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IF

If

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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If If album cover
3.78 | 75 ratings | 10 reviews | 27% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1970

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. I'm Reaching Out On All Sides - 5:44
2. What Did I Say About The Box, Jack? - 8:22
3. What Can a Friend Say? - 6:56
4. Woman Can You See (What This Big Thing Is All About) - 4:12
5. Raise The Level of Your Conscious Mind - 3:16
6. Dockland - 4:45
7. The Promised Land - 3:44

Line-up / Musicians

Dennis Elliott - Drums
J.W. Hodgkinson - Vocals
John Mealing - Keyboards, Vocals
Dick Morrissey - Saxophones, Flute
Dave Quincy - Saxophones
Jim Richardson - Bass
Terry Smith - Guitar




Releases information

LP ISLAND ILPS9129 (UK) (1970)
LP CAPITOL CAST539 (US) (1970)
CD REPERTOIRE (2006)

Thanks to Sean Trane for the addition
and to easy livin for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy IF If Music


If 5If 5
Repertoire Records 2016
$9.80
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If 4If 4
Limited Edition · Remastered · Special Edition
Repertoire 2007
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If 2If 2
Limited Edition
Repertoire 2006
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IfIf
Repertoire Records 2014
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If 3If 3
Limited Edition · Remastered
Repertoire 2007
$7.99
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IF If ratings distribution


3.78
(75 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(27%)
27%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
41%
Good, but non-essential (23%)
23%
Collectors/fans only (8%)
8%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

IF If reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by mystic fred
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If only..

If were essentially regarded as Britain's answer to Chicago and maybe Blood Sweat & Tears, mixing rock, blues and jazz - but originally with the emphasis on jazz as they were a 7 piece band featuring organ, saxes, flute and drums, bass and lead guitar. The band toured with such diverse artists including Miles Davis, Cream, Traffic and Black Sabbath but never really hit the big time, apparently too jazzy for rock fans but a bit too rock for jazzers. Though they were compared to and sounded much like Chicago and B S & T in places they generally went further in their music and were more innovative than those commercially successful bands, and as a result were less well known outside the UK.

On this their debut album, the opening track "Reaching Out on All Sides" has a very bluesey feel and features the vocals of JW Hodgkinson. The next song "What Did I Say About the Box" which is an outstanding eight-minute instrumental giving each member a chance to show off their solo skills- a Chicago style sound and includes a very Tull sounding flute solo, in my opinion the best track on the album. "What Can a Friend Say" includes good sax solo, builds up to a great guitar solo and finishes off side 1 on my brilliant sounding pink Island album - at the time of writing the band's first four albums have been remastered and reissued on CD so are now easily available.

A big band-sounding "Woman Can You See (What This Big Thing is All About)" kicks off on side 2 , followed by a poppy Chicago- sounding song called "Raise the Level of Your Conscious Mind" and the slow reflective "Dockland". The last track on the album "The Promised Land" has a more typical If sound and has a catchy chorus - this may have been a good choice for a single, as it seems to me to be the second best song on the album. The album overall is strong on musicianship but better songs came along on later albums - but a fabulous debut nevertheless!

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
4 stars If is England's answer to Chicago or the much less proggy Blood Sweat & Tears, and with no small surprise the UK answer approaches Chicago's quality and easily surpasses BS&T. But comparing If to Chicago is at best unsatisfactory and at worst is misleading: not more instrumental than Chicago (and no trumpet or trombone), If is also less of a straight brass rock outfit, and more of a real jazz rock group, often coming close to Colosseum or Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, than the pure mushy garbage R'nB of BS&T or Electric Flag. The septet is based around wind players Dave Quincy and Dick Morrissey, the main songwriters. The original line-up on this album will remain unchanged much like their US alter-ego Chicago for quite a while.

Starting out on the absolutely delightful Reaching Out On All Sides (also issued as a single), the group shows a real knack for writing inventive jazzy tunes that have a rock edge, while making it interesting for demanding music fans. All Sides comes with a good searing guitar solo, underlined by Mealing's organ, then the saxes come in a very Heckstallian fashion. Hodgkinson's voice is fairly close to Chicago's singer. The lengthy instrumental About The Box is probably the A-side's highlight, with Morrissey's flute drawing a long solo before the two saxes cut away in a Heckstall manner, allowing for Smith's guitar to wallow much like Clempson's did. This second track is probably the most Colosseum-like of the album. Rounding off the first side is the 7-mins What Can A Friend Say, which boasts a very brassy rhythm'n blues, in this case reminiscent of Chicago or The Flock, but boasting yet another stellar electric guitar.

