Family – Fearless, Extended Edition: Album Review

This newly remastered 3cd clamshell boxed set of the classic Fearless album from late 1971, by Family shows not only their songwriting inventiveness and extensive musical prowess but proves what a brilliant live band they were too.

Release date: 29th September 2023

Label:  Esoteric Recordings / Cherry Red Records

Format:  3 CD box set

Sheesh 1971!! Many a record store was visited flicking through multiple albums wondering which one to invest some of my modest student grant on when vinyl was king. It was easy for vinyl to be king, there was nothing else , no variety of download platforms and formats like today!

This was one album that always got overlooked especially after the success of Weaver’s Answer and albums like Family Entertainment and Anyone treated us all to the unique sound of Family, who stood out not just by Roger Chapman’s warbling and passionate vocals but they were so different to other groups making a name for themselves as we entered the psychedelic 70’s. The competition was high and young followers of the ‘ underground’ scene as it was called then were fortunate in having lots to choose from.

True, Family was an acquired taste never album-wise or live having a commercial sound even though they had their hits. Weavers Answer, In My Own Time/Seasons and later Burlesque and My Friend The Sun. The former three make an appearance on this amazing 3 album compilation.

CD 1 is a remix of the original album and has 2 bonus tracks of In My Own Time and Seasons, which was their highest charting hit. Family was one of the bands who benefited from the promotion of the enigmatic John Peel so their appearance on BBC  live sessions was no surprise and these recordings make up CD2. (JP incidentally was one of the dirtiest footballers I’ve seen, his scything tackles in a celebrity match vs my college team saw him taking chunks out of our winger!!) We hear 5 of the tracks in these live sessions from various BBC broadcasts mixed with other favourites like Strange Band and No Mules Fool. The sessions are from shows presented by cheery Brian Matthews, pioneering Peely and Whispering Bob!

It was as an exciting live band that Family really excelled regularly selling out and as regulars on the Festival circuit so it’s on the third CD  that we hear a live BBC In Concert broadcast during Christmas of 1971. Again, 5 tracks from the remastered Fearless were recorded in this session with Weaver’s Answer ending the set. To many,  Weaver’s Answer was to Family what Aqualung was to Tull and other songs much anticipated at live concerts. But as each track on Fearless shows these bands like Family were far more than just one song.

Bandstand may be regarded as their swansong album but Fearless, which was released only 2 years before they called it a day, ranks equally with their previous 4 albums and you’ll not be disappointed by this new compilation. Alongside Roger Chapman it features John ‘Charlie’ Whitney,  Rob Townsend, John Wetton and  John ‘Poli’ Palmer, most of which hung on till the bitter end yet immortalised as the members who recorded Fearless.

Added to the package is an illustrated booklet with a new essay (I didn’t even know there was an old one!) and reviews from established rock magazines. If you don’t appreciate this album compilation and recognise the value for money Cherry Red Records have released then perhaps you’re a Norman!!!

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