Birmingham, England has long been acknowledged as one of the most fertile breeding grounds for emerging rock bands during the heady boom of the late 60s and early 70s. The likes of The Move, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, to name but a few, all cut their teeth in the countless clubs and pubs embedded within the industrial sprawl of England's 'second city'.
Yet for every Sabbath or Priest that succeeded to rise above the confines of such taxing 'circuit venues', there was a Necromandus or Flying Hat Band arduously 'slaving away' in the shadows, often getting nowhere fast. There were quite literally thousands of these little known outfits clamouring for the break that might just lead to a prestigious support slot, touring with a 'headlining act', or maybe even a record deal.
As was often the case, neither materialised for the majority of these short-lived groups and Three-Headed Dog are certainly no exception. But this Brum based band appear to be a greater 'unknown quantity' than many other underground hopefuls of the day.
Even luminaries from the era such as midlands promoter Norman Hood, who ran Tramp Entertainments, could shed no light, confessing in a recent interview "They seem to have just sunk without trace." Added Norm, "Priest's original vocalist Al Atkins tells me that he still remembers the name as they were around at the same time he was fronting J.P. but other than that, nothing."
Whilst the group's identity remains shrouded in mystery, what we can tell you for sure is that at least part, if not all, of this mega rare recording was made at The Railway in Birmingham's Curzon Street, circa 1973. And what of the music of Three-Headed Dog? Perhaps it is best summed up by suggesting that what we have here constitutes a rather offbeat, yet contrasting mix of engaging original material and thoughtfully embraced 'covers' which sit quite comfortably alongside each other.
Most of you will undoubtedly spot Dog's obvious influences of the day which effortlessly straddle the elegance and poise of early Wishbone Ash to the meaner overtones of nascent Judas Priest. In fact the riffy 'Slick Solution', a home-grown number, which kicks off this set, can unhesitatingly be compared with the Downing/Halford composition 'Cheater' that appears on the debut Priest platter 'Rocka Rolla', issued in 1974. Clearly Priest were rubbing off on all manner of local groups early on and perhaps this is one of the best examples of that.
Possibly the highlight of the Dog's offerings on this CD is the following track 'Cerberus' with its shifting moods and progressive time changes. This extended opus demonstrates the group's general creativeness and versatility to great effect. I must say that 1 find it both laudable and refreshing to see included in their repertoire a somewhat more offbeat, yet impressive, choice of cover version in the inviting 'Butterfly'. For those who are unaware, this well-crafted song was penned by Glenn Cornick following his departure from Jethro Tull in 1970 and featured as the opener on Wild Turkey's exquisite debut L.P. 'Battle Hymn'. 'Butterfly' was actually written as a tribute to the late, great Jimi Hendrix and the Dog's workout is indeed a fine rendition.
The same can most certainly be said of their interpretation of the famous Chicago song '25 Or 6 To 4' as well. So then, these half dozen untreated tracks appear to be the only tangible evidence that Three-Headed Dog even existed in the first place, such was their patent obscurity
Four rare, previously unreleased tracks recorded during the early 70s have been added to this CD. Firstly, a heavyish, riff-laden demo by Stallion, a band who were quite highly regarded at the time, and who were represented by Birmingham's influential IBA Agency. Guitarist Harry Tonks later teamed up with Al Atkins in fellow Bruin outfit Lion.
The two following numbers were recorded by another IBA signing, namely Khayyam. In fact this prog outfit featured prominently in their roster of acts but remain largely unknown to this day. Their musical approach veered towards that of certain other progressive jazz-rock bands of the day like Colosseum and Back Door yet incorporated an afro/funk feel at the same time (plus the odd bit of Turkish!) thrown in for good measure. Khayyam comprised a nucleus of Chris Jones (guitar/vocals), Rod Joyce (congas), Dave Wicks (bass) and Harry Hepinstall (drums).
The last of the bonus tracks is by an 'unknown' band and was recorded at wellknown Zella Studios in nearby Edgbaston. This doomy, prog-rock offering was, along with another song, cut onto a seven inch acetate and wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Monument or Zior LP.
1. Three-Headed Dog - Slick Solution - 4:09
2. Three-Headed Dog - Cerberus - 9:16
3. Three-Headed Dog - Butterfly - 5:19
4. Three-Headed Dog - Gone Blue - 4:20
5. Three-Headed Dog - Just Gotta Play - 4:36
6. Three-Headed Dog - 25 or 6 to 4 - 12:09
7. Stallion - All of the While - 4:47
8. Khayyam - Eternal Prison - 8:21
9. Khayyam - Collusion - 5:14
10.Zella Studios Acetate - Mystery track - 4:10
Three Headed Dog
*Chris Jones - Guitar, Vocals
*Rod Joyce - Congas
*Dave Wicks - Bass
*Harry Hepinstall - Drums