars and horns. And the final title track is all pastoral glow- with organ and flute bob ‘n’ drift, topped with reminiscing male vocals. As a debut album, it’s certainly well played/ competent- with some good ideas/ elements which really could/ should have been grown-on. The thirteen bonus tracks are home demos, and again there is certainly worth/ charm here. Sadly, for me, this disc is where the main positives of this set, and Dear Mr Time’s sound ends.
Ok moving onto disc number two, and this features the band's comeback album- Brontosaurs And Bling ( don’t ask ?!). This was recorded in 2015 and saw the band as a three-piece of Chris Baker, John Clements, Barry Everitt. The CD takes in the thirteen tracks from the original album, plus six bonus tracks. And this really, really wasn’t for me and totally not what I expected- this is basically old man pop-rock, and I don’t mean that in an ageist or nasty manner- as I enjoy some OM pop-rock like the latter Grateful Dead albums and Yes’s more latter pop-rock moments. The issue is the songs are so bland, lifeless, and cliched- and all played with sort of social club band flare- it would be passable background music to a 60 plus birthday party, or maybe a big wedding anniversary. But boy is this pretty damn awful, sounding like a blend of wound down Travelling Wilburys, Black Lace tribute band, with touches of grumpy old man lyrics, and attempts at rocking out- which fall flat due to the tiny/ bland pop-rock backing/ production.
Last up on disc three we have the bands most recent/ last album 2018’s Time. The Cd takes in the original albums thirteen tracks, and six bonus tracks. And this is certainly better than the last CD, as there is more edge and an attempt at trying to return to their prog past- though with a very early 2000’s throwback prog vibe, with the better moments been akin to lighter moments on The Tangents early records. Though there is still the twee/ cliched pop-rock elements, and the lead singer often sounds like a cross between a worn-down Neil Diamond and Ralph McTell. I can at least play through much of the album, and not cringe too much- but again it’s rather bland and pedestrian, even with the more prog touches. I feel bad in a way criticizing these two later come back releases, as hats off to the guys for getting up and doing it again in your later years- but this really wasn’t for me at all.
So, in concision, it's a boxset that very much split me- If I was reviewing just the first album, I’d give the whole thing maybe a three score- as there was promise/ enjoyment to be had for those who dig 70’s prog. But then if I was reviewing just the last two CD’s, I’d maybe give it a one-score- so as a result, I’m going for an all-round two. I guess if you go into this expecting and welcoming both 70’s prog, and very light pop-prog rock/ pop-rock you’ll get more from this as a whole than I did.Roger Batty