...Jim Milne and drummer and bassist Steve Clayton dived into the bubbling...
Kathy Narayan 2002-11-22
In 1972, 60s-style beat combo The Way We Live songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Jim Milne and drummer and bassist Steve Clayton dived into the bubbling progressive-rock pot and resurfaced with multi-track still in hand, as Tractor.
The Way We Live were newly signed to John Peel and Clive Selwood's Dandelion label for the album, A Candle For Judith (cover photograph by none other than the Hairy Cornflake, Dave Lee Travis). Dandelion were unhappy, however, and asked the duo to re-record the album at London's Spot studios - where Cream had cut their first album. It was Peel who suggested the name change, after he saw a tractor drive by his kitchen window. So, A Candle For Judith was repackaged and re-released in 1972 as Tractor by Tractor.
The album received much airplay, climbing to number 19 on Kid Jensen's Hot Heavy 20 on Radio Luxembourg and number 30 in Virgin Records' chart. Tractor, an original of which is highly collectable, has since been reissued twice and now makes a 30th anniversary appearance, this time with six bonus tracks.
It's an unpredictable and, at times, downright creepy affair. The weighty bass of the opener, ''All Ends Up'', pulls you straight down, before galloping drums and close harmonies lift and unsettle, leaving you with a feeling of vulnerability. Then that heavy, distorted bass kicks in again. We're on an emotional roller-coaster here, passing through the haunted house more than once!
The rest of the album unravels more melodically: Clayton's clattering cross-rhythms fill in cleverly around Milne's vocals. The production is basic and angry, with echoes of Zeppelin and Hawkwind, but the real beauty of Tractor is that, even with all this going on, they still deliver that mystical vibe.
Four of the six bonus tracks were recorded in 1973, as the label was on the verge of folding. ''Dandelion suggested we have a final fling in the studio'', recalls Milne. ''So, we took loads of songs with us, enough for another album, but work was very slow.''
There's also a live performance recorded at Glastonbury 2002 and a track featuring Hawkwind's Nik Turner on sax and flute. They're somewhat lighter than the rest of the album. Without them, Tractor could leave you feeling a little anxious and exhausted. This is prog rock at its most jagged.
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