I had no idea who this band was when I inserted hand in pocket looking for that elusive $1 coin.
Allmusic has very little on them though luckily some punter is into them enough (or into their "producer") to do an entry on them.
Indeed I doubt if this band would even receive a footnote if not for the fact that this, their first album, was produced by Jeff Beck. To add to it's collectability is the fact that Beck plays guitar on the album, though he is not credited. This apparently was not known till subsequently though I find it hard to believe as UPP were a 3 piece consisting of keyboards, bass and drums … and there is guitar all over this album. Any punter could put 2 + 2 together …
The entire wikipedia entry reads as: "Upp was a British rock-jazz fusion band, active in the 1970s. The group was originally going to be called 3 UPP, and consisted of Stephen Amazing (bass guitar), David Bunce (guitar), Andy Clark (keyboards) and Jim Copley (drums).
The group's debut album, Upp, was released in 1975. Jeff Beck produced and also played guitars on this LP, although there was no mention of him playing in the liner notes. Upp released its next album a year later, titled This way Upp. Beck again produced this album and played guitar solos on "Dance Your Troubles Away" and "Don't Want Nothing to Change." This album was recorded at CBS Studios, London.
The group backed Beck on the 1970s BBC One special Four Faces Of Guitar, which also featured Julian Bream. They played two songs, which were "Get Down In The Dirt" and Beck's arrangement of The Beatles' song "She's a Woman", with an interview about Beck's instrumentation as an intermission between the two.
A BBC radio recording was broadcast on BBC Radio 1 circa 1976.
The group's track "Give it to you" contains one of the most-sampled breakbeats of all time, and is featured in the Ultimate Breaks and Beats series".
I note that the guitarist mentioned in the wikipedia entry wasn't added till the second album.
Generally the band are referred to as a jazz-rock fusion band and I suppose that is technically correct though only "just" as the "jazz" elements are minimal (it does not sound like genre defining bands Return to Forever, The Mahavishnu Orchestra etc) … there are, however, overwhelming funk and 70s sweet soul elements. So properly speaking this album is a "jazz-funk" album … well as "jazz-funk" as a bunch of pastie faced kids from England can get …
Prejudices aside though (and I have a lot … funk from England – get real) this album is really well played – Beck (arguably one of the greatest rock guitarists to come out of England – along with Jimmy Page, Chris Spedding, Dave Edmunds and Alvin Lee) is not playing in his usual style though some of his later solo albums touched on funk and he had played with Stevie Wonder. The guitar work is up front and in your face and nothing short of brilliant and, surprisingly , it's not the usual cock in hand 70s bombastic guitar excesses you would expect. The rest of the band are equally impressive – moog, mellotron, clavinet, drums, bass – they are really tight and quite "white" funky. The singer (the keyboardist I think) is adept at both blues shouting as well as sweet soul where he come across as convincing Isaac Hayes type.
There are some "prog rock" tendencies but thankfully they are subsumed under the jazz-funk-soul. Which means the potential for "prog" pompousness is simply not there … well not to my ears at least.
Think of a science fiction blaxploitation soundtrack with Isaac Hayes fronting a slowed down O'Jays with quirky rock overtones and more guitar and you may have this.
Tracks (best in italics)
Bad Stuff – 7 min 19 sec of gentle white guitar funk … once upon a time I would have reached for a razor if you told me I had to listen to that but there are enough quirky elements here, as well as inspired playing, to make this a winner …
Friendly Street – the keyboards go off … this certainly is advanced for its time.
It's a Mystery – a smooth soul song – well sung in a high register.
Get Down in the Dirt – Dirty (sic) , funky and very "black"!
Give It to You – what starts out as a sweet soul song to a 70s blaxploitation film mutates into an trippy electro organ driven funk song … like a prog rock fantasy song but with no references to dancing gnomes, piccolos or "Lord of the Rings" (thank God)
Jeff's One – sweet soul with Jeff backing like a black JJ Cale.
Count to Ten – futuristic and trippy.
You rarely see this style of music being played convincingly by white Americans and you never see it in a convincing form coming out of England. So this album is surprising on that level alone.
Look, this is music that punk killed off … and rightly so … but every now and then an album transcends (or epitomises) its genre and I think UPP do that. And they are from England (again) … who would have thunk?
Destined to be a cult classic – if it isn't already.
Sorry punkers, I will have to keep this ( for now)
Get Down in the Dirt
Give It to You
Count to Ten
(originally posted: 24/01/2010)