Major Surgery – The First Cut
(NEXTDPI. CD Review by Chris Parker)
Rekindled in 1972 from the ashes of Boris, a band including saxophonist Don Weller and guitarist Jimmy Roche, Major Surgery added drummer Tony Marsh and electric bassist Bruce Collcutt to the frontline pair and swiftly established a name for themselves in south London, performing regularly in Croydon pubs such as the Dog and Bull and the Gun. They didn’t record until 1976, and The First Cut is the fruit of that session, now reissued with a bonus track, ‘Calypso Reg’.
Their music is a punchy, frequently fiery brand of the then voguish jazz-rock, spinning intense solos from tight, perky riffs (‘Jubileevit’, ‘Foul Group Practices’), setting up relatively complex time signatures for Weller and Roche to explore (‘Dog and Bull Fight’, ‘Shrimpboats’) or simply building climactic hurtles from repeated bass figures (‘Hoe Down Up’), and overall, as the album’s accompanying publicity claims, The First Cut documents ‘a time when four skilled musicians arrived at a small venue, set up their gear and simply went for it’.
The late, great Tony Marsh might be more often celebrated these days for his work with the Westbrooks and for freer music, but here he plays in strict – if occasionally fiendishly complex – time, delivering his signature precise and considered yet often rockingly ebullient drumming; Bruce Collcutt deftly anchors all the wildness going on around him; the frontline pair of Weller and Roche, the former all beefy, sinewy strength, the latter utilising a variety of unusual guitar textures in his intriguing solo excursions, complement each other effectively in what is a pleasingly varied and powerful programme. A valuable record of an undersung band.
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