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Argent iTunes Tracks

Argent

A splinter group stemming from two Brit-beat-cum-psychedelic outfits, The ZOMBIES and UNIT 4 + 2, ARGENT were centred around namesake keyboardist, Rod Argent, and fellow singer-songwriter Russ Ballard. Almost a million miles from the sound of the twee and sugar-coated ZOMBIES (featuring singer COLIN BLUNSTONE), the nearly-men of rock ARGENT hit it big with two classic early-70s prog songs, `Hold Your Head Up’ and `God Gave Rock’n’Roll To You’. They never quite hit the heights thereafter.
Formed in London, England in 1969, C.B.S./Epic retainers ARGENT were completed by Rod’s “Zombie” cousin Jim Rodford (bass), Bob Henrit (drums) and of course, guitarist Ballard. Their rush-released eponymous debut album, ARGENT (1970) {*6}, sounded like a heavier version of Rod’s old combo; the hypnotic keyboard sound was still in evidence, although Ballard’s riff-a-rama added weight to proceedings. While the album was a commercial failure, not helped by a lack of musical focus, the record did provide a US Top 10 hit (the Ballard-penned `Liar’) for THREE DOG NIGHT; soul-searching songs such as `Dance In The Smoke’ and `Like Honey’ were easy on the ear and almost sanitised and marketed for an American market.
Enlisting the help of former ZOMBIES pensmith Chris White, Rod Argent had secured a worthy alliance to counteract Ballard’s bombastic ballads (examples: `Cast Your Spell Uranus’ and `Chained’) on the quartet’s sophomore set, RING OF HANDS (1971) {*5}. Nevertheless, single tracks, `Celebration’ and `Rejoice’, just didn’t cut the ice, while Rod was never in the WAKEMAN and EMERSON premier league, despite his lengthy, 8-minute exercise on `Lothlorien’.
And then `Hold Your Head Up’, the classic-rock opening track and global monster-truck hit (Top 5 in both Britain and America) from the band’s glorious third album, ALL TOGETHER NOW (1972) {*7} – things had taken an upturn. Taking their funky cue from American cousins The JAMES GANG and their THREE DOG NIGHT brethren, hit single number two, `Tragedy’, showcased Ballard’s increasing songwriting dexterity and confidence. Rod and Chris afforded themselves the majority of the minutes here; the pulsating `I Am The Dance Of Ages’ overshadowed by the lengthy (13-minute) YES-like finale suite, `Pure Love’.
The ARGENT sound became increasingly flash and self-indulgent on subsequent sets and the overblown pomp of subsequent Top 20 single `God Gave Rock And Roll To You’ was excellently grandiose and their last hit; the song was later given a hilarious re-working by KISS. Although the accompanying album, IN DEEP (1973) {*4} was a relative commercial success, further chart action eluded them for the remainder of their career. Ballard’s `It’s Only Money’ (played out in two parts) was Ballard’s other piece de resistance, while the Argent/White dirge, `Be Glad’, took the group into ELP/prog-jazz territory.
Ditto 1974’s NEXUS {*4}, an album that only reached No.149 in the US, while it bombed in Britain. There was some merit in opening piece, `The Coming Of Kohoutek’ and the 8-minute `Music From The Spheres’, but when Ballard-penned singles, `Thunder And Lightning’ and `Man For All Reasons’, threw a wobbly chart-wise, it was time to re-assess where ARGENT were going. One could hardly fault ARGENT for sticking by the tried-and-trusted “live in concert” double-set, and although it showcased longer excursions into prog territory. ENCORE (1974) {*7} was just the ticket; the aforementioned `…Kohoutek’ and `…Spheres’ were altogether so different in a live setting next to the group’s best-ofs. And if one wanted to examine ARGENT’s connective re-takes of COLIN BLUNSTONE’s `I Don’t Believe In Miracles’ and The ZOMBIES’ `Time Of The Season’, well… here was one’s chance. Towards the fall of ‘74, BALLARD was replaced by twin-axemen John Grimaldi and John Verity; the solo-bound singer going on to produce both LEO SAYER and ROGER DALTREY.
A 1975 concept piece, CIRCUS (1975) {*4}, meanwhile, was the epitome of 70s OTT prog-rock nonsense, tracks such as `The Jester’, `Clown’ and especially the harmony-driven `Highwire’, illustrating the anal retentiveness inherent in the genre – well, perhaps. After a final fling with COUNTERPOINT (1975) {*2}, the band folded; ROD ARGENT going off to a more mainstream solo career and a reunification with The ZOMBIES.
ARGENT later re-formed for a one-off concert double-set, HIGH VOLTAGE (2010) {*5}, recorded at that year’s “festival” at London’s Victoria Park; `She’s Not There’ and `I Don’t Believe In Miracles’ were part of the repertoire. Why?
© MC Strong 1994-2000/GRD // rev-up MCS Oct2012

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