Progressive Rock U.K. 1970s (Tracks) Cressida – “To Play Your Little Game”

Progressive Rock U.K. 1970s (Tracks) 

Cressida (London, U.K.) Symphonic Progressive Rock Band

The band’s name was taken from William Shakespeare’s play titled “Troilus and Cressida”

Troilus and Cressida (/ˈtrɔɪləs … ˈkrɛsɪdə/) is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1602. It was described by Frederick S. Boas as one of Shakespeare’s problem plays. The play ends on a very bleak note with the death of the noble Trojan Hector and destruction of the love between Troilus and Cressida. The work has in recent years “stimulated exceptionally lively critical debate”.

Throughout the play, the tone lurches wildly between bawdy comedy and tragic gloom, and readers and theatre-goers have frequently found it difficult to understand how one is meant to respond to the characters. Several characteristic elements of the play (the most notable being its constant questioning of intrinsic values such as hierarchy, honour and love) have often been viewed as distinctly “modern”, as in the following remarks on the play by author and literary scholar Joyce Carol Oates:

Troilus and Cressida, that most vexing and ambiguous of Shakespeare’s plays, strikes the modern reader as a contemporary document – its investigation of numerous infidelities, its criticism of tragic pretensions, above all, its implicit debate between what is essential in human life and what is only existential are themes of the twentieth century. … This is tragedy of a special sort – the “tragedy” the basis of which is the impossibility of conventional tragedy.

“To Play Your Little Game” (written by Cressida) A1 track (opening track) included on the album ” Cressida” 

Released on Vertigo Records (VO 7) in 1970

Released on a ”swirl” Vertigo label in a fold-out cover. Swirl inner sleeve.
A Philips Record Product.

Related Artists :
Black Widow, Dominators, Four Degrees, Mustard, The Original London Beat, The Peasants, Ivan Sinclair & The System Soul Band, The Syndicate, Tranquility, Uriah Heep, Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band, White Rabbit.
Also known as :
Charge [1968]

Line-up/Credits :

Angus Cullen / vocals
John Heyworth / guitar, lead vocals on track 5
Peter Jennings / harpsichord, organ, piano
Kevin McCarthy / bass
Iain Clark / drums

Design [Cover] – Teenburger

Engineer – Robin Thompson

Producer – Ossie Byrne

Track-List :

1. To Play Your Little Game (3:15)
2. Winter is Coming Again (4:42)
3. Time For Bed (2:18)
4. Cressida (3:57)
5. Home And Where I Long To Be (4:04)
6. Depression (5:02)
7. One Of A Group (3:35)
8. Lights In My Mind (2:45)
9. The Only Earthman In Town (3:32)
10. Spring ’69 (2:14)
11. Down Down (4:15)
12. Tomorrow Is A Whole New Day (5:19)

Lyrics :

I face the wall, I can’t recall
That knowing you, I must confess I’ll lose my mind
Should I remember you
No room for talk, I’ll take a walk
To free the wheels, I’ll check my list of friendly faces
The answers must be sought

Now I’ll have to face the fact
Soon I’ll realize
I’ll turn around, turn around
To play your little game
Now I’ll have to face the fact
Soon I’ll realize
I’ll turn around, turn around
To play your little game

I thought I heard the answer then
Among lament, I turn around
But then you’re gone
Julie was my friend
I face the wall, I can’t recall
That knowing you, I must confess I’ll lose my mind
Should I remember you

Now I’ll have to face the fact
Soon I’ll realize
I’ll turn around, turn around
To play your little game
Now I’ll have to face the fact
Soon I’ll realize
I’ll turn around, turn around
To play your little game

Cressida was a British art rock band formed at the tail-end of the 1960s in the shadow of (and their music very much in thrall to) the Moody Blues, with a heavy organ and Mellotron sound courtesy of keyboard player Peter Jennings. The original lineup of Jennings, Angus Cullen (vocals, guitar), John Heyworth (guitar), Kevin McCarthy (bass), and Ian Clark(drums) was signed to Polydor’s progressive rock imprint, Vertigo Records. The group had a dense, lyrical sound, and Cullen’s singing was of a pleasing, almost pop nature, in a vein similar to Justin Hayward, Paul McCartney, et al. Their self-titled debut album was filled with hauntingly beautiful melodies and relatively accessible, straightforward song structures. It was somewhat derivative of antecedents such as the Moody Blues, but it did well enough to justify a follow-up in 1971. Heyworthhad departed by the time of the second album, entitled Asylum, replaced by John Culley and Paul Martin Layton (of the New Seekers) on guitar, and with Harold McNair added on flute as well. That album, produced by Ossie Byrne, was more ambitious instrumentally and, surprisingly, given Byrne’s previous work with the Bee Gees and Eclection, less focused on Cullen’s vocals. By 1972, however, the group had run out of steam and recording contract, and they never really had a chance to develop a history. Ian Clark moved on to a brief stay with Uriah Heep and John Culley became a member of Black Widow.

