George Starostin's Reviews



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Gary Gomes <> (25.06.2001)

Family were one of the best late 1960's early 1970's outfits. When I was younger, I was always puzzled that they were overlooked so much in the United States, but apparently Roger Chapman pissed off Bill Graham once when they played at the Fillmore East, and that was one reason that they were not promoted as strongly as they could have been in the US.

Still, they were a bit odd and uncompromising, and they were REALLY eclectic--unfortunately, they were eclectic at a time when blues/boogie was really popular, so they were relegated to the "huh?" category, and tough to market without LOADS of explanation. Given the attention span of most audiences in the US at that time (and now) they were basically doomed to acquired taste status, although their output was extraordinarily creative and interesting. (With few exceptions, I like their more experimental stuff--the very stuff that George seems to hate; but that's showbiz I guess!)

Still, one of the most interesting groups of their time (to me, similar in feel to groups like Spirit that suffered at a time when experimentation was going out of style). I would recommend ANY of their CD's except It's Only a Movie which to me was a big disappointment compared to their earlier work.

baker19 <> (28.12.2001)

Family are my favourite band of all time! Nothing touches them so far as I'm concerned. Chapman's voice is certainly an acquired taste but it's impossible to imagine Family without it. Whitney and Chapman were very under-rated song-writers with a great sense of melody. And Whitney's guitar playing, especially his acoustic 12 string, was/is unique. Both Chapman and (to a much lesser extent) Whitney have continued to write, record and perform but, in my opinion, nothing has come close to what they achieved in Family.

Steve Maginnis <> (02.10.2002)

They are, to be succinct, the best British band Americans have never heard. Family was all about breaking boundaries; they pooled their tremendous influences and their idiosyncratic talents into a progressive sound that could still be considered rock and roll. Unlike bands like Yes or Genesis, who pushed rock to the outer limits for the sdake of itself, Family remained true to its rhythm-and-blues roots. And they had both a perfect bleating blues rocker in singer Roger Chapman and the perfect virtuoso drumming of Rob Townsend. Too bad few people outside meeery old Leicester (the group's hometown) appreciated their efforts!

Graham Turner <> (22.07.2003)

For someone alive to music in the period 69 - 73 there are only two bands: the Doors and Family. The two best albums of the time are LA Woman (an American LP that could never have been made by a British band) and Bandstand (vice versa).

Unfortunately I never saw the Doors live, but a Family concert (think I went to 4, including their very last in their home town) was an event to be treasured: unlike many bands then (and now) you got a different interpretation every time: Chappo was just mesmerising.

As the Welsh say, I know, 'cos I was there.

btw, Chappo does not receive sufficient credit for the invention of 'idiot dancing'.

Kevin MacNutt <> (09.11.2005)

As an American Family fan, I first heard of the band from the Stomping Ground documentary of the Dutch Kralingen Festival in 1970 with a rather manic performance of "Drowned In Wine." After seeing Roger Chapman's psychotic display I thought I really needed to check this band out. Unfortunately all I could find were albums like Anyway and Fearless as well as plenty of 1970-73 oriented compilations which really did not deliever the excitement of the Kralingen performance. It was not until I heard and later purchased Music From A Doll's House and Family Entertainment that I realized how awesome this band really was. While I can definitely see the comparison to Traffic, Family's early material is much stronger. Dave Mason's contribution "Never Like This" (from Music From A Doll's House) is much stronger than his previous Traffic contributions which did less for me than the Winwood/Capalidi compositions. Unfortunately after both Ric Grech and Jim King left the band Family became as dull as Traffic in their later years. While I do agree that Family never produced anything lacking in quality, starting with Song For Me the blandness and monotony did start to creep in, getting worse with each new release. I believe that both King and Grech lent a sort of diversity the first two albums that was lacking for the most part on the later releases. As much as you and alot of people gripe about "Second Generation Woman" not fitting with the rest of the material on Entertainment, I feel it give the album enough diversity to keep things from getting too monotonous (although it was pretty of diverse without that tune). Where I have yet to find any filler on both Music From A Doll's House and Family Entertainment, it is quite present on the later releases.


Steve Maginnis <> (02.10.2002)

I'm one of Family's very few American fans, and finding their work in the States is hard to do these days, so I consider myself lucky to finally own all seven of their albums. While not the exactly the classic some would insist that it is, Music In a Doll's House is a solid debut from a band that, from the start, aimed at being different.

The songs of vocalist Roger Chapman and guitarist Charlie Whitney opened up new possiblities for rock and roll, ranging from haunting, sublime ballads like "Mellowing Grey" to dirty romantic rants like "The Chase" and the white-soul number "Hey Mr. Policeman," but the real charm of Music In a Doll's House is the instrumentation. Whiotney shows the clever guitar riffs that would become has trademark, drummer Rob Townsend presents his spectacular backbeat, and bassist Rick Grech proves to be solid at providing strong rhythmic lines. WInd plater Jim King is also excellent, offering some funky saxophone solos as well as harmonica riffs that almost sound like another voice.

The voice of Family was mostly Roger Chapman's, of course, and his attempts at trying to sing like a cross between Little Richard and Ray Charles (so he's insisted) allow him to make something seemingly pretentious sound honest. On Music In a Doll's House, he offers up a ripe, intriguing vibrato that only later would develop into his trademark bleated growl. Special credit should also be given to the producer, Traffic's Dave Mason, an all-around genius who was able to help Family meld the best elements of rhythm-and-blues and progessive rock, circa 1968 - with a little Swinging London pop thrown in - into a sound all their own.

