Formed: 1969 in England
Although short-lived, England's Blodwyn Pig – featuring the powerful guitar styling of Mick Abrahams (the band is also known as Mick Abrahams' Blodwyn Pig) – has proved to have a longevity far beyond the band's short existence. Forty-plus years after the break-up of the original Blodwyn Pig, interest in the band and it's unique, pioneering blues-rock-jazz fusion sound remains high as young musicians continue to discover and explore the band's two original albums.
Jethro Tull Years
Guitarist Mick Abrahams was one of a legion of young British musicians who would be introduced to the blues and heavily influenced by Alexis Korner's seminal Blues Incorporated band. Abrahams joined his first outfit, the Crusaders, with pianist Graham Waller in 1964, the band pursuing a British rhythm and blues sound not unlike Korner's. The guitarist would run through a number of similar bands before landing in McGregory's Engine with bassist Andy Pyle and drummer Clive Bunker.
Sometime during the summer of 1967, Abrahams met Ian Anderson and Glenn Cornick of a band called the John Evan Smash. Sharing an enthusiasm for blues music, the four men – Anderson, Abrahams, Cornick, and Bunker – formed the band Jethro Tull. This Was, Tull's 1968 debut album, was a stunning blend of British blues and rock that featured an unusual dynamic created by the clashing of Anderson's vocals and jazzy fluteplay and Abrahams' wiry fretwork, which was often compared favorably to Eric Clapton. Although the critically-acclaimed album would find a modicum of commercial success, tension within the band over a future musical direction would result in Abrahams leaving Tull to play the blues.
Forming Blodwyn Pig
Abrahams enlisted former McGregory's Engine bandmate Andy Pyle to join him, sax player Jack Lancaster, and drummer Ron Berg in forming Blodwyn Pig. Although merry ole London was awash with blues-rock guitarists at the time, with bands like Taste and vying for attention, Blodwyn Pig quickly forged its own path with what was called a "progressive blues" sound, i.e. blues-rock peppered with jazzy fusion courtesy Lancaster's inspired horn and flute playing. After establishing itself on the English club scene, Blodwyn Pig released its debut album, 1969's Ahead Rings Out, to no little acclaim, hitting top ten in the U.K. and finding a handful of fans in the United States.
Only John Mayall's band was pursuing a similar jazz-flecked blues-rock sound in the late 1960s and early '70s, and Blodwyn Pig went in much the same direction with their sophomore effort, 1970's Getting To This, which featured both Abrahams' scorching fretwork and Lancaster's reckless hornplay up front in a set of songs only slightly weaker than those on the band's debut. Much as was the case with Jethro Tull, however, internal band dissent would force Abrahams to leave the band he formed as the other band members wanted to put Lancaster and his sax in the forefront. Abrahams would be replaced by former Yes guitarist Peter Banks and Lancaster would later change the band's name to Lancaster's Bomber.
Solo Years & Blodwyn Pig Revisited
The guitarist would form the Mick Abrahams Band with entirely new musicians, releasing his solo debut (A Musical Evening With) Mick Abrahams in 1971. Abrahams showcased his blues-rock chops on an underrated set of original material, again drawing comparison to Clapton. Lancaster would again join Abrahams and crew for the guitarist's second album, 1972's At Last. Although neither album would sell particularly well, Abrahams remained a popular live draw and he seldom lacked a paying gig. After better than a decade in the trenches, however, Abrahams tired of the industry and would semi-retire from music, but not before releasing Have Fun Learning To Play Guitar With Mick Abrahams in 1974, the instructional album out-selling all of his earlier work.
A short-lived Blodwyn Pig reunion in 1974 resulted in a few gigs and little more, Abrahams preferring to work a variety of odd jobs outside of the business. By 1988, the itch to play had evidently become overwhelming, and Abrahams formed a new Blodwyn Pig with former bandmates Pyle (who had been playing with Savoy Brown) and Bunker along with Korner/Mayall alumni Dick Heckstall-Smith on sax. A later line-up would record the well-received 1993 album Lies, a collection of soul and blues that eschewed the jazz-rock fusion of the band's past. Abrahams would continue to alternate back and forth between solo works and Blodwyn Pig well into the 2000s, releasing a number of new albums that would be joined by a plethora of previously-unreleased archival material from the 1970s.
Recommended Albums: Of the two Blodwyn Pig albums proper, I'd give the nod to Ahead Rings Out although both are worth your while. Mick Abrahams' solo debut is a fine showcase for the guitarist's underrated skills, while fans of early Jethro Tull may enjoy All Said and Done, a two-disc set that pairs a disc of straight-ahead blues-rock jams with a disc featuring an inspired re-making of Tull's This Was by original guitarist Abrahams.
Mick Abrahams & Blodwyn Pig - Select Discography
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With Blodwyn Pig
- Ahead Rings Out (Island Records, 1969)
- Getting To This (Chrysalis Records, 1970)
- Lies (Viceroy Records, 1993)
- All Tore Down – Live (Indigo Records, 1994)
- Pig In The Middle (Squirrel Music, 1996)
- All Said and Done (Shakedown Records, 2004)
- Radio Sessions 69-71 (Secret Records, 2012)