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CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: Quartz – Quartz 1977

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: Quartz – Quartz 1977
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Quartz – ‘Quartz’ (DISS0142CDD)

Originally released on Jet Records, UAG 30081, May 1977

“After this very extensive American tour we did ten dates throughout the UK, some of them with Bandy Legs from Birmingham opening for us. I had met their guitar player, Geoff Nicholls, through Albert Chapman, who managed them. They later changed their name to Quartz. Albert…asked me if I would be interested in producing them. I liked some of their songs and I ended up doing it. When you’re involved in your own stuff, you have a routine with what you’re doing. When it comes to somebody else, you’ve got to put a different hat on. All in all it was good experience for me.”

From Tony Iommi’s autobiography Iron Man…

Coming together from a collective of Birmingham-based musicians in the early Seventies, Mike ‘Taffy’ Taylor (vocals), Mick Hopkins (guitars), Derek Arnold (bass), Geoff Nicholls (guitar / keyboards) and Malcolm Cope (drums) formed the unfeasibly named Bandy Legs and issued three singles under that name starting with ‘Ride Ride’ b/w Don’t Play Games’ (1974) and ‘Silver Screen  Queen’ b/w ‘Lonely Girl’ the following year. In 1976 they signed to Jet Records and released ‘Bet You Can’t Dance’ b/w ‘Circles’ the same year before changing their name to the harder-edged Quartz.

May the following year saw the release of the band’s debut album, recorded at Morgan Studios and produced by Tony Iommi, with a young Chris Tsangarides acting as one of the engineers.  Although not well-known as a producer, Iommi had overseen the previous three Black Sabbath albums and was extremely enthusiastic about the project. “Tony put himself out big-time when we did that album,” recalls Malcolm. “He used to come to pre-production meetings and pre-production rehearsals and he put his ideas into it, and he came to many a live gig to get a feel for where we were headed and put a lot of his own things on hold to get involved with us.”

The result was a nine-track LP of distinct pedigree. ‘Quartz’ is very much of its time, a Seventies’ hard rock album with a variety of styles but an over-riding ethos of grit and determination. Iommi’s influence is extremely prevalent on the Sabbath-sounding opening song ‘Mainline Riders’, and he did add guitar to a couple of songs as well as playing flute on ‘Sugar Rain’. This was supposed to the lead cut on a demo EP also featuring ‘Street Fighting Lady’ and ‘Mainline Riders’, but in the event this idea was scrapped and a normal 7” without ‘Sugar Rain’ appeared in the shops. Contractual obligations kept Iommi’s name off the credits, although his appearance on the album appears to have been the world’s worst-kept secret. The guitarist also invited some friends to help out: Ozzy Osbourne added vocals to another cut but was left out of the final mix, and Brian May was enlisted to mix one of the songs. As Geoff Nicholls once told Garry Sharpe-Young though: “The trouble was that, as we discovered, Queen tracks are heavily edited so that’s what Brian tried to do. The result was a load of edits that just ended up as a big pile of tape on the floor! So Brian never in fact got to mix anything.” He did play guitar on a new version of ‘Circles’ but the track never made the album either.

Quartz were an extremely hard-working band, slogging their way through the punk era and then finding themselves regarded as a New Wave Of British Heavy Metal band, despite the years they’d put in before many of the NWOBHM musicians had even left school. Unfortunately, as Malcolm recalls it, Jet found themselves in dire straits financially and Quartz found themselves without a deal, although with support from Birmingham’s Reddington’s Rare Records they bounced back with ‘Live Quartz’ and a single, a cover of Mountain’s ‘Nantucket Sleighride’ in 1980. Logo Records then re-issued ‘Live Quartz’ and also followed it with a single ‘Satan’s Serenade’ before MCA picked the band up. Meanwhile, Jet had come though their difficulties and, seeing what sort of business their former act were doing, the label wasted little time re-releasing ‘Quartz’ for a budget price – £3.49 – wrapped in a brown paper grocery bag under the title ‘Deleted’. They also, rather cheekily, used three of the album’s nine tracks on their ‘Metallergy’ sampler, an LP which was a pretty poor attempt to rush out a record showcasing their acts’ back catalogues to cash in on the rising popularity of the NWOBHM. The three cuts chosen were ‘Street Fighting Lady’, ‘Devil’s Brew’ and ‘Mainline Riders’, and it would have been a nice touch if they’d spelled the final title incorrectly.

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, Quartz have never really got the recognition they deserved, despite a number of great songs and a resilience that’s second to none. Quartz is a true classic album, so it was good to see this Dissonance re-issue cop a seven-out-of-ten score in Classic Rock recently, although in saying that it “can legitimately be regarded as the first release” of the NWOBHM reviewer Malcolm Dome did perhaps over-egg the pudding somewhat.

The following Quartz albums are available on Dissonance. Click on the links below to buy: