B.B. Blunder - Workers Playtime [Esoteric Records/ Cherry Red - 0000]
B.B. Blunder stand as one of the lesser-known and short-lived British rock bands of the 1970’s. They released just one album, 1971’s Workers’ Playtime- a ten-track affair that had a decidedly varied flow going from horn edged blues rock-outs. Onto atmospheric prog instrumentals, playful-if-lose mixes of sound effects & moody playing, rather shambolic takes on 70’s rock, and building singer-songwriter fare. Here from Esoteric Records, Cherry Red’s Rock/ prog focused sub-label is a double CD reissue of the album- taking in the original album/ bonus tracks, and a disc worth of outtakes & demos.
The two discs come presented in a glossy white digipak- this a six-panel affair taking in the album original cover art of a selection of cliched looking working men at a bar smiling. The release comes with a glossy inlay booklet- this features full album credits, two new write-ups about the album/ band from one of the band members, and Esoteric’s Mark Powell, as well as a good selection of band/ related pictures. So, another nicely presented release from Esoteric/ Cherry Red.
B.B. Blunder were formed at some point in 1969, lasting until 1971. It brought together bassist Brian Belshaw, guitarist Brian Godding, and drummer Kevin Westlake. With session players like vocalist Reg King, electric pianist Nick Judd, and drummer Chris Hunt helping out the band on the releases to hand- there’s also horn work one or two of the tracks too. Belshaw & Godding both played as full-time members in psychedelic pop band Blossom Toes, as well as playing in a few other bands. Westlake was mainly a session drummer, through was also briefly in Blossom Toes, as well as turning up in the likes of Ronnie Lane & Slim Chance, The Frankies, The Lion And The Fish.
The band's one and only album Workers’ Playtime appeared in 1971 on United Artists Records. It took in ten tracks- with each having runtimes between two and six minutes. We kick off with the cowbell, and percussion-heavy sassy blues-rock of “Sticky Living” which also features vamping horn additions, and haphazard rocked-up male & female gospel backing vocals- it’s a fairly rough ‘n’ ready start to proceedings.
As move through the album we come to mellow instrumental prog stylings of “Research” with tolling piano keys, simmering-to-darting bass and guitar, moodily crashing drum work, and later atmospherically hovering oscillator elements/ nicely expressive lead work. We have the buzzing ‘n’ hazed rock shambolic-ness of “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is" which features scorching blues-rock guitar & distant bay horn work. With the album playing out with the at first light & tolling singer-songwriter fair of “New Day” which as it goes on adds on layers of bottleneck guitar, organ plod, haphazard rock gospel backing, and yet more guitar layers. Throughout the record, we have decidedly short and quirky experiments- like “Lost Horizons” which finds seashore field recordings with distant mellow instrumental fumble/ percussion hits. And spontaneous blues rock & rattling-ringing noise tones of “Moondance”. On the whole, the album has a decided magpie-like quality, which makes for a nicely unpredictable ride- though at times some of it sounds a little too rough ‘n’ ready for its own good.
The first CD is finished off with BBC session versions of album tracks “Go Have Yourself A Good Time”, and “Sticky Living”.
Moving onto the second disc, and this is subtitled Workers’ Playtime session out-takes and demos. Featured here are eleven tracks- which take in a selection of none album tracks, and a cover of The Beatles “Hard Days Night”. And really this disc is pushing the lose/ at times wondering feel of the album to the fore- we go from the simmer organ & building piano edged rock plod of “Freedom”, there’s the hazed and wavering country-rock of “When I was In The Country”. We have the loose gallop at points slide-guitar edged stomp, clap, and throb of “Square Dance”, and wondering wow-wow, percussive effects, piano key stabs, and blunt drum dance of “Robots”. So certainly, some interesting/ worthy things here- though it does feel even more sketchy than the main album.
There is no doubt that all involved with B.B. Blunder were talented and creative players, and Workers’ Playtime does make for somewhat of sonic chocolate box curio of a 70’s rock album. Sure, not all of it fully comes off, but it certainly makes for a varied/ unpredictable ride. It would have been interesting to hear what a more focused version of the band might have sounded like, but I guess in a way that’s the charm of what we have here.Roger Batty