Purchased, simply because I was flicking through the racks at Record Collector, took one look at the cover and declared that, regardless of the music it contained, I simply had to own an album called The Healing of the Lunatic Owl, Brainchild’s sole long player to date delivers. Then again when you have the combination of a band with that name, releasing an album with that title with that artwork, it was hardly going to disappoint was it?
Released in 1970, you only need to combine the album artwork, title and band name, and you’ve probably narrowed the styles of music down to hard rock or progressive rock before the stylus has even hit the vinyl. You’re not far from the truth, as The Healing of the Lunatic Owl is resplendent in its psych-prog finery, however you may not be fully prepared for Brainchild’s USP. At a time when progressive acts were desperate to underline their muso credibility by roping in a string quartet, or even hitting the studio with a full blown orchestra, Brainchild had their own horn section in the shape of saxophonist Brian Wilshaw and Lloyd Williams on trumpet, which combined with Harvey Coles’ elastic and exploratory bass work, dovetailing beautifully with Dave Muller’s drums, and you have the backbone of a progressive band who were oddly funky. Now given that over the next decade George Clinton would lead Parliament andFunkadelic in adding more and more prog rock influence in to their funk sound, it shows that Brainchild were on to something by adding funk to their prog rock sound. Sadly history does not recall if Brainchild ever shared a stage with Parliament or Funkadelic, but on the strength of The Healing of the Lunatic Owl, it would have been one hell of a gig if they had.
Sans the brass section, The Healing of the Lunatic Owl would be a serviceable psych-prog album, as Bill Edwards was a capable guitar player and vocalist, and Chris Jennings’ organ work is pleasant, if not cutting edge. As it is the playing of Williams and Wilshaw take the album to another level musically, and when you add in some surprisingly entertaining bass solos from Coles (spoiler – the surprise is that they’re actually entertaining), then you have a relatively unique proposition in the annals of progressive rock.
Sadly it appears that the music world wasn’t quite ready for brass-driven prog rock in 1970, and once again, history does not record how long after the release of The Healing of the Lunatic Owl that Brainchild split, or indeed if any sextet continued in the music business after they went their separate ways. However, it would not take a huge leap in imagination to see at some point in the future a film director lift a couple of tracks from The Healing of the Lunatic Owl to add to a soundtrack, for a wave of interest in Brainchild to come about, and I for one look forward to it when it does happen, because The Healing of the Lunatic Owl is an album that deserves to be heard by connoisseurs of prog rock and heavy psychedelia.