The flipside is made of four shorter tracks, with the rapid 100 mph soul number "Woman, Can You See?" track, where the repeating sax riffs and chorus and a sizzling solo of the same instrument. Conscious Mind did not steal its name, as it is easily the easiest track on the album, this being the attempt at mass exposure via the single. Best forgotten if you ask me. Dockland is a strange and slow (almost doomy) track, which seem to emphasize dark atmospheres, but Smith's guitar is again the main solo instrument, again a bit reminiscent of Hiseman's tribe. The closing Promised Land is an upbeat funky track that contains plenty of intricate arrangements, but cannot escape a pop feel, but positively said. The bonus tracks are no added value as they are the single version of two album tracks, therefore only adding a déjà-entendu feel.

Recently, Repertoire records just re-issued the first two in a mini-lp format, and I only wish they'd get the license to do the same with the next two, but whether this is likely is difficult to say since the first two were issued on Island records, while the next two were on United Artists. In either case, this first album is an absolute must for those wanting to find the perfect link between brass-rock (since If did not have brass instrument proper, but woodwind instruments) and jazz-rock.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Important name of the UK jazz rock scene,IF were formed in 1969 by a bunch of experienced jazz musicians,headed by saxophonists Dave Quincy and Dick Morrisey and guitarist Terry Smith.Following the steps of BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS and CHICAGO,the band started rehearsing,mixing sounds of brass rock,jazz and early prog in one pack.Finally 1970 sees the band releasing their first eponymous LP (on Island in the UK and Capitol in the US) and touring extensively.

Very much a product of its time,the one foot of ''If'' lies in late-60's jazz and soul,while the other steps intensively into the prog/psych territory.It's rather a work of two different styles packaged in one:most of the vocal parts,led by the strong vocal lines of J.W.Hodgkinson,are close to brass rock and soul with tons of saxes and light basses and an almost pop feeling.The instrumental passages are stunning,regarding the time of the release,with very good interactions,characterized bt driving flutes and sax solos.Terry Smith leads often the way with excellent jazzy chords and not only,there are also plenty of trembling psyc guitars around.Though it might sound a little bit dated to many of you,''If'' is actually an album which will satisfy every fan of early 70's:from the average rocker to the jazz fans and the lovers of psych/prog.An essential forgotten pearl.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Strong debut of brass-rock band If is coming from year 1970, what means they were almost British pioneers of brass-rock, besides US bands Chicago and B,S & T. Interesting, If had two sax players, but no trombone or trumpet on board, so their brass sound is different from American bands of the same time.

Another difference - they, even having slight blues roots, in fact are much more jazz band, especially in great high vocals and electric guitar. And they had more space for jazzy improvs in their music as well.

Possibly, their place could be found somewhere between early Chicago and less progressive B,S & T, but with another US brass-rock band - Dreams - jazzy improvs atmosphere. Very competent musically, but possibly a bit lightweight in time ( for rock standards), they were quite successful in UK, but didn't win a US market.

Their debut is possibly their best work, every brass rock fan will listen it with interest and pleasure.

Review by Matti
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Perhaps, if (!) I was more objective, I couldn't rate this so low, but I can't help that this album was a disappointment to me. I have found and enjoyed many Fusion artists recently (including COLOSSEUM which is one of the groups IF are compared to) and naturally I expected to like this British vintage debut too. But I found quite a little here that I wanted to listen multiple times. The problem is not with the music per se, but with my taste which just happens not to favour funky, brassy, souly, bluesy jazz-rock. Neither was I very fond of the vocals.

There were a couple of tracks with the flute up front rather than the saxes, which I liked more, but the whole album just didn't turn me on at all. No wonderful compositions, some OK at best. Skillful playing, definitely, but the aesthetics of this band didn't meet mine very well. So, take my humble opposite opinion (against the six praisings here) just as a notice that you may not enjoy this band as much as you might expect. It's not very progressive, for starters. But if you like (sorry to repeat the names jumping up again and again in previous reviews) the bands such as BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS and CHICAGO, forget my words and hear this yourself.

(I'm not always this subjective in my ratings; that is, for strong musicianship I sometimes give more stars than I actually enjoy the music personally, but I do think that we need shameless subjectivity when we rate albums here. It's the matter of our OWN feelings of the music. Naturally one has to know enough about the musical style/genre in question to make a worthy statement. Fusion IS one of the genres I enjoy. Brass-rock ain't, I admit, and had I known better that it's this style more precisely, I probably wouldn't have borrowed the CD at all - which, on the other hand, is prejudicious...)

