Review Summary: Ramshackled isn’t an essential purchase, even for followers of Yes. There’s a bit of good material here, but the album as a whole simply isn’t that notable.
“Ramshackled” is the debut solo studio album of Yes’ drummer Alan White, and was released in 1976. The line up on the album is Alan White, Peter Kirtley, Kenny Craddock, Colin Gibson, Alan Marshall, Bud Beadle, Andy Phillips, Steve Gregory, Henry Lowther, Madeleine Bell, Joanne Williams, Vicky Brown, David Bedford, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe.
As we all know, Alan White is better known as the drummer of Yes for more than thirty years. But, before that, he was a very successful session drummer that played with a lot of musicians from local unknown bands as well as with many famous musicians and bands, such as, John Lennon, George Harrison and Joe Cocker, only to mention a few of them.
So, it was in this context that appeared his collaboration with some of the musicians that appear on “Ramshackled”. He had worked with Pete Kirtley and Kenny Craddock in the Alan Price Set and Happy Magazine. White, Kirtley, Craddock and Colin Gibson worked together in the short lived Griffin in 1969. In the early of 1970, White, Kirtley, Craddock, Gibson and Bud Beadle played together in the band Simpson’s Pure Oxygen. So, naturally he invited them to the album. “Ramshackled” was one of the five solo works released in the same period by all Yes’ members, during a hiatus of time by the band, after the release of their seventh studio album “Relayer”, in 1974. The other albums are Jon Anderson’s “Olias Of Sunhillow”, Chris Squire’s “Fish Out Of Water”, Patrick Moraz’s “Story Of I” and Steve Howe’s “Beginnings”.
“Ramshacked” is a very strange album for a solo album of any solo artist. Not a single track on “Ramshackled” was written or even co-written by White. So, somehow, this is a band project only tangentially related to Yes, released under the Yes’ name due to a fluke of circumstances. For his solo debut, White returned to his side project with other session men, dating back to before his membership in Yes. So, due to his music past with so many collaborations with so many and diversified musicians with so many different styles of music, and none of them was a prog musician, naturally we would expect a strange album too. Even in terms of quality, as well, there’s something about a 70’s collaboration of session men from outside of the progressive scene that almost seems to doom the project from the beginning. Throughout the various styles that are featured on this album, and to be fair, it’s rather diverse, or if you prefer, too much diverse, there seems to be a strange and exotic aura over the entire album. Perhaps any such collection is bound to suffer in comparison with Yes. But even on its own terms, though, “Ramshackled” isn’t all that so impressive, really.
“Ooooh Baby (Goin’ To Pieces)” begins with some good drumming and the presence of a distorted saxophone. The sound is mainstream with a few prog inflections. It has nice moments, the introductory section, the keyboard setting shifts and the acoustic guitars too. “One Way Rag” has jazz influences. It’s a sort of track that would dominate “classic rock” radio. The guitar solo and the wind instruments add a bit to the track. “Avakak” is the first instrumental, the most experimental and the most successful track. The piano introduction and the percussion section are good. It isn’t Yes, but it isn’t bad. “Song Of Innocence” features an arrangement that even Anderson couldn’t save. Howe’s role is good enough, but peripheral. The participation of the rest of the band is limited. “Giddy” returns the listener to the soul/funk of the initial track. The performances aren’t really problematic, but there’s still not much to recommend. “Silly Woman” is a reggae number. However proficient the musicians have been, the essence of the song isn’t great. But, the lyrics are the most dismal part of the number. “Marching Into A Bottle” is a good and brief instrumental, somewhat atypical of the album. Acoustic guitar, flute and percussion dominate the track, featuring a pleasant melody and good performances by all musicians. “Everybody” is another rock/soul track vaguely with a prog form. The vocalist attempts a Joe Cocker impersonation. White isn’t bad and the return of the steel drum is favourable enough. “Darkness” is a good track. The arrangement, the lyrics and the singing are really good. The subsequent keyboard and trumpet leads are good as well.
Conclusion: “Ramshacked” is an eclectic mix, sampling soul, rock, jazz, classical and even with a little bit of reggae. Somehow, you could say the same about Steve Howe’s “Beginnings”. But “Ramshackled” isn’t as good as all that, with White ceding the song writing to his old Griffin’s band mates Craddock, Gibson and Kirtley. If “Ramshackled” fails, it’s because the rest of Yes were talented musicians with a vision. White might just as well have gone fishing during Yes’ hiatus. Instead, he recorded this low key album of songs. “Ramshackled” great sin may be that Yes’ fans, who were curious for a window into what made White, knew so little about him now, as they did before. In reality, the revealing science of percussion it isn’t, but approaching this with realistic expectations, will go a long way toward appreciating “Ramshackled” for what it is a solo album from a 70’s session drummer who had only recently hitched up with Yes.
Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)