Title - 'At A Point Between Fate and Destiny'
Artist - Mighty Baby
For those not in the know, Mighty Baby were a band formed in January 1969 from the ashes of The Action (who themselves were an English band first formed as The Boys in August 1963 and who were part of the mod subculture).
Mighty Baby released two albums, Mighty Baby (which appeared in December 1969, but had been recorded almost a year earlier) and A Jug of Love (October 1971).
So, basically put, one minute The Action were the ultimate mod cult band, belting out exuberant Anglicized approximations of Tamla/soul material in clubs across the country, the next they’d shed singer Reggie King and mutated into questing countercultural adventurers Mighty Baby!
Under the leadership of guitarist Martin Stone, they would become increasingly insular as four of the five band members converted to Islam and they moved slowly towards a more improvised sound.
By the end of 1971, fasting for Ramadan had left them almost too weak to perform onstage, at which juncture they came to the reluctant conclusion that rock ’n’ roll and the Muslim faith were incompatible!
Over the previous three years, however, they made some magical, mystical music that is now collected under one roof for the first time.
Thankfully, the band-authorized 6-CD set At A Point Between Fate And Destiny (released October 25th, 2019 via Cherry Red Records UK) features all surviving recordings, with much-loved studio albums Mighty Baby and A Jug Of Love joined by rehearsal sessions, a complete and previously unissued alternative version of the first album, audio from the band’s only TV appearance and other studio outtakes.
The set also features three hours of 1971 live material, with a ninety-minute chunk of their legendary appearance at Glastonbury that includes previously unreleased versions of Mighty Baby favorites ‘Virgin Spring’, ‘Goin’ Down To Mongoli’, ‘Woe Is Me’, ‘Devil’s Whisper’ and, most thrillingly of all, the hitherto-presumed-lost full 36 minute version of ‘A Blanket In My Muesli’.
CD 1 - Mighty Baby (1969)
1. 'Egyptian Tomb'
2. 'A Friend You Know But Never See'
3. 'I’ve Been Down So Long'
4. 'Same Way From The Sun'
5. 'House Without Windows'
6. 'Trials Of A City'
7. 'I’m From The Country'
8. 'At A Point Between Fate And Destiny'
9. 'I’ve Been Down So Long' (Bonus Track - Earlier Acetate Version)
10. 'Trials Of A City' (Bonus Track - Earlier Acetate Version)
11. 'House Without Windows' (Bonus Track - Earlier Acetate Version)
12. 'A Friend You Know But Never See' (Bonus Track - Earlier Acetate Version)
13. 'Messages' (Bonus Track - Earlier Acetate Version)
14. 'Ancient Traveller' (Bonus Track - Earlier Acetate Version)
15. 'Same Way From The Sun' (Bonus Track - Earlier Acetate Version)
For my money, this is what Buffalo Springfield would have sounded like if they had been more progressive. You can also throw in a little Kaleidoscope to add to the pop trippiness, and perhaps a smidgen of Grateful Dead to account for the occasional jam passage.
Mighty Baby definitely has some of late-'60s psych sound, but it's rooted in strong song compositions, not free-form acid guitar and organ excursions (not that I have anything against those!)
The songs run in the 4-6 minute range, which provides a nice midway point between too simple and too complex ie: accessible yet full of turns and diversions.
The eight tracks from the original Mighty Baby album would make the purchase worthwhile, but now this magnificent box set release from Cherry Red Records UK means we get an additional 7 tracks from the band!
All 7 of the bonus tracks are earlier acetate versions of the first album and showcase a band finding their feet, their groove, amidst a raw sounding studio session or two (think a less glossy Strawberry Alarm Clock).
Tracks 1-8: The album Mighty Baby, Head HDLS 6002, recorded February-August 1969, released November 1969. Tracks 9-15: Previously unissued acetate version of first album, recorded February 1969. Tracks 9-12 + 15 are previously unissued.
CD 2 - A Jug Of Love (1971)
1. 'Jug Of Love'
2. 'The Happiest Man In The Carnival'
3. 'Keep On Juggin'
4. 'Virgin Spring'
5. 'Tasting The Life'
7. 'Devil's Whisper' (Bonus Track)
8. 'Virgin Spring (Alternative Version)' (Bonus Track)
9. 'Only Dreaming' (Bonus Track)
10. 'Dustbin Full Of Rubbish' (Bonus Track)
11. 'An Understanding Love' (Bonus Track)
12. 'My Favorite Day' (Bonus Track)
13. 'A Saying For Today' (Bonus Track)
Although A Jug Of Love is recorded and played well enough, it has none of the magic of the first LP. Gone is the mysticism and wonder of tracks like 'Egyptian Tomb', 'House With No Windows', etc. Instead what you get is a band that must have thought they were still going to be the UK's answer to the Grateful Dead!
But it's the playing and singing that's the real story here. Gone is the sharp playing by guitarist Martin Stone, the forward thinking (for the time) arrangements, and the more individualistic vocal style of the first album.
In it's place was a more languid playing style and a lot of close harmony singing. Beginning with the first track, it's evident that the band had been heavily influenced by more famous bands of the same musical genre.
The arrangements - both vocally and instrumentally - had drastically changed, and morphed into a UK approximation of the West Coast sound heard in the aforementioned bands.
