Posted on 20 August 2015




Velvett Fogg

By Peter Marston

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Those of us who seek out lost classics in the history of rock and pop tend to be somewhat opinionated and for everyone who champions a particular album as a lost classic, there is often a detractor who will claim the album is overrated. But when it comes to Velvett Fogg’s self-titled debut, the debate is especially vociferous. Some believe it is one of the greatest though least-known British psyche albums, while others maintain it is absolute garbage. My own opinion is that there is something a little off-putting—something a little silly or clichéd—about the album that can draw a poor first impression (and mine was not really favorable), but repeated listenings have revealed the album’s particular beauty and, over the years, it has risen to be one of my favorite lost treasures.

Velvett Fogg Pic

As so often happens, Velvett Fogg was formed from the remains of a previous band, in this case, Gravy Train, whose line-up consisted of Bob Hewitt on guitar, Frank Wilson on organ, Mick Pollard on bass and Graham Mullett on drums. The band had been backing soul singer Earl Handy and, after an extensive apprenticeship playing military bases in Germany, was signed to a recording contract with Pye Records. The record company, though, wanted the band to develop a different angle and image—something rougher, more underground. The soul angle was jettisoned in favor of fuzzy psych, Handy dispatched, and the band renamed (after Mel Torme’s nickname, though with suitable late ’6os misspellings). Hewitt was replaced by Tony Iommi whose tenure in the band was very brief (the initial line-up in fact played only one gig together). Iommi left to form the band that would later become Black Sabbath and was replaced, first by Ian Leighton, and then by Paul Eastment (who also became the band’s principal vocalist). With recording sessions for an album, the band was short on original material and turned to local guitarist Keith Law who contributed three of the nine songs on their debut. The album, with a horrendous cover photo of the band (and two topless women) in face and body paint, was released in January 1969.

Velvett Fogg 2

The opening track, “Yellow Cave Woman,” is the highlight of the album, a hypnotic, droning slice of heavy psych written by Law. To me, it is almost a companion piece to Hotleg’s “Neanderthal Man,” featuring a similar drumbeat but with lots of organ and lead guitar. A move to the dominant second chord in what might considered the chorus (it’s that primitive) is especially effective. But perhaps it’s titles like “Wizard of Gobsolod” that has earned the contempt of skeptics, though the song is a fairly poppy British psych ditty with some prominent Celtic riffing. The whole thing strikes me as reminiscent of the early Status Quo. “Once Among the Trees” alternates folk-rock verse material with choruses that evoke a sort of childlike prog sensibility. Very charming. “Lady Caroline” also displays folk roots, but with a swirling, stuttering organ backing and boxy processed vocals. “Owed to the Dip” is a jazzy and mostly forgettable instrumental jam. “Within the Night” is a raga-rock number that features sporadic breaks of that childlike prog sensibility (think Focus on an early ’80s casio organ). “Plastic Man” features some legit soul shouting over organ stabs and frantic drumming. It’s the closest thing to proper freakbeat here.  The album is rounded out by covers of the Bee Gees’ “New York Mining Disaster 1941” and Tim Rose’s “Come Away Melinda,” both of which are effectively moody.


No singles were taken from Velvett Fogg, though Pye did release a Velvett Fogg single around the same time as the album. The A-side was “Telstar ’69,” a nifty, shambling cover of the Tornados’ 1962 smash, while the B-side was indeed a track from the LP, “Owed to the Dip.” The single was a gimmick hatched by producer Jack Dorsey, who hoped to cash in of the publicity surrounding the moon landing on July 20, 1969. The single flopped, the album did not sell well and no more was heard from Velvett Fogg.

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Velvett Fogg was reissued on CD in 2002 by Castle, on LP in 2007 by Akarma, and in the digital domain in 2001 by Sanctuary, so you can get it any way you like it. So, is it a great lost classic or a lame pos? You be the judge!


Pop Pioneer and “Lost Treasures” writer, Peter Marston is the leader of long-running power pop band, Shplang, whose most recent album, “My Big Three Wheeler” has been described as “the Beatles meet Zappa in pop-psych Sumo match.”  Peter has a new project in 2015 under the name MARSTON.   They will have a track on the upcoming “Power Pop Planet – Volume 5” compilation due in June, 2015.

You check it out at this link:  http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/shplang


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Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velvett_Fogg

AMG:  http://www.allmusic.com/album/velvett-fogg-mw0000021825

Blog Post:  http://www.keithlaw.biz/velvett-fogg1.html

Interview:  http://somethingelsereviews.com/2014/06/07/something-else-interview-keith-law-on-velvett-fogg-the-influence-of-bob-dylan-opening-for-the-moody-blues/






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