One can never accuse Head East of not paying their dues. Formed in 1969, the Illinois based band kicked about the local live circuit for half a decade before finally translating their music onto vinyl.
Assembled of material recorded between 1975 and 1979, which were the years the group was at the pinnacle of their powers, The Best Of Head East (A&M Records) sits high on the hill as a stellar summary of roast beef and baked potato rock and roll. Chops that sizzled and smoked, coupled with sharp songwriting abilities gave the band legs to stand on and prevented them from being just another ordinary club act.
Placed in chronological order, the disc starts the show with the utterly awesome “Never Been Any Reason” that remains Head East’s most recognizable and successful tune to this day. Laced with the hissing hum of a synthesizer, the catchy cut further includes the dinging din of a cowbell and crushing six-string chords. Additionally fired by skyscraper harmonies and a swaggering beat, “Never Been Any Reason” mixes progressive rock reflexes with radio-rigged pop sensibilities in a smart and appealing manner.
The hip-swaying “Gettin’ Lucky” features bracing bursts of slinky blues licks, a dark and distressed mood hangs over the intense “Every Little Bit Of My Heart,” a party vibe pierces “Take A Hand” through and through as it stomps and sweats to a vigorous pulse, complete with a cheering chorus, and songs such as “Jefftown Creek” and “City Of Gold” reel and race with robust rhythms and digging breaks.
Polished but not pompous, Head East was prone to pepper their fare with dabs of southern rock, blues rock, art rock, boogie rock and pop rock. However, in the end they peddled a traditional hard rock sound. Big and bold vocals, tailor made for stadiums, aided by incredible percussion work, wicked guitar action and cool keyboard drills were integral parts of their style.
Although Head East were looked upon as superstars in the Midwest and received snippets of airplay in other areas of the country, they failed to find the international fame and fortune they so greatly deserved.
Clipping paragraphs in the book from the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Humble Pie, Foghat and REO Speedwagon, the band were by no means trailblazers. But their songs are so energetic and hooky that it’s impossible not to applaud them. Having said that, the tunes on The Best Of Head East are as effective now as they were back then. Rock on and rock it good!
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