But if you listen to this second album with open ears, you'll begin to hear some of that same magic from those more famous US bands. The rolling, languid, unfolding of each song is actually quite nice, the band's instrumental sound is pretty much straight out of the text book for these kind of songs, and the close harmony vocals are easy-going in the best tradition of the already-known-at-that-time successful US bands.
Tracks 1-6: The album A Jug Of Love, Blue Horizon 2931 001, released October 1971. Tracks 7-8: Single, Blue Horizon 2096 003, released August 1971. Tracks 9-13: Demo recordings from summer 1968, later released as The Action.
CD 3 - A Jug Of Love (Rehearsals) (1971)
1. 'Jug Of Love'
2. 'The Happiest Man In The Carnival I'
3. 'The Happiest Man In The Carnival II'
4. 'Virgin Spring I'
5. 'Virgin Spring II'
6. 'Tasting The Life'
7. 'Lazy Days'
8. 'Christmas Jam' (Bonus Track)
9. 'Egyptian Tomb (Single, Mono)' (Bonus Track)
10. 'I’m From The Country (Single, Mono)' (Bonus Track)
On what was, as noted above, a sophomore album that came without the magic of their debut, nonetheless when you listen to these rehearsal's you do hear some beautifully uplifting songs (on an album that barely reached the stores back in 1971).
With tracks ranging from full on 8+ minutes to barely a minute, produced by Mike Vernon (David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Ten Years After), these crisp and crystal clear recordings from the A Jug Of Love sessions showcase Mighty Baby's fluid, expressive musicianship and the astonishing guitar playing of Martin Stone to glorious effect.
Tracks 1-7: Rehearsals for the album A Jug Of Love, recorded June 1971.
Track 8: Jam recorded during debut Keith Christmas album, June 1969. Tracks 9-10: French/Dutch single, mono mixes, released 1970. Track 8 is previously unissued.
CD 4 - Day Of The Soup (Abandoned 1970 Album)
1. 'Winter Passes'
2. 'Now You Don't (Part 1)'
3. 'Now You Don't (Part 2)'
4. 'Now You Don't (Part 3)'
5. 'Now You Don't (Part 4)'
6. 'Juggin' (Live Bonus Track)
7. 'Now You See It' (Live Bonus Track)
8. 'Stone Unhenged' (Live Bonus Track)
9. 'Sweet Mandarin' (Live Bonus Track)
On what has now been termed as being Mighty Baby's long-abandoned 1970 album, from start to finish it is chock full of wondrous psychedelic rock.
So quite why it was "abandoned" is beyond me, but it's usually down to one of two things: Either the record company pulled the financial plug due to not liking it or it was running over time, or the band had arguments about their "sound" on it and split!
No matter what the truth of the matter is, this third album is as great as their debut and it's just a massive shame that it never got to see the light of day back in the early seventies, in truth.
The newly-added 4 live tracks are rather lovely to hear and were all recorded at Lanchester University, March 1970 and have since been released on the Sunbeam label early in 2010.
Tracks 1-5: Olympic Studios demos for potential second album Day Of The Soup, June 1970. Track 6: From Disco 2 show, 25 July 1970. Tracks 7-9:
Live at Lanchester University, March 1970.
CD 5 - Live At Malvern (1970)
1. 'Egyptian Tomb'
2. 'Trials Of A City'
3. 'Keep On Juggin'
4. 'Woe Is Me'
6. 'Goin' Down To Mongoli'
7. 'Keep On Juggin'
Not the best quality - think fairly okay/poor bootleg - for the vocals are rough and the music seems a bit "far off," but listening past all that this 7 track set does manage to convey the feel of that whole era rather nicely.
As you would expect, the music is a blend of late '60s/early '70s jamming. Try the 22 minute long 'India' (made famous by John Coltrane) for a good idea of what the band sounded like - including a drum solo.
In fact, the band developed this song into their own jam, 'Blanket of Muesli' (sadly not included here though), which they played many times live.
Roger Powell's drumming drives everything along, Martin Stone plays some good, propulsive, flowing guitar, and Whiteman's flute, sax, and Fender piano add some nice flourishes throughout.
Alan King's rhythm guitar fills in the holes, while Evans' bass is always bubbling underneath with a good bottom sound.
Tracks 1-6: Live at Malvern Winter Gardens, February 1971. Track 7:
Live at Glastonbury, June 1971.
CD 6 - Live At Glastonbury (1971)
1. 'Virgin Spring'
2. 'Goin' Down To Mongoli'
3. 'Woe Is Me'
4. 'Lazy days'
5. 'A Blanket In My Muesli' (aka 'India') (Full Version)
6. 'Devil's Whisper'
Much like the abovementioned live album, the tracks here that did the most for me were a couple of songs they had played that night that definitely reminded me of the Grateful Dead ie: 'Trials Of A City,' the epic 11 minute long 'Keep On Juggin,' and the awesome 22 minute opus 'A Blanket In My Muesli' (aka 'India') - this track alone truly employing some superbly zesty flute playing.
Tracks 1-6: Live at Glastonbury, June 1971. Tracks 1-3 & 5-6 are previously unissued.
Featuring a host of rare photos and memorabilia as well as a new 12000 word essay that covers the band’s unique journey from mod to odd with the aid of extracts from key member Ian Whiteman’s fascinating unpublished autobiography The Average Whiteman, At A Point Between Fate And Destiny is self-evidently the definitive word on a group who occupied their own peculiar time and space in the late Sixties/early Seventies underground rock firmament; blowing more than a few minds in the process.
Official 6CD Box-Set Purchase Link