30 November 2019 (released)
Wally were one of a number of bands who, while being excellent, just failed to ‘make it’ in the music biz.
They first came to notice in ’73 in Melody Maker’s New Act competition at the Roundhouse, coming in second to Druid but picking up the attention of Bob Harris who was a judge in the competition. Harris mentored the band and eventually they got a contract with Atlantic – which is where these two albums were drawn from.
Their sound was characterised by Roy Webber’s lead vocals, softly sung and heavy with echo, and Pete Sage’s electric violin which dominates the music giving it a slightly otherworldly feeling. The rest of the band on the first album was Paul Gerrett on keyboards (replaced by Nick Glennie-Smith for the second album), Paul Middleton on bass & pedal steel, Roger Narraway on drums & percussion.
They aren’t really a band that it is easy to find a slot for. The music, especially on the first album. touches on bands such as America but on a track such as ‘To The Urban Man’ there is a strong progressive sound and with a different vocalist you could almost be listening to Pavlov’s Dog. The opening track on the album ‘The Martyr’ starts with an folksy and Elizabethan feel before developing into a more modern song with a fine violin solo from Sage.
The second album ‘Valley Gardens’ is a very different one than the first. By the time they released the second album they had been touring extensively. Talking in the US and Japan along the way and also supporting Yes. The result sees longer numbers mixed in with short, a greater keyboard presence and less of the pretty harmonies of the first album. The opener, ‘Valley Gardens’, weighs in at over 10 minutes and goes through a number of changes of pace and form - I detect the influence of Genesis in the number – but for me, they sound as though they are more committed than on the first album. On ‘Nez Perce’ the harmonies and wistful singing returns but again it has a stronger vibe than before. ‘The Reason Why’, a three part suite, took up the whole of the second side of the vinyl release in ’75 and captured the development of the band perfectly.
Wally were a very good band who never quite seemed to break out and win the hearts of the progressive fans. This set shows their strengths and it really is a worthwhile release. Well worth a slot in any progressive fans collection.