Complex - Live For The Minute- The Complex Anthology [Grapefruit Records/ Cherry Red - 2022]
Here’s a three-CD set charting the short-lived career of the late ’60s/ early 70’s Blackpool based band Complex. They offered up a very keyboard focused, and at times quirky creative brand of psychedelic/progressive pop-rock- and this set takes in the bands two released albums, and a good selection of rare/unreleased material.
The release appears on Grapefruit Records- one of the Cherry Red family of labels, who focus on all things from within the psych and garage genres. Each of the CDs are presented in their own card sleeves, with an inlay booklet- all coming presented in a thin card slip sleeve. The glossy booklet runs twenty-four pages- taking on a new nine-page write-up about the band by David Wells, as well as a great selection of band pictures, vinyl labels, flyers etc. So, another classy Cherry Red presentation.
Complex formed in the north-western UK seaside town of Blackpool in the year 1968- with the initial line-up taking in lead guitarist Brian Lee, lead vocalist and drummer Tony Shakespeare, bass guitarist Lance Fogg and rhythm guitarist Tony Fisher. By 1970 the line-up shifted slightly with Lee, Shakespeare and Fogg with the addition of Steve Coe on keyboards- who gave the band a rather distinctive edge. The band ran between 1968 and 1978- releasing just two albums Complex and The Way We Feel, both from the year 1971.
So first up we have the self-titled album, which appeared in May of 1971. This appeared in a highly ltd band pressing of just ninety-nine copies, which meant it went on to be one of the most sort after of psych pop-rock recordings, with in 2015 a copy of the original vinyl pressing selling for £10,000. The original album featured eleven tracks- and it's a surprisingly charming, quirky varied if at points wavering delivered debut. We go from the jaunting organ & thin churning guitar groove of “Funny Feeling”, moving onto the white reggae strut of “Josie” with its jumping Farfisa keys, skittering ‘n’ snapping drums, and hazed buzz fuss. Moving on we have descending Doors like meets rapidly jiving keyboard work of “Self Declaration” which features some fine key and guitar breakdowns. There’s the weaving harpsichord keys meets jaunting blue rock guitars and weird bar crowd sound effects of “Mademoiselle Jackie. The CD is topped off with four bonus tracks- taking in three alternative versions of album tracks, and an unreleased track.
Next up we have The Way We Feel- this was released in August 1971, and it found the band trying to be more commercial, yet at the same time the playing itself is often more shambolic & wavering- so an odd mix. The album was a nine-track affair, with the tracks going from jaunting ‘n’ cheese 70’s pop-rock buoyant-ness of “Ever Time I Hear That Song”. Onto almost Merseybeat meets wavering mod harmony vocals “The Way I Feel”, we have the instrumental track “Moving Moor” which shifts between Procol Harum like simmering organ and manic symphonic rock key runs. In the latter half album we have the bright organ meets strutting guitars and smashing percussion of “Hey Girl You’ve Got Style”, and seesawing rock guitar meets grooving organ fuzz-out of “If You Are My Love”. The disc is finished off with two alternative versions of albums. On the whole, it’s another worthy & at times waveringly quirky album, though it feels like it belongs more in the ’60s than it does in the ’70s.
The final disc is the set is entitled 1972- 1978, and this brings together nineteen unreleased tracks from the bands last six years. And as you’d expect it’s a rather rough around the edges, though charming enough collection of tracks- which often saw the band trying different sounds. We have the tolling keyboards and blues like guitar flourishes of “To Make You See” which has a very haphazard singer-songwriter vibe. We have 70’s glam rocking groove meets slide guitar blues of “Teenybopper Joe”, there’s tolling keys meet dramatic rock throb of “Jubilee”. Or the siren sounds meets chugging 70’s rock of “Dial 999”.
If you enjoy the more keyboard focused side of ’60s/ 70’s psychedelic/progressive pop-rock, and don’t mind some wonky and wavering edges I think you’ll enjoy what Complex had to offer. So another most worthy reissue from one of the lesser-known 70’s band from the folks at Grapefruit/ Cherry Red.Roger Batty