The 4-CD audio component of Creation Theory includes all eight single sides by pre-Creation beat group The Mark Four (and three live reunion recordings from 1985); all of the core recordings produced by Shel Talmy, in both mono and new stereo mixes; The Creation’s 1987 album reuniting Kenny Pickett and Eddie Phillips, and their subsequent 1996 album for Creation Records (the label founded by Alan McGee and named after the band); and Phillips’ solo recordings from 1990 and 2011. The DVD features a lengthy new interview with Eddie from March 2017; five songs from The Creation’s two live appearances c. 1966 and 1967 from the legendary German TV show Beat Beat Beat (from the original tapes, with three songs appearing on DVD for the first time); and 21 songs from the band’s two reunion concerts at the Mean Fiddler in 1993 and 1995.
After presenting The Mark Four’s eight sides as originally released on Mercury, Decca and Fontana – an appealing blend of ambitious, muscular beat numbers and covers (“Rock Around the Clock,” Marvin Gaye’s Berry Gordy-penned “Try It Baby”) – Creation Theory presents on two CDs 25 original mono tracks and 19 new remixes from Alec Palao under supervision of Shel Talmy. The mono versions were originally released in the U.K. on Planet and Polydor, in France on Vogue, in Germany on Hit-Ton, and in the U.S. on Decca, with a few archival outtakes having premiered in the 1980s and 1990s. The Talmy-approved remixes offer additional detail and crispness to the original performances.
Throughout its short lifespan (1966-1968), The Creation was constantly recreating itself with a revolving door of personnel. Eddie Phillips, Bob Garner, Kenny Pickett, Jack Llewellyn Jones, Dave Preston, Kim Gardner, Tony Ollard, and Ronnie Wood (in his post-Birds, pre-Faces days) can all be counted among its members. The band’s very first single, “Making Time” b/w “Try and Stop Me,” introduced The Creation’s duality. The A-side is a riff-rocker that introduces guitarist Eddie Phillips’ signature use of a violin bow to play his guitar, while the B-side is a more pop-oriented nugget. (Phillips and vocalist Kenny Pickett wrote both sides, as well as much of The Creation’s original oeuvre.) Both sides, however, show the similarity in their hard-driving approach to one of Shel Talmy’s other famous clients, The Who.
The stomping sing-along “Painter Man,” the group’s second single, is likely their most famous song thanks to a 1979 cover by Boney M that reached the U.K. top ten. Thanks to “Painter Man,” Jimmy Page took notice of Phillips’ violin-guitar technique. The spirited, high-octane B-side “Biff Bang Pow” is equally as strong, though: think The Beatles-meet-The-Who, with a dash of “Him or Me”-era Paul Revere and the Raiders.
But potential record purchasers might have been confused if they picked up The Creation’s next single, their first on Polydor. The ballad “If I Stay Too Long” moved bassist Bob Garner to lead vocals, replacing Pickett, and presented the band in a soulful vein far-removed from the group’s earlier singles. (Garner also took over from Pickett as Phillips’ frequent co-writer.) The flip, “Nightmares,” was more in line with past Creation records, albeit with a more surreal, cacophonic and, yes, psychedelic edge that recalls The Move at their most outré. Subsequent singles “Life is Just Beginning” and “Through My Eyes” showed the band growing in ambition, with intricately-arranged vocals, and strings bringing to life the parts that might earlier have been played solely by Phillips with his violin bow. “Ostrich Man” and “I Am the Walker,” neither of which were released at the time, show the band even more firmly entrenched in psychedelia.
The searing, electric “How Does It Feel to Feel” (a Polydor single) and “Can I Join Your Band” (part of a French EP) have the group’s ferocious attack on display. Young Ron Wood plays on The Creation’s first session of 1968 featuring “Midway Down,” originated by singer-songwriter John Wonderling on the U.S. Loma label, and the track also boasts the returned Kenny Pickett, and guest Nicky Hopkins on jaunty piano. The same session also yielded a strong version of the pop-ish “All That I Am” via The Tokens. Pickett, Wood, drummer Jack Llewellyn Jones, and bassist Kim Gardner jointly penned “The Girls Are Naked,” the subject of which would almost certainly have please Wood’s future bandmates in The Rolling Stones! The even seamier “Uncle Bert” is presented from what may have been the group’s final recording session; it saw release in Germany only. A few familiar covers are present on Creation Theory, too, including a rollicking “Bony Maronie” and faithful takes on “Cool Jerk” and The Buckinghams’ adaptation of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”
Perhaps The Creation didn’t have a chance, being a singles-oriented group during a rapidly-changing time in the music industry. Their lone proper album was an afterthought, released only in Germany and Sweden. As Shel Talmy produced the tracks himself and licensed them to various labels, they also didn’t have the chance to be closely identified with one label and promoted in kind by that label. Nonetheless, The Creation left behind a legacy of melodic mod rock that never disappeared. One of Edsel’s very first albums, released in September 1982, was a Creation compilation. The eighties saw further activity from the long-dormant band when Eddie Phillips, Kenny Pickett, Jack Llewellyn Jones, and John Dalton reactivated The Mark Four and recreated the band’s final gig before transforming into The Creation. Three tracks were released from their January 18, 1985 show, all of which are included on Disc Three of this set. Phillips and Pickett then set out to continue their musical revival by reforming The Creation. An album was recorded in 1987, Psychedelic Rose, but various factors conspired against the group, resulting in the album (apart from three tracks) being shelved until 2004. By then, its electronic production and processed drum-machine sound (think: The Creation, arena rock-style) had become dated.
In 1993, Pickett, Phillips and Jones reunited with original bassist Bob Garner for a live show at London’s Mean Fiddler; this incendiary performance, concentrating on vintage 1960s material, is preserved here on DVD along with another 1995 gig. Creation Records had entered the picture by this time, and persuaded the reformed band to appear at a Royal Albert Hall show in 1994 as well as to record a new single actually called “Creation.” This song led to a complete album on the Creation label in 1996. Power Surge is included on Disc Four, and its edgier, less synthesized sound was often truer to the original band’s spirit than Psychedelic Rose. But creative tensions within the band led Eddie Phillips to take a diminished role and eventually depart the group before the live show promoting the album. Power Surge truly marked the end of The Creation, as Kenny Pickett died the next year. Bob Garner passed away years later, in 2016. The new, nearly 35-minute DVD interview with Eddie Phillips allows him to tell his own, compelling account of The Creation story; a handful of latter-day cuts from the solo Phillips are also included here.
Creation Theory paints a full portrait of the band with its wide range of live and studio performances. Phil Kinrade has remastered all of the audio for uniformly good sound. The attractively-designed, book-style package contains a bound 40-page book with copious liner notes by Alan Robinson, full credits, and numerous photographs. This style of packaging isn’t ideal for a 5-disc set, however, with the discs held precariously on trays by small plastic tabs; perhaps sleeves bound into the book would have been a more secure means to hold the discs. Quibbles aside, however, Creation Theory is a beautiful collection that expands upon all previous Creation releases and can truly be called “definitive.” Fans and collectors of ’60s mod, rock, pop, and psychedelia should find themselves “making time” to add this anthology to their shelves.