Friday, February 6, 2009

Dog Soldier - Dog Soldier

A UK rock quintet of the mid-70s, Dog Soldier comprised Miller Anderson (b. 12 April 1945, Johnston, Renfrewshire, Scotland; guitar/vocals), Paul Bliss (bass), Derek Griffiths (guitar), Keef Hartley (drums) and Mel Simpson (keyboards). The group were very much Hartley's project after having established his reputation as a first class blues/rock drummer with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and the Artwoods. He had already had one attempt at forming his own group, the Keef Hartley Band, but with Dog Soldier he linked up with former Artwoods colleague Griffiths (who in the interim had worked with Mike Cotton Sound and Satisfaction). Anderson was one survivor from the Keef Hartley Band, having also worked with the Voice, At Last The 1958 Rock 'N' Roll Show and Hemlock. Anderson proved to be by far the most talented member of the band, both as a musician and songwriter. However, Dog Soldier's sole album for United Artists Records in 1975 (there was also a single, "Pillar To Post"), failed to ignite commercially and prompted Hartley to forgo his ambitions for a solo career. Largely inactive Hartley has returned to carpentry as a career. Anderson now performs regularly as a solo acoustic artist.
I'm not too familiar with the body of Keef Harley's output, but I gather it is somewhat more fusion oriented than this little gem. What we have here is a minor supergroup (Paul Bliss wrote the cynical masterpiece "The Way That It Is" of Uriah Heep & MTV fame) in which these talented limeys kick out an ideosyncratic but enjoyable mix of high class southern rock. Opener "Pillar to Post" brings to mind Molly Hatchet, but there is really only one other heavy song; with the other six being bluesy general rock tunes made unique by the prog inflected synth shadings (which, don't worry, do no damage to the ballsy effect of the record at all). This has plently of texture, varied instrumentation, but does not come across as "cute" in any way. My biggest complaint is that the classic opener "Pillar To Post" has no verses, only endless repetition of the it drags on a little despite being a great classic rocker. A cool record that feels familiar and unique at the same time. I like it!

Miller Anderson has been on the cutting-edge of rock for more than three decades. Although he's only released two solo albums -- Dream City in 1971 and Celtic Moon in 1988 -- the Scotland-born guitarist and vocalist has been involved with many influential musicians. Since cutting his musical teeth in bands with Ian Hunter (pre-Mott the Hoople) and Bill Bruford (pre-King Crimson and Yes), Anderson has been a member of such bands as the Keef Hartley Band, Savoy Brown, T. Rex, Mountain, the Spencer Davis Group, and in groups led by Deep Purple's Jon Lord and folk-rock balladeer Donovan. Anderson launched his career with the Royal Crests in 1964, continuing to play with the group as they evolved into Karl Stuart & the Profiles. Although he recorded one single with the Voice, "Train to Disaster" b/w "Truth," he left the band soon afterwards and was replaced by Mick Ronson. After meeting Ian Hunter during recording sessions at Regent Sound Studios, Anderson and Hunter formed a band, the Scenery, with drummer John Verson Smith. The group, which enlarged into a quartet with the addition of keyboardist Dante Smith, released an EP in Japan. In 1967, the group became the backup band for pianist/vocalist Freddie "Fingers" Lee as the Freddie "Fingers" Lee Band. While Anderson temporarily left the group to join the Paper Blitz Tissue, where he met Bill Bruford who replaced drummer Dave Dufort, he rejoined Hunter and Lee in March 1968 to form the oddly named group At Last the 1958 Rock 'n' Roll Show. After recording one single, "I Can't Drive" b/w "Workin' on the Railroad," the band changed their name to Charlie Woolfe. Upon leaving this group, Anderson and Hunter temporarily resurrected the Scenery. In late 1968, Anderson joined the Keef Hartley Band. Although they had begun to work on their debut album, the group had changed their lead singer twice before Anderson was recruited. In addition to playing with them at the Woodstock Festival in August 1969, Anderson recorded five albums with the band -- Halfbreed, The Battle of North West, The Time Is Near, Overdrive, and the live album Little Big Band. Leaving the group to start his solo career, Anderson formed the Miller Anderson Band. Assembled to play concerts, the group never toured, instead playing several sessions for BBC Radio. Anderson continued to change bands at a lightning pace. After his band Hemlock toured as the opening act for Savoy Brown in 1973, Anderson was invited to join Kim Simmonds and Stan Webb (from Chicken Shack) to create a three-guitar lineup for Savoy Brown in January 1974. Although he wrote several songs for Savoy Brown's album Boogie Brothers, he only remained in the band until December. While he joined Blood, Sweat & Tears, he left within a few weeks following the departure of lead singer David Clayton-Thomas. Anderson's next projects included the band Dog Soldier with Keef Hartley, and a group assembled by ex-Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor featuring former members of Stone the Crows. Although he joined T. Rex in August 1976, he left after helping to record the album Dandy in the Underworld to tour with Donovan. Anderson's plans to rejoin T. Rex ended with the tragic car accident death of Marc Bolan on September 16, 1977. Instead, he continued to tour with Donovan until 1978 when he and keyboardist Ronnie Leahy joined with guitarist/vocalist Jimmy McCulloch to form the Dukes. While the group recorded a minor hit, "Hearts in Trouble," they fell apart following McCulloch's death. Joining Stan Webb's Speedway in 1982, Anderson left to play bass with a resurrected Chicken Shack from September through December 1984.Anderson next became involved with Mountain. Although he was slated to play guitar in the group, which also featured original drummer Corky Laing and Ian Hunter, he switched to bass when original guitarist Leslie West rejoined the group. Anderson first collaborated with Spencer Davis in a reorganized version of the Spencer Davis Group that featured vocalist Chris Farlowe, bassist/vocalist Colin Hodgkinson, keyboardist Zoot Money, and drummer Pete York and recorded one album, Extremely Live at Birmingham Town Hall. Anderson continued to work with York in Pete York and Superblues. They rejoined the Spencer Davis Group in 1995 and 1997. In September 1993, Anderson performed solo at Blackhearth Concert Hall in South London in a show that also featured Bert Jansch, Davey Graham, and John Renbourn. Anderson played several shows with Jansch before resuming his solo career in January 1994. In June 1994, Anderson formed a trio with Miller and Colin Hodgkinson. Anderson was recruited in July 1995 for two gigs with Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord's group the Gemini Band. He subsequently recorded an album, Pictured Within, with Lord. Anderson's first solo album, Bright City, released in 1971, was recorded with accompaniment from the late Gary Thain (pre-Uriah Heep), Mick Weaver, and Peter Dines. His second album, Celtic Moon, released in 1988, was a mostly acoustic outing recorded with the Spencer Davis Group. ~ Craig Harris, All Music Guide