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars They "moved the (rock) world just one step on"

Formed in 1969, If had already seen a change of line up (on the drum stool) by the time they came to record their début album released in 1970. Conveniently pigeon-holed as Britain's answer to the jazz rock of Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears, there are in fact noteable differences between If and those bands. The twin saxophones in an otherwise standard rock line up give obvious hints of the band's leanings, but If were perhaps less concerned with catchy hooks and hit singles than their peers from across the pond. That said, there are echoes of David Clayton-Thomas in the fine vocals of J.W. Hodkinson.

The opening "I'm reaching out on all sides" (a track I first came across many years ago on the superb "Bumpers" sampler) actually features the lead guitar of Terry Smith more, the saxes being used to provide colours rather than as a lead instrument. The song makes for a superb introduction to the band. John Mealing, who would later go on to join the Strawbs, lays down a solid Hammond organ base for the instrumental "What Did I Say About the Box, Jack", the longest track on the album. The track offers Dick Morrissey (subsequently Average White band) the chance to display his skills on flute as part of what is a largely jazz workout.

"What Can a Friend Say" reminds me a bit of the Ides of March song "Vehicle". The rock side of the band returns, driven on by some fine gravel vocals, the centre piece of the song being a lengthy sax workout.

The second side of the original LP has four tracks to the first side's three. As might be implied, this means that the songs on this side are generally slightly tighter, although very much in the same vein. "Woman Can You See (What This Big Thing Is All About)" is an upbeat affair, with frantic vocals driven on by a pounding rhythm section and punchy saxes. There are suggestions here of songs such as Chicago's superb "25 or 6 to 4".

The three minute "Raise The Level of Your Conscious Mind" is by far the most accessible song on the album, and might have made a successful single. The track boasts a Guess Who type sing-a-long chorus and a wall of sound backing. "Dockland" slows things down somewhat, the track offering a Traffic like folk/fusion take on painting a picture of a "Dockland scene". The track offers Hodkinson the opportunity to really emphasise his vocal prowess.

The album closes with "The promised land", a track which does lean heavily on Blood Sweat and Tears for its inspiration. Mealing gets a final opportunity to add to fine keyboards to another pulsating jazz rock number.

In all, a fine début from a band who made some excellent music. In some ways, If were unlucky to be around when so many other great bands were trying to make their mark. It is perhaps time now for a reassessment of their excellent music, it deserves far more recognition that it gets.

Review by stefro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Charting the same jazz-rock course as the likes of Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, Satisfaction and Trifle and featuring future Foreigner drummer Dennis Elliot amongst their ranks, Britain's If were a talented seven-piece who produced handful of noteworthy albums during the early part of the 1970s, though overall their style was somewhat poppier than the fusion groups who were re-popularizing the jazz genre at that time, the likes of Nucleus, Soft Machine and John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. The First album, titled simply 'If', is undoubtedly their best, with catchy hooks adorning the softly-played jazz rhythms and a strong focus on structured song-writing as opposed to improvisational jams. However, that's not to say If are a pop band per se, far from it, and tracks such as the lengthy, eight-minute 'What Did I Say About The Box Jack?' and the cool instrumental 'Dockland' are testament to If's melding of styles and tones. Their real ace, though, lies in the shape of frontman J. W. Hodgkinson, whose deep, bassy vocals add a whole new dimension to the jazz-rock formula. Vocals in fusion or jazz-rock are difficult to pull of, hence the poppier nature of this material, yet here the combination works beautifully, adding a rich lyrical layer to proceedings. Subsequent albums would repeat the sonic trick with slightly diminishing returns, though both If2 and If3 are still recommended. A graceful, enjoyable and extremely well-crafted debut, this unique mixture of jazz, rock, pop and orchestral flourishes proves a delightful surprise indeed.

STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012

Latest members reviews

5 stars British seventies jazz-rock group If are not focused on now, not even as much as their contemporaries like Colosseum and Chicago, partly, i think, because the original band split in 1972 unlike Chicago, and did not enact a high profile reunion, like Colosseum did. It is a shame that time has not ... (read more)

Report this review (#902326) | Posted by presdoug | Tuesday, January 29, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Well, the first album of "If" brings probably the best jazz rock album from that early era (when the fusion like Mahavishnu Orchestra was just planned). Great debut and one of my favourite albums begins slowly with unusual rhytm, but later it rises to the agressive, yet beautyful song. All music ... (read more)

Report this review (#133212) | Posted by Hejkal | Wednesday, August 15, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 'IF 1' started short but sparkling story of this british jazz/rock band formed by Dick Morrissey and Terry Smith. It offered kind of music I liked from the very first beats. It's jazzy oriented, but whenever you might feel that they'll go to the pure jazz flow, they'd turn back to more firm roc ... (read more)

Report this review (#130101) | Posted by bsurmano | Tuesday, July 24, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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