Grace - 1981 Live


LABEL: Clay Records
YEAR: 1981


LINEUP: Mac Austin - lead vocals * Phil Brown - drums * Harry Davies - flute, sax, vocals * Alan Whiting, Dave Edge - electric & acoustic guitars * Andy - bass

TRACK LISTING: 01 Corridors Of Stone * 02 The Driver * 03 The Square (El Salvador) * 04 Rats * 05 Billy Boy * 06 Laughing Policeman * 07 Old Stories * 08 Molly Leigh (The Witch Of Burslem Town)


Had Grace stuck it out and not packed-up after this live album I imagine neo-prog heads holding the band in the same hushed reverence as the holy trinity of Marillion, Pallas and IQ.

Timing is everything and although the band reformed in the late 80's releasing a clutch of good discs, it's their early recordings that float my prog rock boat.

That said, I've never come across a copy of their 1977 DIY single 'Old Stories' and although it's been on the top of my want list for years, I'm not holding my breath I'll find a copy that's affordable anytime soon.

Two years and countless gigs later MCA distributed Clay Records, the same label responsible for bringing the mighty Demon to the masses signed Grace in 1979 although with interest in progressive rock bottomed out their now sought after debut LP was predictably ignored.

The Songs

Containing songs from the first record and unreleased material, Grace were an energetic live act indicative of late 70's art rock.

Recorded August 7, 1981 at the Mayfair Ballroom in god knows where, 'Live' will have neo appeal but is not for everyone. Front man Mac Austin has quite a bit of Peter Gabriel going on but Grace never took their Genesis influences to an extreme like Marillion did.

I hear more Van Der Graaf Generator thanks to sax blower Harry Davies and the playful experimental pop of early Split Enz when all is said and done.

Side one is entirely comprised of non-debut tunes and 'Corridors Of Stone' opens with Grace's typically accessible approach while 'The Driver' hints at The Police leaving me to wonder what direction Grace would take on a second studio album.

'The Square (El Salvador)' is my favourite track moving between Genesis 'Trespass' styled moodiness in the intro to fast paced, full-on metalish riffing for a high-octane finale.

'Rats' shows the band stretching out with some intense instrumental play and an unmistakable VDGG influence although perhaps dragging on a minute or two too long.

A quick flip and we have three previously released cuts that were more familiar to the audience including 'Old Stories' which sounds like a leaner meaner version of Jethro Tull thanks once again to Davies and his fluid wind work.

Closing the set with 'Molly Leigh (The Witch of Burslem Town)' was apparently quite the crowd pleaser. A legend in Grace's home of Stoke-on-Trent, Molly Leigh's story is weird and the songs folky dance around the fire vibe was just what the punters needed to get worked up in a veritable booze fueled frenzy before the lights faded and the band bowed out for the evening.

In Summary

A nice document although I recommend checking out the debut if you can find it and picking up 'Live' as a fun companion if you need more.

Sadly, early Grace has never been available on CD which is a shame and with the Demon catalog reissued a few years ago I'm sure it would be rather easy to secure the rights from Clay Records if an enterprising prog label were to follow through. Anyone?

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