Top Fifty 21: Affinity – S/T, 1970

[Originally posted December 2011]

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I’ve been listening to the Time Machine, A Vertigo Retrospective compilation of artists from this superb label with a great prog, jazz-fusion, folk and rock roster, for example, Colosseum, Juicy Lucy, Clear Blue Sky, Manfred Mann, Black Sabbath, Cressida, Affinity, Bob Downes, May Blitz, Nucleus, Gentle Giant, Jade Warrior, Platto, Tudor Lodge, Warhorse, Uriah Heep, Gravy Train and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

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As ever I was musically prompted and again to consider an album for my Top Fifty, this time Affinity’s single eponymous release of 1970. It features the outstanding vocals of Linda Hoyle and the soulful pounding organ of Lynton Naiff. Whilst receiving positive critical reviews, Affinity doesn’t appear to have been that widely popular a band and album at the time, certainly in comparison with other Vertigo acts, and this may be because of the number of covers on the album and the fact that the group only released the one disc, splitting up in January 1971. There has been a more recent resurgence in interest with new compilations of earlier material as band Baskervilles, instrumental numbers, live performances and alternative versions.

As with so many of my choices for this category, the music matters, but it is also about the time I was listening and the influence it had then and the memories that remain and are triggered when listening now. There’s a storming version of All Along The Watchtower, influenced by Hendrix rather than Dylan, and the organ playing is a powerhouse structure upon which Mike Jopp lays some classic wah-wah guitar, in many ways formulaic of the jazzrock sound of the time, and especially the English leanings of bands like If, Ten Wheel Drive and similar. I love it. Other key tracks are the similarly loud and driving I Am And So Are You, Mr Joy and the brilliant witches’ recipe lyrics and cauldron-boiled organ and guitar of Three Sisters. There is a sweet version too of John Sebastian’s Cocoanut Grove [spelling on album].

Linda Hoyle went on to record an excellent, but again single album Pieces of Me. Naiff went on to play with Toe Fat, but I’m not sure about the others. The original Affinity album is worth quite a bit of money and I treasure mine.

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