sexta-feira, 14 de fevereiro de 2014

SHAFTSBURY - Hit Man (7'', OK Records, 19??) plus We Are the Boys (LP, OK Records, 198?)


There are at least four recordings from Portsmouth's (UK) Shaftsbury known to exist. Apart from 1979's "The Lull Before the Storm" (already reviewed here), there are two undated vinyl releases (a single featuring "Hit Man" b/w "Crazy Jane" and LP "We are the Boys") and a very elusive live cassette called "On Demand", that seems to have been a self-financed affair meant to be sold at gigs. No one I know have such an item, unfortunately, so it's not beyond the realms of possibility that it was just a demo or a for-friends-only release, something that would explain its sheer scarcity. Whatever the story, the two slices of vinyl mentioned above are far more solid knowledge, although we still have to guess on what place each occupies on Shaftsbury's timeline. And both tell the same story: a band that walks away from the semi-progressive sounding of their most known record, keeping things simple and (specially on "We Are the Boys") making a move towards then-rising NWOBHM.

Let's start talking about the 7'' single, right? "Hit Man" is a good enough heavy rocker with nice guitar work in a Thin Lizzy vein and some well-intentioned (although slighty ineffective) vocal harmonies. It's not a very heavy song at all, but its structure is very competent and it's a reasonably catchy composition, so I guess it can make some NWOBHM completists happy. B-side "Crazy Jane" is nothing to write home about though: it's meant to sound like a live take from a talent show or something (and perhaps it is, who knows?), but this boogie-rocker fails to cause any major surprises, so I guess they would win no prizes for it. The brass arrangements towards the end are meant to liven up the song, but I guess they could have just chosen another song to use and it would surely work for the best. The general consensus of opinion is that this humble 7'' was released in 1980 or thereabouts, and I'll admit that it is a good bet indeed - but the more I think about it (not that I spend too much time thinking about it, you know) it seems less absurd that it could be from an earlier date, perhaps being edited even before "The Lull Before the Storm". Maybe someone close to the band can clarify this issue sometime in the near future, so if you happen to know for sure, please get in touch!

"We Are the Boys" LP is also undated, but I guess there can't be much doubt that it is a later offering from Shaftsbury, as the attempt to set the pace with the times (the NWOBHM of the early 80s, that is) is unmistakeable. I would say it is from 1982 at the very latest, but one can always be wrong about such things, you know. I personally listen to a good bit of Van Halen here (a strong influence for a lot of NWOBHM outfits, you know), and sometimes they even get close to real NWOBHM territory here (like "Travelling in Style", one of the best songs IMO), but most of the time it's more like good old rock and roll played with extra energy. Few songs here will remind us of the more progressive-inclined "The Lull Before the Storm" - the most interesting would be "Aftermath", a good display of songwriting skills and a nice keyboard atmosphere too - and there's a sensive lack of creative ideas around here, which is a bit disappointing to be honest. Songs like "Crazy", "Keep it Out", instrumental "B.P.M" (a "Hocus Pocus" kind of song, if you know what I mean) and the title track are not bad, but all lack creativity and confidence, being unconvincing as a result. There's some good stuff around here (the aforementioned "Aftermath" and "Travelling in Style", plus the interesting "Hot Rod Blues" and "Hurricane"), so it's not like it would be a completely unrewarding ride - but I guess they would have done better by sticking to what they did best, instead of trying to fit the mood of the times. But let's not be too harsh on them, right? They sure have their moments, and I sincerely like their music most of the time.

I'm not entirely sure of when Shaftsbury decided to call it a day, but it's reasonable to suppose they were no longer active at the mid-80s. That means they probably did their best for over a decade, which is a lot of time indeed - and I always tend to deeply admire enduring musicians who keep their dreams going for quite a long run. Incidentally, they seem to have reunited for a few low-key gigs at their native Portsmouth a few years ago, something that must be very eventful for the lads. I hope they received a good response, and I would sincerely love to know of any further developments. I suppose a full scale reunion is not on the cards, but I'm sure there are still some fans out there that would welcome their local heroes with open arms. A toast to that!

(if anyone have any hint on how to get their cassette-only live release "On Demand", please please PLEASE let me know, will you?) ^^

Musicians unknown

01. Hit Man
02. Crazy Jane

Dave Martin (V/B), Peter Roffey (G), Roger Grigg (D/K/V/Synthetizers)

01. Crazy (Grigg)
02. Travelling in Style (Grigg)
03. We Are the Boys (Grigg)
04. Hot Rod Blues (Grigg)
05. Hurricane (Grigg)
06. Keep it Out (Martin/Grigg)
07. Aftermath (Grigg)
08. B.P.M. (Roffey/Grigg)
09. High & Mighty (Martin/Grigg)
10. The End (Grigg)

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at and let me know!

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