Automatic Man

The cover artwork features a cerebral, intense looking alien, awash with moody shades of blue. Combine this image with the idea of a rock group performing in space, using a textbook with chapters of Santana, Low-period David Bowie and sunset-California-Eagles-pop and you have Automatic Man's self-titled debut effort - a breathtaking album of surging, musical force.

Santana's young yet experienced drummer Michael Shrieve left the band after three albums and formed Automatic Man with guitarist Pat Thrall and bassist Doni Harvey from Stomu Yamashata's Go, a band that could claim Steve Winwood as a member (it's even rumoured that Winwood features uncredited on Automatic Man). Throw in the almost mythical, and mystical present of keyboard maestro and smooth vocalist Bayeté and an explosive quartet is born. The album was released in 1976, and if sci-fi rock was a genre taken seriously by revisionists, then Automatic Man would have been regarded as a landmark album alongside Electric Light Orchestra's Time and even Queen's Flash soundtrack.

Quality songwriting and taut musicianship help Automatic Man to thrive as an album. It displays a sound that manages to keep its footings firmly in the mid-seventies, whilst simultaneously oozing an air of futuristic soundscapes that render it ripe for evoking mental imagery. Bayeté's lush keyboard arrangements add a reverberating layer of an almost alien-like displacement around the recordings, and this is aggressively perforated by the guitar-play by Thrall and Harvey and the pounding drumming by Shrieve. This isn't a loose jam session or an indulgent double-album, this is an album driven by strong songwriting. Power numbers Comin' Through or My Pearl demonstrate the closest Automatic Man came to crafting singles for radio; The riffs even give you the impression that Hendrix has been brought back from the dead to appear, or even cloned! Meanwhile, breezier numbers such as One 'N One and Newspapers exhibit a more futuristic, laid-back-Eagles style, as if lying on a beach on Pluto (does Pluto have beaches?).

It's blistering, and it's addictive. Upon first listen it's tempting to dismiss Automatic Man, but upon the third or fourth listen you will cherish it, along with all the other lost classics that have landed in your stereo with the help of fate's hand. Simply, the album is good purely because it sounds like an album of its time - 1976 saw synthesizers slowly creeping their way into recordings whilst punk was lurking in the wings waiting to pounce. Automatic Man is nearly thirty years old, and yet once we blow off the dust from 1976 and play it on our IPod or whatever new technological device we use, we'll still be taken to a future in which rock is still king.

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out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 11:44:39

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