By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A cult British rock hero who was once placed in the same company as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones by no less a singer than Aretha Franklin, singer/songwriter Terry Reid plays tunes from throughout his 50+ year career at the Chapel Tuesday night, backed by local prog-pop heroes the Once and Future Band.
Traveling a unique path from teen rock prodigy to sought-after frontman — he was invited by Jimmy Page to tour with a pre-Led Zeppelin version of the New Yardbirds and pursued by Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore before that band hired singer Ian Gillan — to idiosyncratic, genre-spanning songwriter, the singer joined his first band at the tender age of 13. Reid left school three years later to join Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers. The group was included as part of a package tour with the Stones, Ike and Tina Tuner and the Yardbirds in 1966 that stopped at the Royal Albert Hall.
A year after Peter Jay split up the band, Reid found himself leading his own trio and was signed to a management deal with well-known London producer Mickie Most (who also worked with the Eric Burdon’s band the Animals, the Jeff Beck Group and Donovan). It was that agreement and touring commitments that kept him from taking guitarist Page up on his offer. However, Reid would tell friends Robert Plant and John Bonham about Page’s new project and introduced the parties, essentially setting in motion the formation of what would become one of the biggest bands in history.
Over the next couple of years, he released early landmark albums Bang, Bang You’re Terry Reid and his self-titled follow-up that mixed original tunes with extended covers of songs made famous by Dylan, Donovan, Nancy Sinatra and Sonny and Cher. Reid also established a reputation as a powerhouse live act, supporting the Rolling Stones on their notorious 1969 U.S. jaunt (though he luckily skipped the disastrous tour-closing festival at Altamont), Cream and Fleetwood Mac.
A clash with Most over career direction would leave the songwriter in creative limbo for several years. Though he put together an acclaimed band featuring American multi-instrumentalist David Lindley that played the Isle of Wight Festival and Glastonbury, touring to wide acclaim, it wasn’t until Atlantic Records head Ahmet Ertegan used his considerable influence to free Reid from the contract he could record again.
Working in the studio with British engineer Eddie Offord before decamping to Los Angeles for more sessions with studio genius Tom Dowd, Reid and company crafted the deeply personal, sublimely funky songs of River that mixed Latin and Brazilian influences into soulful, jazz-inflected excursions that recalled Van Morrison and Tim Buckley. Too esoteric for a major-label marketing plan, the album would lead to an eventual split with Atlantic and another crossroads for Reid.
He recorded two more albums that would later be hailed for their original approach — the Graham Nash-produced Seed of Memory in 1976 and Rogue Waves two years later. But by the beginning of the ’80s, Reid had turned to session work with Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley and Jackson Browne to pay the bills and largely stopped recording music under his own name. He would eventually revive his solo career, recording songs for soundtracks and playing live with the likes of guitarist Mick Taylor and keyboard player Brian Auger. Reid has continued to deliver his inimitable vocals and indelible songs to fans in the U.K., but his tours around the U.S. have become less frequent despite residing in the SoCal desert town of La Quinta.
Last year, noted Northwestern label Light in the Attic issued a double album of unreleased early ’70s recordings for River entitled The Other Side of the River to wide acclaim. Reid has once again hit the road for a handful of fall dates, coming to the Chapel in San Francisco on Nov. 7 with backing from Once and Future Band.
Anchored by frontman and keyboard/guitar player Joel Robinow, Once and Future Band first came together in 2012. Made up of veteran musicians who already had a history together — Robinow and bassist Eli Eckert were both members of experimental riff rockers Drunk Horse in addition to playing with drummer Raj Ojha in local psych-guitar hero Ethan Miller’s band Howlin’ Rain — the group coalesced to give Robinow’s ever-growing book of songs an outlet outside his home recordings.
Early line-ups of Once and Future Band would feature noted Bay Area guitar wizards Isaiah Mitchell (the Earthless and Golden Void virtuoso who was also part of the same storied version of Howlin’ Rain) and Phil Manley (Trans Am, The F—ing Champs), who contributed to the group’s 2014 recording debut, the Brain EP.
The band would later welcome guitarist Raze Regal (of local psych band Planes of Satorai) as a full-time member. That line-up would produce their proper full-length debut on Castle Face Records. The dazzling self-titled effort is simultaneously more ambitious and more accessible, weaving candy-coated high harmony vocals and earworm melodies worthy of Harry Nilsson, Steely Dan’s Becker/Fagan combination and ELO mainstay Jeff Lynne into the tunes’ meticulously crafted arrangements. But where their ’70s prog-rock forebears would sometimes drift into ponderous pretension, songs like the ascendant opener “How Does It Make You Feel?” and the joyfully propulsive “Rolando” have an undeniably infectious vibe.
Since celebrating the release of the album last January, the band has remained busy. In addition to playing it’s first ever run of arena shows opening for experimental metal mavericks Tool on the East Coast (which introduced their eclectic sound to thousands of new fans), the band was invited to play post-punk icons Wire’s curated DRILL Festival in Los Angeles last spring and recently shared the stage with like-minded Swedish psychedelic explorers Dungen for a number of shows around Northern California that saw former guitarist Mitchell rejoining the band as a special guest.
Terry Reid and Once and Future Band
Tuesday, Nov. 7, 8 p.m. $18-$20