TERRY REID River (Water)

In a career plagued, or perhaps not, by bad timing and misfortune, Terry Reid has been, like Jerry Maguire, forever the figure at the edge of the photograph. He has supported The Beach Boys, Cream on their “Goodbye” tour and The Rolling Stones on the road to Altamont, and can be seen grooving fine and ragged on the “Glastonbury Fayre” film. Declining an offer to join a band rising from the ashes of The Yardbirds in favour of concentrating on his solo career, he recommended instead the singer from The Band Of Joy, who were supporting him at the time. Dogged by legal problems and record company indifference, in four decades he’s released six albums.

“River” is the third of those, originally issued by Atlantic in 1973 following a typically fraught and extended production period. Initial London sessions with Yes producer Eddie Offord yielded three albums’ worth of mostly unreleasable material; “songs without lyrics, lyrics without songs” as Keith Duncan’s erudite booklet notes put it. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Offord didn’t seem to be the man for the job, Reid’s loose-limbed, flowing, spontaneous jams being a somewhat different proposition to the precisely sculpted prog operatics with which he made his name. Intriguingly, some of Yes drummer Alan White’s contributions to these sessions are rumoured to be present on the final album, although he’s uncredited on the sleeve.

Relocating to California, Reid was taken under the wing of Atlantic’s president Ahmet Ertegun, who in turn recommended legendary producer Tom Dowd. Together they guided “River” to a swift conclusion, those sessions forming the bulk of the album when it was finally released after more than two painful, protracted years of gestation.

As intimated above, “River” has the lazily flexing feel of contemporary work by Van Morrison, John Martyn, Traffic, Tim Buckley and Little Feat. As intentions go it’s an honourable one, but the man who would be Percy doesn’t quite pull it off. Maybe it’s because his compositions aren’t so much songs as rangy, rambling jams unhindered by hook or chorus. Perhaps its because the album has been thematically split into rockier ‘city’ and quieter ‘country’ sides. Much as the listener might want to will the album onwards towards victory, it manages to model all the required classic rock tropes without actually sounding like a classic itself. For all his blazing, blue-eyed soul power, Reid’s lyrics are shrouded by his delivery, requiring the listener to concentrate hard to get the most out of this relaxed, relaxing music.

The title track’s gentle bossa nova swell is slightly sabotaged by some cyclical tape noise in the left channel, but it finds Reid at his Buckleyest, long, lazy and languid, all interleaving ripples of acoustic guitar. The album becomes yet more diffuse from here on in, unhurriedly unfurling its final couple of gentle, acoustic meanderings. Reid does deal the occasional spine tingler, though, unleashing some spectral vocal gymnastics towards the close of “Dream” and the whistled intro to “Milestones”.

“River” is totally unselfconscious, utterly serene music making, and maybe for that reason the kind of record better appreciated by other musicians than people who just want to listen. Water’s CD reissue, though, is exemplary; although boasting no extra material, the glossy booklet even smells sumptuous.