With its tongue in cheek title, The Best of Band X (there had been no previous Band X releases) snuck into the record racks in 1976, the first the world was to hear from musician/producer/writer/arranger Craig Peyton.
Fitting in somewhere between contemporaries like Weather Report, Headhunters and Stone Alliance, Craig Peyton definitely ploughed his own musical furrow even in an exceptionally fertile era. Originally a jazz drummer and vibraphonist, Craig was interested in utilizing the potential of some of the new synthesizers that were coming onto the market in that era, (beating even Stevie Wonder to the use of the Fairlight keyboard).
Band X consisted of Alan Grzyb, Victor Preston and Joey Bellomo alongside their auteur, Craig Peyton. Despite being, broadly speaking, ‘jazz’, Craig’s music had a synthetic feel and, like many musical conceptions of the future, sounds decidedly retro-cool today. Drummer Bellomo contributed synthesizer work, and horn-player Grzyb also contributed keyboards. Bass-man Preston also played trombone, and alongside Grzyb’s bassoon and clarinet and the assorted electronics, it was not your standard jazz ensemble. Quirky song titles (some of which wouldn’t sound out of place on a prog-rock album from the same time) confirm the image we have of a musical maverick.
Much of the current demand for this very hard to find album owes itself to DJ Amir’s championing of the track Home: many have remarked on its similarity to the classic Steely Dan sound of the same era; other reference points might be Shuggie Otis and Michael Franks. It’s a poignant, floaty and ultimately unique song, with Craig providing the ‘blue-eyed’ vocal, as he does on the other vocal track Afterthought, which also sounds like it could’ve happily lived alongside Shuggie’s Inspiration Information album. A vocal and a lively slice of sequencer space-funk with some truly trippy keyboard work, here’s another track with loads of potential for contemporary appreciation.
Among the other tracks, many will warm to Rip Van Winkle wherein a simple, chugging, funky bass and drums/vibes figure provides the backdrop for some haunting reed work that’s accompanied by Joey Bellomo’s synths …kind of presaging the kind of sound Steps Ahead would become so popular with later. Meanwhile, Trullion Allastor 2262 has a pastoral horn sound again that again shows the possibly unconscious influence of English prog-rock, something like a mini-classical piece, and definitely hinting at the incidental music for TV with which Peyton would go on to become very successful with. Tunes like ORed Cloud and Picking Mushrooms with Rabbit demonstrate his facility with a variety of musical styles (the latter is actually four –or is it five?- tunes in one), incorporating motifs from classical and military music.
A spirit of iconoclastic experimentalism exudes from this album, the first step in a long musical career for its main man. Peyton would go on to rename his band (with some personnel changes) The Craig Peyton Group (check out their Pyramid Love album also coming out through BBE, and work as a musician and arranger with luminaries including as diverse as James Brown, Melba Moore, Nona Hendrix, Levon Helm and Dan Hartman, while work for TV took up much of his time. He had a big adult-contemporary hit with Latitude 40 Degrees North in 1995.