Baker Gurvitz Army

Baker Gurvitz Army was an English hard-rock supergroup that released three albums on Atco/Vertigo between 1974 and 1976. They consisted of brothers Paul and Adrian Gurvitz (Gun, Three Man Army) and former Cream drummer Ginger Baker.

Members: Adrian Gurvitz (guitar, vocals), Paul Gurvitz (bass, vocals), Ginger Baker (drums), Pete Lemer (keyboards), Snips (vocals)


The Gurvitz brothers first teamed in Gun, which issued two albums in 1968/69 and scored a hit with “Race With the Devil.” Older brother Paul Gurvitz played earlier in The Knack, a mod band with guitarist Brian Parrish (later Badger). After Gun, the two cut a 1971 album as Parrish & Gurvitz and recorded a second while Adrian toured with the Buddy Miles Express. Later that year, the brothers reteamed in Three Man Army, which released three albums between 1971 and 1974, the latter two with ex-May Blitz drummer Tony Newman.

In 1974, the brothers recorded a rock opera, tentatively titled Three Days to Go, while Newman got behind longtime partners Mike Patto and Ollie Halsall (Timebox, Patto) in Boxer. With the opera shelved, the Gurvitz brothers enlisted famed drummer Ginger Baker to kickstart the Army franchise. The two parties met during sessions for Kick Off Your Muddy Boots, the first of two albums by the Graeme Edge Band, led by the Moody Blues drummer.

Baker emerged a decade earlier in the Graham Bond Organization with organist Graham Bond, bassist Jack Bruce, and reedist Dick Heckstall-Smith (later Colosseum). He and Bruce later formed the power trio Cream with Eric Clapton. Between 1966 and 1968, they issued three albums and scored multiple hits while establishing the maximalist three-piece rock lineup: the model for bands like Gun and May Blitz. When Cream folded, Baker cut one album in the supergroup Blind Faith (with Clapton and Steve Winwood) and formed the quasi-African Ginger Baker’s Air Force for two albums on Atco. In 1972, he released the solo album Stradivarius, recorded with Afrobeat icon Fela Kuti.

1974: First Album

The Baker Gurvitz Army released their self-titled debut album in December 1974 on Janus (US) and Vertigo (everywhere else). As on most Gurvitz brothers projects, Adrian wrote or co-wrote the album’s eight songs, including “Help Me,” “Love Is,” “Inside of Me,” and the epic “Since Beginning.” Baker co-wrote “Memory Lane,” “Mad Jack,” “4 Phil,” and “I Wanna Live Again.”

The last of those features backing vocals by Rosetta Hightower, Madeline Bell (Blue Mink), and session singers Liza Strike and Barry St. John. Bell appears on Two, the third album by Three Man Army. Strike and St. John also co-appear on 1974 albums by Bryan Ferry, Leo Sayer (Just a Boy), and Nazareth. Hightower and Strike overlap on Weren’t Born a Man, the Bowie/Ronson-produced comeback album by Dana Gillespie.

The Baker Gurvitz Army was co-produced by all three members at The Who‘s Ramport Studios in London, the site of 1974 recordings by Chris De Burgh, Kevin Ayers, Man, Supertramp (Crime of the Century), and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. The album was engineered by Anton Matthews (Brinsley Schwarz, Help Yourself, Slade, Zakarrias) and Cyrano, who also worked on Two. Keyboardist John Norman Mitchell augments the trio on synthesizer and vibraphone.

The cover artist on Two, Joe Petagno, also painted The Baker Gurvitz Army gatefold, which shows three bearded, fur-clad, dagger-wielding men on horseback under a dark, torrential sky; a fourth horse is mounted by a dagger-holding, disembodied hand. Vertigo copies sport the spaceship label. Petagno also illustrated 1973/74 covers for Captain Beyond, Heavy Metal Kids, Renaissance (Turn of the Cards), Roy Harper, and West, Bruce & Laing, a parallel trio comprised of Jack Bruce and two ex-members of Mountain.

Live Work, Festivals

In late 1974, Baker Gurvitz Army embarked on their first tour with the addition of a fourth member, singer Steve Parsons (aka Snips), recently of the Free-spinoff Sharks with Andy Fraser.

On the weekend of June 21–22, 1975, Baker Gurvitz Army played the 2nd Pop Meeting Festival at Philipshalle in Düsseldorf, which also featured sets by Chicken Shack, Earth and Fire, East of Eden, Gentle Giant, Hardin & York, Omega, Savoy Brown, Secret Oyster, and the German bands Eloy, Grobschnitt, Kin Ping Meh, Kraan, Message, Pell Mell, Randy Pie, Scorpions, and Streetmark. Nektar headlined the event, which billed BGA as “Ginger Baker Gurvitz Armee.”

In August, Baker Gurvitz Army performed at the Orange Festival at the Theatre Antique d’Orange in Orange, France. Other acts present at the three-day event included Bad Company, Climax Blues Band, Fairport Convention, Jess Roden, John Cale (with Nico), Mahavishnu Orchestra, Soft Machine, and Wishbone Ash. BGA appeared on day two (the 16th) along with Dr. Feelgood, John Martyn, Procol Harum, Tangerine Dream, and Zzebra. There were two no-shows, Lou Reed and Renaissance, the latter replaced by Caravan.

1975: Elysian Encounter

The Baker Gurvitz Army’s second album, Elysian Encounter, appeared in October 1975 on ATCO (North America) and Vertigo (Europe, Brazil, Japan). In the UK, the album appeared on Mountain, an imprint mostly devoted to Nazareth.

Like its predecessor, Elysian Encounter has eight songs, seven with input from Adrian, who wrote four numbers (“Time,” “The Gambler,” “The Dreamer,” “The Artist”) and co-wrote two (“People,” “Remember”) with Baker, who co-wrote “The Key” with Paul Gurvitz. The final track, “The Hustler,” is a group-written number.

Sessions took place at Island Studios with Peter Lemer, a veteran jazz keyboardist listed as a fifth member. Years prior, Lemer led a quintet with the rhythm section of Colosseum: bassist Tony Reeves and drummer Jon Hiseman, Baker’s replacement in the Graham Bond Organization.

Adrian and Baker produced Elysian Encounter with Matthews, who mixed the tracks at Trident and Advision Studios. The album was mastered at Abbey Road Studios by Chris Blair, a tech hand on 1973–75 recordings by Babe Ruth, Cockney Rebel (The Human Menagerie, The Psychomodo), Kayak (See See the Sun), Kraftwerk, Pilot, Queen (Queen II), Syreeta, and Wings. Snips sings on all but “Time” and “Remember,” both sung by Adrian Gurvitz.

Petagno painted the gatefold cover, a depiction of a green mountainous valley (presumably the Elysian Fields) under a yellow sky with beaming white sun rays. At the foreground, an encounter takes place between human subjects (armored warriors and robed noblemen, both in horned helmets) and an extraterrestrial race: yellow-skinned, green-robed, all sporting reverse mohawks; arriving by the dozen. The lyrical inner-spread shows a white sun-beaming, yellow sky view.

1976: Hearts on Fire

Baker Gurvitz Army opened 1976 with an appearance at the Great British Music Festival at the Olympia Exhibition Center in London, a three-day event with sets by Be-Bop Deluxe, Budgie, Charlie, Doctors of Madness, The Pretty Things, Status Quo, and Thin Lizzy. BGA performed on the second day (January 1st) along with Barclay James Harvest, Jack the Lad, John Miles, and Snafu.



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