Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on


Discovering Wally

"Wally" is a rather nondescript name when you see it on an album cover. It could be a one man band project or the musical vanity plate for a band driven by the principal songwriter. In this case, Wally is a British progressive band that for nearly 40 years has been most active via the vinyl albums gathering dust in the collections of the music fans who once knew them.

Born in the early '70s, Wally first caught the eye of  Old Grey Whistle Test host Bob Harris at a Melody Maker competition that they did not win. But they won the interest of Harris, who really liked what he heard.

"I liked the swirling sound they made...acoustic guitar, electric guitar, fiddle, Fender Rhodes piano and pedal steel guitar. I liked their harmonies, the way their voices matched. I liked their influences...David Crosby, Jackson Browne and Neil Young. But most of all I liked Roy Webber's songs."

Harris helped to get the band a contract with Atlantic Records and co-produced the band's self-titled debut album with the help of Rick Wakeman of Yes, who also had seen one of the band's early gigs and been drawn in to what he heard.

Despite some prominent support in their corner, Wally never really caught fire, despite touring heavily for several years and they eventually faded away after the release of their second album Valley Gardens.

For most semi-obscure bands, that's where the story ends. But for Wally, they put the band back together thirty years later and played some well-received reunion shows. Then it was time to go back in the studio to record Montpellier, a new album made up of surviving song ideas first conceived at the time they were working on their planned third album for Atlantic, plus some newly written material that came to life in the studio.

Knowing the material's pedigree, you can certainly hear the vintage threads in the music they put down in the studio. But at the same time, it sounds remarkably current, when laid end to end with the progressive music that is still being made today. The Wally sound is an interesting hybrid that is both psychedelic and country-infused. Webber's songwriting for me, recalls some of the elements that I really love about Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits, both from a guitar and vocal standpoint.

"Thrill Is Gone"  digs in for the kill a mere three tracks into the album, with some hefty guitar shredding and soloing throughout the track, which is a bluesy barn burner that comes a bit out of nowhere after the first couple of songs which are quite sedate by comparison.

"Giving," the album closer, features beautiful guest vocals from singer/songwriter Rob Reynolds and although I don't know the connection between Reynolds and the band, his guest appearance accentuates and elevates what is one of the finest moments on the album and a beautiful wrap to Montpellier.

This is Wally today. Released by Gonzo Multimedia, it's a very welcome rebirth of a band that might not have been known by many, but perhaps there will be many who will finally get the chance to rediscover them on their second time around.

Gonzo will also reissue the first two Wally albums shortly, expanded with bonus tracks. We'll be looking forward to it!

  • Stereo Dictator

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