In the great lottery of pop, a question that frequently has to be asked is why one group and not another? Why are groups such as The Moody Blues, King Crimson and even dear old Gentle Giant venerated, while equally lyrically and musically powerful bands such as Cressida are left, discarded as the forlorn dummies heads on the beach on the cover of Asylum? It is a hard question to answer at the best of times and even harder when you reacquaint yourself with the group’s small but perfectly formed oeuvre.

By 1969, the decade-and-a-half-old form of rock and roll was clearly here to stay. The music had already traveled from the 2:30 jangle about love into song cycles, heavy riffing and, thanks to the proliferation of psychedelic substances, a new mysticism. Summers of love had been and gone and even places like Beckenham in Kent were having free festivals. A man had landed on the moon and on record, the cosmos was the limit. With their name taken from Greek mythology – the daughter of soothsayer Calchas, Cressida betrayed her eternal love Troilus, of whom Shakespeare wrote so eloquently – the group are one of those glorious footnotes that make progressive rock so very interesting.

There may be few today who can recall the power and the glory of Cressida, but the music they offered during the brief sliver of a recording career is truly more than ripe for reappraisal. The group was formed in the late 60s by keyboard and mellotron player, Peter Jennings. Adding Angus Cullen on vocals and guitar, John Heyworth on guitar, Kevin McCarthy on bass and lain Clark on drums, the group gained a reputation as a fierce live act, their music full of delicate passages and interludes of storming complexity. With Cullen’s sweet, lyrical voice and an obvious nod to The Moody Blues, Cressida became one of the first signings to Vertigo, the recently-founded progressive rock offshoot of Polydor records.

Vertigo were very much in the mould of forward-thinking new record labels, well away from the suited and stuffy mainstream. With an almost arbitrary A&R policy (Patrick Campbell Lyons from the original Nirvana scouted for the label for a while), Vertigo sought to release music by acts that reflected the Zeitgeist perfectly. All with that incredible spiral logo revolving on the label: if the music didn’t blow your mind, then the graphics certainly would. So, after releases by Colosseum, Juicy Lucy, Manfred Mann, Rod Stewart and Black Sabbath, Cressida’s eponymous debut album, (VO 7) became the seventh release on Vertigo.

Released on the imprint’s legendary spiral label in 1970, it was produced by Ossie Byrne and engineered by Robin Thompson. Byrne had previously worked with The Bee Gees and brought some of the economic simplicity of their early productions to the recordings. Its taut, prog-pop melodies won the band a small and fervent following. With tinges of blues and classical in this pungent mix, the album, although evoking King Crimson, Paul McCartney and The Moody Blues, was clearly a highly individual piece of work. From the opening pop rush of To Play Your Little Game to the great, upbeat closer, Tomorrow Is A Whole New Day, Cressida was a much-loved album for those in the know.

The deft touch and George Harrison-esque soloing of Winter Is Coming Again would have made a great pop single. Time For Bed was a whimsical jazz take on Zebedee’s then-contemporaneous catchphrase. Although not a huge commercial success, the release slotted in perfectly with Vertigo’s ethos, and Cressida were to given the green light to a return to the studio. But not, of course, without a few obligatory personnel changes. This was early 70s rock, after all. Guitarist John Heyworth departed in 1971, and was replaced by John Culley and New Seeker member Paul Martin Layton.

Their second album, Asylum (Vertigo 6360 025) released later that year, was a different beast altogether. The album was a denser, darker affair, relying less on Cullen’s vocals. Ex- Donovan, Ginger Baker’s Airforce and John Martyn reedsman Harold McNair played on the album, adding to its deeper, lilting feel than its predecessor, which focused more on instrumental passages and elaborate arrangements. The subject matter was also far less mystical than their contemporaries.

Munich (or to give it its full title, Munich 1938; Appeasement Was The Cry, Munich 1970; Mine To Do Or Die) is tremendous fun: with its subtle organ parts and great dual lead guitar as well, it can be seen as the group at their very zenith. Again produced by Byrne, Asylum featured orchestration and musical direction from Graeme Hall – who had recently also worked with Shadows offshoot Marvin, Welch & Farrar. The album remains the jewel in their crown Changes were afoot at Vertigo, and by late 1971, the group found themselves without a contract. Quietly, like so many of the era, they split up.

Drummer lain Clark went on to play with Uriah Heep for a year and John Culley became a member of another lamented prog act, Black Widow. Paul Layton returned to simpler pastures with the New Seekers and the special guest who had so enlivened the instrumentation on Asylum, Harold McNair, was to die tragically from cancer in 1971. Little has been heard from the others since. The Vertigo label, ironically, was reactivated by Universal in 2003 for bands such as The Rapture.

