Tom Hayes 26-Oct-2006 Blue in Ashes

Next up in the Garden of Delights series of why-on-Earth-did-they-release-this-weird-ass-album-but-we’re-glad-they-did is Saffran’s ‘Blue in Ashes’ (reference El Shalom, Join In, Prosper). The opening duo of musical doozies answer that question I know MANY of you have: What would a Krautrock version of Steely Dan sound like? Following this we get that old chestnut ‘Eleanor Rigby’. You haven’t LIVED until you’ve heard Saffran’s version. Imagine Otis from The Andy Griffith Show singing opera loaded on Paulaner. Things get really interesting when the funky clavinet starts out the track ‘Heavy Maggie’. Sure Embryo had Jimmy Jackson in the band, but Saffran had Herbie Hancock’s “Headhunters” on LP! Then comes track five, the 8 minute ‘Uzahrade Saffranu’, you’re still rolling on the carpet busting a gut, and it suddenly doesn’t seem so funny anymore. These guys are good – flashes of brilliance in fact. The Gentle Giant and Genesis influences come out, the band catches onto some serious progressions. Guitar, organ, bass and drums all in glorious unison. And the tripped out narration at the beginning is in English while at the end it’s in Czech (and sounding oddly like Sergius Golowin)! The 10 minute, flute/sax lead ‘For You’ follows and is the crowning progressive achievement on the album. Next is ‘Doris’, a pleasant, quiet number. And, oh no, back comes the mirror ball for ‘Floating’, another misjudgment in white boy funk (“You are my Mississippi Queen I’m sure you know what I mean…. You are the one for me baby. Please stay with me all my life….oooo-ooooo-ooooo” – ay-yi-yi). Best to have left that stuff for Wild Cherry and KC & the Sunshine Band. A quick read of the band’s history explains everything. “Blue in Ashes” was never released, having been rejected by the Brain label (there does exist a UK band by the name Saffron). So this is an anthology of their works from 1974 and 1975, first time ever released, which shows the gamut of the band’s work from novelty funk jazz to full bodied progressive rock. The exception are the last two tracks, ‘Die Jungen Dinger’ (sung in German) and ‘January’ (picked up a little Santana here) which were released in its day as a single. Both clear 6 minutes each, and are more representative of their progressive side. In conclusion, a mixed bag, but definitely more good than funny (none of it is bad really, depending on your sense of humor).

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