Though Blossom Toes only recorded two albums, the band is still remembered today as a leading exponent of psychedelic pop-rock in the late 1960s. Guitarist Jim Cregan went on to play with Cockney Rebel and become one of Rod Stewart's major collaborators while Brian Godding, also on guitar, forged a path in jazz and progressive rock. Earlier this year, Cherry Red's Esoteric Recordings reissued Blossom Toes' 1967 debut We Are Ever So Clean as a 3CD deluxe edition comprising the original album, a live set, and various rarities and demos. Esoteric has recently followed that release with a similarly-formatted expansion of Blossom Toes' second and final release, 1969's If Only for a Moment.
The four-piece band, also featuring "Big" Brian Belshaw on bass and Kevin Westlake on drums, debuted on their manager Giorgio Gomelsky's Marmalade label in 1967. Melody Maker described We Are All So Clean as "Giorgio Gomelsky's Lonely Hearts Club Band," so in debt was the group's sound to The Beatles' groundbreaking Sgt. Pepper's. (Flashes of The Zombies and The Kinks were evident, too.) Like the Fab Four, Blossom Toes took full advantage of the studio, with dense production from Gomelsky and orchestrations from David Whittaker. For their sophomore album, they would explore a harder, heavier rock sound. Necessity was the mother of invention; the band had found it difficult to recreate the dense, orchestral tracks on We Are Ever So Clean live on stage. This was no small concern, as Blossom Toes shared bills with top U.K. and U.S. artists of the day, including Traffic, Family, The Pretty Things, The Doors, and Jefferson Airplane.
After cutting the non-LP single "Postcard" b/w "Everyone's Leaving Me Now," Blossom Toes entered Advision Studios to record the track that would augur for their new direction. Whereas "Postcard" was jaunty psychedelia in the style of We Are Ever So Clean and "Everyone's Leaving Me Now" a jazz-rooted composition, Brian Godding's "Peace Loving Man" turned up the volume. Cregan and Godding's twin, proto-metal guitars were out front along with Beshaw's thunderous, Vanilla Fudge-esque lead vocal. The chorus was still melodic (perhaps ironically so?), but the feel was darker and more urgent. Not long after the session, drummer John "Poli" Palmer (who had himself replaced Kevin Westlake following the first LP) departed the group to be replaced by Barry Reeves as sessions began for a new album with producer Gomelsky and future Yes engineer Eddie Offord.
Brian Godding and Jim Cregan wrote the lion's share of the material on If Only for a Moment. Godding recalls in Steve Pilkington and Mark Powell's liner notes that "if we couldn't play a song live, we wouldn't record it." With "Peace Loving Man" already in the can, it was selected as the A-side of Blossom Toes' next single, with a Richie Havens cover urged by Gomelsky as the flip. Then-Marmalade artist Shawn Phillips, who would soon move onto A&M Records, guested on the rendition of Havens' "Just Above My Hobby Horse's Head." Both sides would find their way onto the finished LP alongside highlights such as Godding's "Billy Boo the Gunman" which touched on the uneasy relationship in America between youth protesting the Vietnam War and law enforcement. Cregan's "Indian Summer" carried on in the experimental spirit of We Are All So Clean with its varied sections showcasing the group's stripped-down virtuosity. Godding's paean to peace, "Love Bomb," and Cregan's "Listen to the Silence" both further showcased Blossom Toes' supremely moody, even edgy, new direction.
If Only for a Moment anticipated the progressive rock boom with its shifting styles, tempos, and moods. It was greeted positively by the press, and Blossom Toes introduced much of its material onstage. But record buyers never cottoned to the LP, and by the end of the year, the band had dissolved in the face of commercial apathy and an increasing distaste for life on the road compounded by a car accident in which the members miraculously avoided tragedy.
Esoteric's reissue adds four bonus cuts to the original album: both sides of the "Postcard" single plus the shelved single "New Day" and a live "Listen to the Silence." The second disc offers six more live tracks from 1969, most notably the band's unplanned jam with Frank Zappa at the Amougies Festival in Belgium on October 26, 1969; with Zappa on lead guitar, they rather uncomfortably tackled an extended version of Ben E. King's "Grooving." The third disc, Rarities and Demos, boasts eight tracks with drummer Poli Palmer including two early versions of "Peace Loving Man," and concludes with a couple of songs featuring Barry Reeves including a jam session with guest pianist Brian Auger.
While all of the material on this new edition has been previously available, this set makes for handy one-stop shopping. It's handsomely packaged within an eight-panel digipak and contains a 24-page booklet with copious liner notes. Everything has been remastered by Ben Wiseman. The expanded If Only for a Moment, a fascinating bridge between psychedelia and progressive rock, is out now from Cherry Red and Esoteric Recordings.
CD 1: Remastered Original Album plus bonus tracks
- Peace Loving Man
- Kiss of Confusion
- Listen to the Silence
- Love Bomb
- Billy Boo the Gunman
- Indian Summer
- Just Above My Hobby Horse's Head
- Wait a Minute
- Postcard (Single A-Side)
- Everyone Is Leaving Me Now (Single B-Side)
- Listen to the Silence (Live)
- New Day (scheduled for single A-side)
CD 2: Live 1969
- Indian Summer (Live at the Blitzen Festival, Belgium, August 24, 1969)
Live at the Amougies Festival, Belgium, October 26, 1969
- Peace Loving Man
- Grooving - Part I (feat. Frank Zappa)
- Grooving - Part II (feat. Frank Zappa)
- Grooving - Part III (feat. Frank Zappa)
CD 3: Rarities and Demos
- Peace Loving Man (Version 1)
- Nobody But
- Wait a Minute
- Peace Loving Man (Version 2)
- Poli's Folly
- First Love Song
- Marmalade Jam (feat. Brian Auger)
- New Day
CD 1, Tracks 9-10 from Marmalade single 598 012, 1968
CD 1, Track 11 & CD 2, Tracks 1-6 from Love Bomb: Live 1967-69, Sunbeam SBR2CD5949, 2009
CD 1, Track 12 & CD 3, Tracks 1-10 from What on Earth: Rarities 1967-69, Sunbeam SBRCD5071, 2009