Armed with a powerful, soulful voice and a commanding guitar style, Miller Anderson was much in demand during the heyday of his career, The Scots born singer, guitarist and songwriter first came to fame with the Keef Hartley Band, which established him as a well-respected frontman. He joined the band in 1968 and stayed with Hartley for some three years, during which time they toured hard, became a top festival and club attraction and made some excellent albums.

Keef, a hard-hitting drummer from Lancashire, (ex-Artwoods and John Mayall), had put together a jazz rock band -that compared favourably with America's Blood, Sweat & Tears. He found an ally in Miller Anderson, who not only sang lead and played guitar for his band, but contributed the majority of the material. Their first album together was the well-received 'Half Breed', (1968), followed by 'The Battle Of NW6' (1969) and 'The Time Is Near' (1970), all on the Deram label. One of their best LPs was 'Overdog' released in 1971, on which Miller contributed seven of the songs, including the title track and powerful numbers like 'You Can Choose', and 'Plain Talkin', which showcased Anderson's driving guitar solos. Keef Hartley went on to form a much bigger outfit with brass players and they recorded the 'Little Big Band' album at London's Marquee Club in 1971. However it seems that Miller and Keef didn't always get on too well, and Anderson left the band soon afterwards. It was a good opportunity to record his own solo album and the result was 'Bright City', now heard for the first time on CD.

Miller wrote all the material for his project which was first released on Deram in 1971. The songs, including 'Alice Mercy (To Whom It May Concern)', 'The Age Of Progress', 'Nothing In This World', and 'Bright City', remind us what a fine singer has been missing from mainstream rock these past few years. Among those helping him out were Neil Hubbard (guitar), the late Gary Thain (bass), who later joined Uriah Heep, Mick Weaver, (sometimes known as Wynder K. Frogg), and Peter Dines, on keyboards. Session man Lynn Dobson from the Manfred Mann band played -flute, while Eric Dillon was on drums. Producer Neil Slaven sat in on percussion.

Adding backing vocals were Madeline Bell, Tracey Miller and Lisa Strike. Thain, Dines and Weaver all played on Keef Hartley's albums, so Miller was using mostly familiar faces to present his own music to the world. But getting a "name" in the music biz is harder than it looks, and back in the early Seventies at least, Keef Hartley still had the pulling power that Miller Anderson lacked on his own.

For a while Miller had his own band called Hemlock with James Leverton (bass) and Eric Dillon (drums). It was a struggle to establish themselves and they joined forces with Kim Simmonds and Stan Webb (ex-Chicken Shack), to form a new version of the Savoy Brown blues band which went on a brief tour of America in the Spring of 1974. However the band which had been bashing round the circuit for years with different personnel, finally fell apart in confusion. In 1974 Miller rejoined his old mate Keef Hartley. They formed a new Dog Soldier and released one album of the same name for United Artists. It proved a failure and the normally cheerful 'Lancashire Hustler', Keef Hartley announced his intention of quitting his role as a band leader. The music scene was changing and brass oriented jazz-rock was under attack from Glam Rock. Anderson decided that if he couldn't beat ‘em, he'd join 'em, and in 1976 he teamed up with Marc Bolan in what proved to be the last version of T.Rex. He worked alongside Dino Dines (keyboards), Herbie Flowers (bass), and Tony Newman (drums). T.Rex hit the road with punk group The Damned on the Dandy In The Underworld Tour in 1977. Miller's presence on guitar gave Marc more freedom on stage and Bolan was very proud of this highly professional outfit which he called 'the best rock'n'roll band in the world".

Sadly Marc Bolan was killed in a car accident on September 16, 1977 and the band broke up. Miller Anderson carried on working, but never achieved the fame and fortune of his contemporaries. However he earned the respect of a great many fellow musicians. Today he continues to write and perform and in late 1994 he reminds us of a rewarding aspect of the thriving Seventies music scene that now seems like a bygone age.


Mel Simpson Keyboards,Vocals

Miller Anderson Vocals,Guitar

Keef Hartley Drums

Paul Bliss Bass,Vocals

Derek Griffiths Guitar,Vocals

Track List

1. Pillar To Post (M Anderson)

2. Several People (K Hartley)

3. You Are My Spatk (D Griffiths)

4. Long And Lonley Night (M Simpson)

5. Giving As Good As You Get (P Bliss)

6. Thieves And Robbers (M Simpson)

7. Stranger In My Own Time (M Anderson)

8. Looks Like Rain (M Anderson)

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