Brand X

Brand X

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Brand X is a classic jazz fusion band, noted for including Phil Collins in its ranks. Its original incarnation was active between 1974–1980. Other important members were John Goodsall (guitar) Percy Jones (bass), Robin Lumley (keyboards) and Morris Pert (percussion).

In the 1990s, original members John Goodsall and Percy Jones formed a new version of Brand X. Later, in 1999, Goodsall reformed Brand X yet again with fretless bassist Mick Stevens replacing Jones. This version of the band also included keyboardist Kris Sjobring, who had earlier toured with the band.

1974-1980

Brand X was in existence before Collins became involved. It started in 1974 as a "blowing" band which got together weekly at PSL, a rehearsal facility in the London suburb of Wandsworth. Keyboard player Robin Lumley (a one-time member of David Bowie's Spiders From Mars) and bassist Percy Jones (ex-The Liverpool Scene) had used the same studio with their previous band Karass (led by sax player Jack Lancaster) and one night were, explains Lumley, "asked along for a blow, as there was a vague possibility of getting a deal with Island. We trolled along to have a play, only to discover that the lead guitarist was something very special: John Goodsall, recently just out of Atomic Rooster" (Goodsall was known as "Johnny Mandala" during his stint with AR).

When they started rehearsing at Island Studios, the label's A&R man (and ex-Melody Maker critic) Richard Williams took note of their music and wrote down "Brand X" in the studio diary, since the group lacked a name at the time. Original singer/percussionist Phil Spinelli and rhythm guitarist Pete Bonas quit the band after inconclusive sessions for an Average White Band-style album. The rest of the band decided to carry on as an instrumental, jazz-fusion style unit. Original drummer John Dillon left at that point, and Genesis drummer Phil Collins, who engaged in prolific session work during this period, agreed to take over in early 1975, feeling he could fit in time for recording and gigs with Brand X as a side project. In September 1975, Unorthodox Behaviour was recorded but was turned down by Island and eventually released on Genesis's label Charisma in early 1976. Regular gigging followed throughout 1976, working around Collins' commitments with Genesis. Percussionist and composer Morris Pert was added shortly before the late 1976 sessions for the follow-up Moroccan Roll. (The band had previously employed other percussionists, including Bill Bruford, Jeff Seopardie, Andy Ward (of Camel) and Preston Heyman).

John Goodsall & Phil Collins toured & recorded with singer Peter Gabriel after he left Genesis and prior to his 1st solo album & band.

By early 1977, it became clear that Collins would be unavailable for much of the year, and Brand X decided to recruit a replacement drummer (although Collins rejoined for strategic dates throughout the year). Their first choice, Joe Blocker, didn't work out (he joined Steve Hillage's band instead), and eventually American drummer Kenwood Dennard filled the slot, making his debut on the band's first US tour (a 32-date affair in May-June 1977) and appearing on part of the live album Livestock. Collins came back to the fold for a series of dates in September 1977 including two appearances on the same day in London (Crystal Palace garden party) and Paris (Fete de l’Humanite) - the first time ever a band played two open-air shows in different countries on the same day ! A second US tour followed late in the year, again with Dennard on drums.

Meanwhile, Lumley was becoming more and more in-demand as a producer, which led to the recruitment of ex-Quatermass and Stanley Clarke keyboardist Peter Robinson. 1978's Masques (produced by Lumley) also introduced a new drummer, Chuck Burgi, who would go on to play with the cult American AOR band Balance, before later winding up in hard rock band Rainbow. Midway through the band's summer North American tour, Goodsall dropped out due to "tendonitis". The band played a few gigs as a guitar-less quartet (notably opening for John McLaughlin's One Truth Band in Central Park), but eventually recruited Californian guitarist Mike Miller as a temporary replacement for Goodsall (who sat in a couple of gigs later that year, but only returned to full service the following year). Meanwhile, the "exploding drummer" syndrome continued, leading to the recruitment of ex-Headhunters drummer Mike Clark in October 1978.

In 1979, Collins was temporarily free of commitments with Genesis, and re-joined Brand X for the series of recording sessions which would produce two albums, 1979's Product and 1980's Do They Hurt?. These took place at Startling Studios, located in Ringo Starr's countryside home (formerly owned by John Lennon), with two distinct line-ups operating in alternation, as Jones later explained. "Our record and management companies were both complaining about poor record sales and telling us we had to make the music more accessible. Some of the guys agreed to go along with this but I felt that to do this would not generate a new audience but would probably just alienate the one that we already had. The only solution was to have two bands, one being more accessible and the other being more experimental or whatever. For my stuff the line-up was Robinson, Clark, Goodsall and me; for the other direction it was Lumley, Collins and Goodsall with John Giblin on bass. We recorded in shifts, ours was 8pm to 4am and the others 10am to 6pm. How Goodsall managed to do both is still a mystery to me !".

Touring resumed in September 1979 for a North American tour which brought back together the original line-up of Collins, Goodsall, Jones and Lumley, albeit with Peter Robinson still on second keyboards. The dual keyboard formula had been established earlier in the year when Lumley and Robinson (along with fellow Brand X members Goodsall and Pert) both took part in the tour for Rod Argent's "Movin' Home" album. "Being a keyboard-player's album, it had tons of keys overdubs", Lumley recalled, "which meant more than one keyboard player if the tunes were to be performed live. So Pete and I formed a huge "castle" of keyboards at one side of the stage and played all the bits Rod couldn't do!... The twin keyboards arrangement worked so well, that we carried on with the idea for the 1979-80 Brand X tours".

A UK tour took place in April-May 1980 (co-headlining with Bruford), for which Mike Clark once again took over the drum stool.

1992-present

Goodsall & Jones formed a trio with Drummer Frank Katz in 1993.This version of Brand X had no keyboard player but John used a Gibson Max midi guitar system to trigger synths,samples & keyboard sounds along with his guitars. The most successful Brand X line-up, they released several studio & live albums including 'Manifest Destiny','X-Communication','Trilogy','The X-Files','Timelines' and 'Missing Period'. Brand X toured again from 1993 - 1999 in the US & Europe.They played their 1st Japanese tour in '97 with Pierre Moerlen (Gong)on drums. In 1999 Mick Stevens replaced Percy Jones on Fretless Bass and Kris Sjobring joined on keyboards.This is still the current Brand X line-up and has performed regularly on the US West Coast including San Francisco's ProgFest, Hollywood House OF Blues etc. (Indie CD's & videos are available from from these shows.

Discography

Studio

Live

Compilation

References

External links

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