One of the coolest items that autumn was a skinny-fit Vertigo T-shirt with the spiral logo on it, worn by people who had little idea of the imprint’s illustrious history. So, what goes around spirals around, and here we have the opportunity to revisit both of Cressida’s albums, possession of which have long been an insider sign to the cognoscenti. A small, but thriving collector’s market ensures that originals routinely fetch three figure sums.

We may never know why the group failed to ignite as some of their contemporaries; but what we do know, is we have two beautiful, much-loved albums available again, in a delightfully clean remaster, for the delight and delectation of all. And whereas we might be over familiar with our copies of In Search Of The Lost Chord and In The Court Of The Crimson King, Cressida and Asylum are full of sweet, yearning and strange, unfamiliar surprises, yet to be discovered.

The roots of Cressida were sown in March 1968, when guitarist “Rock & Roll” John Heyworth answered an advertisement in Melody Maker, and later travelled to London to join The Dominators, a band whose situation he later described as “hopeless – until Angus Cullen applied for the lead singer spot”. He and Heyworth hit it off immediately, and Heyworth was invited to stay at Cullen’s family flat in Barkstone Gardens near Earl’s Court. The pair settled down to some serious writing, eventually welcoming bassist Kevin McCarthy and drummer Iain Clark to the fold and now calling themselves Charge.

The band’s early setlists included covers of songs by The Doors (“Spanish Caravan”), The Drifters (“Save The Last Dance For Me”) and Spirit (“Fresh Garbage”), alongside original compositions by Cullen and Heyworth. In the Summer of 1969, shortly after returning from a German tour, the band’s organist Lol Coker decided to leave, and moved back to Liverpool to marry his Swiss girlfriend and take over his father’s business. He had stayed just long enough to play on the band’s first demo, which got them a recording contract with Vertigo Records.

Peter Jennings then joined. “I was auditioned at the Roebuck pub in Chiswick, a place they sometimes used for rehearsals”, he later remembered. “I imagine we ran through a 12-bar or two and possibly they tried me out on one of the numbers from their set, but anyway they liked the way I fitted in and I joined them that day”. Jennings’ previous musical experience included blues gigs playing 12-string guitar in tandem with ex-Paramounts pianist Andy Staines, and (in 1968–69) White Rabbit with drummer Ron Berg and guitarist Andy Rickell (a.k.a. Android Funnel). After White Rabbit came to an end, Jennings played with several short-lived bands.

At this point the band settled on the name Cressida. “None of the band considered Charge that wonderful a name. We decided after some discussion on a name taken from the William Shakespeare play Troilus and Cressida. Their first gigs as Cressida were in Germany, including the Star-Club in Hamburg sharing the bill withColosseum and East Of Eden, in the Autumn of 1969. Their manager at the time, Mike Rosen, also drove their Transit van and, being a trumpet player (he later joinedMogul Thrash), occasionally joined the band on stage for some of their more extended numbers. But Rosen soon fell out with producer Ossie Byrne (of early Bee Geesfame), and from that point Mel Baister assumed managerial duties.

Other forays into Europe included a trip to Bratislava in November 1969, where they performed at the end of a week’s competition between various bands from the Eastern bloc; a week supporting Black Sabbath at Brussels’ Theatre 140; and a performance at the Open Circus (an event held in a large tent with lion taming, fire eating and other side shows) in Rouen, France, alongside Brian Auger, Barclay James Harvest, Man and Circus.

Cressida mostly played the university and college circuits, as well as London clubs such as the Speakeasy, Revolution, Blaises and the Marquee Club. The first LP was recorded at Wessex Studios with Byrne producing. It consisted of songs by either Cullen or Heyworth (who handled lead vocals on one), plus one contribution each by Jennings and Clark.

Cressida went through a difficult phase when Heyworth was forced to leave in early 1970. Around this time, the band recorded a more commercial track intended for single release, “Situation”, but Vertigo chose not to issue it. The song is now available on a double-CD release of the band’s complete recordings, The Vertigo Years Anthology 1969-1971.

Cressida – “Cressida” Album cover photo (front)

CRESSIDA 1970 1

Cressida – “Cressida” Album photo  

 

CRESSIDA 1970

Cressida Band’s photo

CRESSIDA BAND 2

Cressida – “Cressida” Full Album Download Link on Culture 4 All Blog

Cressida Discography/Full Albums/Download Links on Rutracker Org

Cressida Band’s Page on Spotify

Cressida – “Cressida” Full Album Download Link on Apple Music

Cressida Band’s Page/Discography/Full Albums/Download Links on Muro Do Classic Rock Blog