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Passage 1972 Album

Passage Passage
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3.5 jfclams
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Country
United States
Release Dates
1972-11-01
Description
Passage is the fifth studio album by the Texan rock band Bloodrock released on Capitol Records in November 1972. Warren Ham (lead vocals/flute) was added in place of departed original members Jim Rutledge (lead vocals) and Lee Pickens (lead guitar)
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Tracklist
1. Help Is on the Way 4m 35s
2. Scottsman 3m 45s
3. Juice 3m 38s
4. The Power 4m 23s
5. Life Blood 5m 38s
6. Days and Nights 7m 56s
7. Lost Fame 4m 14s
8. Thank You Daniel Ellsberg 3m 15s
9. Fantasy 5m 18s

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Bloodrock U.S.A. was both the peak and the death knell for the original lineup, as two of the most important cogs - Rutledge and Pickens - left for what they thought were greener pastures, but turned out to be dead ends. Rutledge and Nitzinger collaborated on a more pop-influenced project which ended up being rejected by the powers-that-be, while Pickens' solo ventures went nowhere as well. Meanwhile, what was left of Bloodrock tabbed a dude named Warren Ham - who was not altogether unfamiliar with the group, having contributed "It's a Sad World" in conjunction with his brother from the previous record - to front the outfit, and proceeded to change course. Now cutting all links with Terry Knight, Grand Funk, Southern Rock, and anything else related to that world, the band acclimated themselves to a new world that was the accepted domain of bands such as Traffic, Jethro Tull, and Genesis. Well, not quite…. I think a lot of people hear Passage and dismiss it as a base, lazy clone of the above bands listed. I'm not so sure. The first four Bloodrock records had a couple of consistent themes running through them - a) Vietnam was always a scary specter keeping everyone on edge, and b) this carried over from Grand Funk and Terry Knight - screw the establishment, they are not to be trusted, and we are just going to do it ourselves. Passage - in its' own awkwardly collegiate sort of manner - keeps in line with those mantras. It's a definite reach in a lot of aspects, because some key characteristics from the earlier band are missing, and the cast now collected are just not strong enough to hold your interest for the full run-time, but considering the obstacles, the album makes for good listening. The major loss here, IMHO, is Pickens and his guitar passages. That guy was the secret sauce to all Bloodrock material and was irreplaceable. The vocalist change is a little more debatable. Rutledge certainly was a distinctive singer, but it's not like Warren Ham is a non-entity, either - maybe the only argument you could make is his style is too clean for typical Bloodrock material. With Pickens gone, the band essentially replaced him with a combination of Stevie Hill's keyboard and Ham's flute and sax solos, which give the group more of a jazz/fusion flavor. Note that the band with Rutledge and Pickens in place had happily entered this same territory before, but now the hard rock edge was missing, and I'm sure lots of listeners were thrown off. On "Juice" there's Ham using a sort of Miles Davis effect on his sax. "Life Blood" is where Hill is given carte blanche to solo away into outer space Keith Emerson-style. "Days and Nights" feels like late-night cocktail jazz from someone's dank, smoky basement. "Lost Fame" is frantic, every bit as thrilling and heart-pounding as "Hangman's Dance" from the previous album - essentially, a race to put an end to the war in Vietnam and maybe all wars in Ham's mind? Of course, there are mishaps. "Scottsman" will never jibe in my head, even though Ham's flute playing is rather nice. But the structure, the style - hell, EVERYTHING about this track - screams Jethro Tull to a tee, down to the "hoorah" at the end of it. Also, "Thank you Daniel Ellsberg" is rote blues, with a dumb political statement woven into it, about the guy who released the Pentagon Papers. This is by no means a great album but also not the all-out suck fest as it has been made out to be by critics, because those people probably just do not like this band. It's a decent little transitional piece from the rough-and-tumble first few records, that for the most part succeeds.
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