For this past month, I have been obsessing over the British 60s band The Herd. Due to my shopping mood at the time I purchased an original U.S. compilation album of ten Herd songs. Mostly due to the fact that The Herd seemed to be under the spell of the songwriting talents Howard Blaikley (Alan Blaikley & Ken Howard). Dave Dee, Dozy Beaky, Mick & Tich used their services as well as The Honeycombs. All brilliant. So how can the Herd fail? What surprises me is how much I love The Herd's music. Listening to this double-album of 32-songs, it strikes me that The Herd was very much part of the 1967/1968 British world at the time. "The Fontana Years" is like a See's Candy sample box of chocolate, but set in a specific era and place.
The Herd sound is not original, but the way they mix it up is fascinating. They would sound like The Small Faces if they had The Walker Brothers as vocalists, and with a touch of Procol Harum's love of classical melodies. Gary Taylor only sings lead on a few songs by the band, but he has a rich baritone voice that yells out Scott Walker. And when he sings the chorus or a bridge of a song, it brings out a 'wow' moment for the listener. The Herd is very much a band that used and performed the songs by Howard Blaikley, but they also wrote their own material. There is this duality in their vision, but their eye on the prize was a massive sound. They can be a cool Mod-orientated Booker T, jazz band, to an obtuse baroque pop band. And when you hear all their music on this two-disc collection (most of their work was released as singles), it doesn't seem odd that they made strange directional moves, in the context of their pop leanings.
Peter Frampton (yes that Peter) and Andy Bown wrote half of their material, and they never settled for one sound or aesthetic. I don't know if there is a Herd "sound," because they pretty much compile all their influences/sounds from their era. What's surprising is that their technique, either planned or by fault, works. All four had contributed to the package. Andrew Steele, their drummer, even sings lead and wrote a song, and it's good. For anyone who has even the slightest interest in the British music scene of the late 60s I heartily recommend The Herd. Although they don't sound like The Move, I think they are equally as important as that band. No foolin'.