Saturday, October 20, 2012

Space Band - suprisingly good, if overlooked Maryland LP

Can't say I know a great deal about Space Band.  Hailing from the Baltimore suburb of Cockeysville, Brian Harrison and Terry Kempler were apparently the band's creative mainstays.  Luckily, in 2000  the pair reissued  "Space Band"  and included some biographical notes on the band.  I'm guessing the pair won't mind it if I copy their comments: 

"Brian Harrison and I had been playing guitars and writing songs together for about ten years. In the fall of 1983, we recorded some demos at Basement Floor Studios in Baltimore, Maryland. Tim Miskimon, the owner of the studio, helped out by playing keyboards, bass, and adding some vocals to our songs. Tim's brother, Mark, played the drums and also contributed on some vocals. Brian and I were so pleased with the results that we wound up cutting the whole Space Band album at Basement Floor Studios. The album was released in the spring of 1984 and garnished great local reviews as well as international distribution. We've received fan mail from all over the U.S. as well as Germany, England, Italy, Russia and Japan."  

Produced by Kempler and Tim Miskimon, the few abbreviated reviews of 1984's "Space Band"  have described the album as being progressive.  While there are a couple of progressive touches here and there (an occasional synthesizer shows up), to my ears these guys were more of a hard rock outfit than anything ...  While it may not have been the most original album I've heard, there was a surprising amount of diversity here, including conventional AOR ('Love Is All Around'), top-40 pop ('(She's A) True Blue American Groupie') and even a slice of pre-grunge frustration  ('Tie You Away').  Even though it was recorded with relatively little capital over an eight month period, the album sound surprisingly accomplished for a small label, vanity effort.  Not perfect, but there are a couple of real gems on this one. - With screeching, buzz-saw lead guitars and screeching vocals,  'Love Is All Around' sounded like a typical slice of '80s AOR   Other than the cheesy synthesizer solo, there was nothing particularly original on this one.   rating: ** stars
- Starting out as a showcase for the pair's guitar pyrotechnics, 'High Speed Collision' then morphed into something that recalled an early Blue Oyster Cult number - complete with automotive sound effects, the results were slightly ominous, but still commercial.     rating: *** stars
- Clocking in at 27 seconds, 'Circio's Revenge' was nothing more than a sound collage that seemingly capturing post 'High Speed Collision' accident sound effects.   rating: ** stars
- Hum, hard to know what to make of 'Tie You Away'.  They were either trying out their best Root Boy Slim impersonations, or somehow anticipated the coming rise of grunge ...   Raw enough to clean up your acne.   I'm thinking this might have been one fo the tracks that  Tim Miskimon handled vocals on.   rating: *** stars
- I'm not sure who handled the lead vocals, but 'Eclectic Time' was a barebones rocker that (courtesy of those growling vocals), sounded a bit like early Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits.  Bet this one would have sounded great in a bar.   rating: *** stars
- Probably side one's most commercial number, '(She's A) True Blue American Groupie' had a rollicking bar-band melody and a classic rock and roll title.  That title ensured the song would never get commercial airplay, but the song would have sounded great on top-40 radio.    rating: *** stars
- 'Splitting Atoms for You' started sound two with what sounded like an old Atari game running amuck.  Apparently trotting out their best David Byrne and Talking Heads impression,  the pinball sound effects were kind of neat (guess I'm showing off my age here).   Very new wave-ish.   rating: *** stars
- Probably my favorite song, if you've ever wondered what a mash-up of David Byrne and Mark Knopfler would sound like (you probably haven't), then the sci-fi oriented 'Star Flight' would be right up your aural alley.     rating: *** stars- Sporting the album's best lead guitar work, 'Burn Out On Re-Entry' was a nifty blues-rocker and one of the album's most commercial offerings.   rating: *** stars
- Opening up with a pretty acapella vocal section (I'm guessing it was Harrison's wife Barbara), ' I See Lives' was the album's prettiest number.  Yeah, the lyrics were a bit too new-age-ish, but I guess they weren't any worse than some of Pink Floyd's work ...  that comment actually made for interesting comparison since this track had the same cold, but beautiful aura that you found on Floyd's best work.  Always loved the cheesy synthesizer on this one.  Nice way to close out the album.      rating: **** stars 

In case anyone's interested, Brian Harrison and his wife Martha were responsible for the interesting cover art. 

"Space Band" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Love Is All Around   (Brian Harrison - Terry Kempler) - 2:52
2.) High Speed Collision   (Brian Harrison - Terry Kempler) - 3:37
3.) Circio's Revenge   (Brian Harrison - Terry Kempler) - 0:27
4.) Tie You Away   (Brian Harrison - Terry Kempler) - 5:08
5.) Eclectic Time   (Brian Harrison - Terry Kempler) - 3:47
6.) (She's A) True Blue American Groupie   (Brian Harrison - Terry Kempler) - 4:41  

(side 2)
1.) Splitting Atoms for You   (Brian Harrison - Terry Kempler) - 4:16

2.) Star Flight   (Brian Harrison - Terry Kempler) - 2:58
3.) Burn Out On Re-Entry   (Brian Harrison - Terry Kempler) - 5:39
4.) I See Lives   (Brian Harrison - Terry Kempler) - 5:38 

If you don't want to spend the money on an original copy, you can

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