George picks "Old Songs New Songs" as his favorite song on Music In a Doll's House, and it's a pretty heavy blues jam, but my vote is for "Hey Mr. Policeman," in which Roger Chapman perfectly assumes the role of a rougish letch who'd do anything for a woman he's only able to see one last time before going to jail. Chappo definitely learned something from the old R&B records he heard growing up in Leicester. "Never Like This," a Mason original marking the only time Family would do a song other than one of their own, has a nice pop sound to it without sounding to commercial, and "3 X Time," which closes Doll's House, is a funny cut that throws in everything Mason and the band employed throughout the record, followed with an irreverent sampling of the British national anthem. (The variations of themes of three different numbers was a nice tweak at the growing desire in psychedelic bands in London and San Francisco who were intent on stretching out for its own sake.)

Some of Music In a Doll's House sounds dated, particularly "Voyage," but the spirit of innovation does not; the entire album is a groundbreaking work that would raise the stakes quite considerably for Family's subsequent albums. And the best part is, they rose to tothe challenge and created a whole new world of rock and roll. Music In a Doll's House opens the doors to that world in splendid fashion.

Or to quote Dave Mason himself, "Been through this before, but never like this. . . ."

Rolf Reijers <> (14.03.2004)

Music in a doll's house is arguably Family finest hour and quite an ineteresing ride it is. My personal fave on the album: "Me my friend". It's only too bad that they didn't include their debutsingle "Scene from the eye of a lense" on the CD edition as a bonus track, 'cause that one's even better than anything on the album, if you ask me. "Scene" is one of those magnificent psych/pop songs from the era that can easily rub shoulders with its contemporaries such as "I can see for miles" or "See Emily play". Actually, when single ('67) and album ("68) came out, Family gained considerable praise, but received also some mild criticism. The studio recordings were considered as somewhat over-produced and didn't sound at all like the exciting raw live shows, which initially cemented Family's reputation: the stage eccentrics of singing madman Roger Chapman, swinging his microphone and standard high in the air, right over the heads of his spectators (during a Family concert the first rows in the audience were never sure of their safety) and of course Charlie Whitney's impressive guitar playing, combined with the sax of the stoic Jim King-always dressed in sharp suits, as if he were on his way to a gala party instead of playing in a wild R 'n' R band.

On the other hand, their stage behaviour was on one the reasons why Family never broke through in America. During one of the performances on their first U.S. tour, when Chapman was doing his usual stage acrobatics, he threw in his enthousiasm the mic standard like a spear in the audience and nearly pierced the influencial concert promotor Bill Graham, who was standing nearby. Because of this incident, Graham boycotted the band afterwards. So, Family never made it big in the States, but I wouldn't call them an obscure band. In their homeland England they did well and on the European continent faired even better. In my native country Holland Family had some minor top 40 hits and Chapman and co. were particularly popular in Germany, even during the Streetwalkers days and Chapman's solo career. Roger must have noticed that himself as well. Already some time ago he moved to Germany and is still living there.


Steve Maginnis <> (29.01.2003)

The group picks up where Music In a Doll's House left off, moving beyond psychedelia and pushing toward folk, country, and straight rock -- very diverse influences here. I'm probably the only person who will defend Grech's "Second Generation Woman" as the best song on the album, but it's a fast, irresistible rocker that shows just how they could tackle any kind of music with great skill and dexterity. Other favorites of mine are "The Weaver's Answer" and "Hung Up Down" - both show Roger Chapman's bleating growl in spades. And is "Processions" the kind of song Yes frontman Jon Anderson has been trying to write his entire career? I think so! Childlike without being childish.

All in all, an improvement over Doll's House -- and a sample of the excellent music that Family was yet to offer!


baker19 <> (07.11.2001)

Not one of my favourite Family albums but good in part. 'Some Poor Soul' has a very strange chord sequence which, on its own, doesn't seem to make much sense. In context though, it sounds fine. Acoustic guitars sound good, not too polished, though the squeak on John Weider's strings is a bit annoying!


Jeff Molander <> (21.06.2002)

I've always considered this to be a great "transition" album from Family. It stands as a transition between the (more psychedelic) first three albums, and the (more progressive) final three albums. I enjoy the peculiar combination of the high energy live tracks on the first side, and the mellow progressive studio tracks on the B-side.

For my money "Good Times, Bad Times" is among the most exciting live tracks cut by any band during the early 70's. Chapman's vocals toward the end of the song are beyond belief.


Steve Maginnis <> (15.07.2003)

This album was the pinnacle of the group's experimentation; from the gentle openings of "Between Blue And Me" that slide into Charlie Whitney's harsh guitar to the terrifying arrangement of "Spanish Tide" on side one, from the smoldering blues riff of "Take Your Partners" through Poli Palmer's "Crinkly Grin" instrumental (65 seconds of the best British jazz rock ever waxed) to "Burning Bridges" (a Genesis-style song summing up a Jethro Tull concept? What gives?). . . . Well, what can I say? Family's best ever, though A Song For Me comes in at a very close second. They couldn't get any better than this, and it remains my favorite Family album. Everything they aimed for came together right here!


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Graham Turner <> (22.07.2003)

From memory, the London Evening Standard reviewer wrote that 'this album breathes class'.


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