David Garrick was born on 29th January 1947 and sadly died from alcohol related issues on 28th February 1985. He did leave a considerable musical legacy and contributed to many a significant album when, after changing his name to David Byron, and the band he was in (Spice) became Uriah Heep. He was the archetypal frontman and after being fired and/or quitting Heep, he still had a lot to offer so I thought a 40th-anniversary visit to the neglected and unappreciated The Byron Band and their 1981 album, On The Rocks would be suitable tribute. (The CD reissue has bonus tracks, but I’ll stick to the vinyl.)
After three, to say the least, variable solo albums, Byron assembled a strong line up for the new band: Robin George on guitar was (and is) a noted writer, player and producer and has worked with such figures as Glenn Hughes, Phil Lynott, Robert Plant and many, many more plus some very good solo releases. He brought structure and excellent playing to better back the flamboyant Byron. Also recruited were the talents of Bob Jackson (ex Badfinger), Roger Flavelle, John Shearer, Mel Collins and Steve Bray. Together they recorded an album of Byron/George co-writes encompassing rock above all else but with hints of blues and even punk. Only a few Heep style influences carry over, other than that powerful and expressive voice, although the sweeping rock of ‘How Do You Sleep?’ does approach the bombastic structure of old. Elsewhere the stunningly good, distinctly un-pc, blues-ish rock of ‘Bad Girl’ is worth the price of the album alone…full of great guitar, vocals and keyboards, it is the standout amongst eight strong songs, even if it would never get any airplay these days. ‘Rebecca’ is as good a heavy rock song you’re likely to hear from this fruitful era. ‘Start Believing’ is rock but with a slight jazzy touch that works well. ‘Piece Of My Love’ closes the album with over six minutes of genre blending as keyboard and sax introduce a riff that is heavy and then horns join in…it takes glam, heavy rock, prog and blues and produces a catchy and enjoyable romp with a superb guitar mini fest in the middle as George overdubs maniacally.
This is an album from a great talent who left too early and is well worth visiting if you haven’t come across it. It’s also a testament to Robin George’s skills that never seemed to be rewarded, then or now. The only fault is the terrible artwork of a be-ringed Byron punching through a window but the music more than makes up for it.