A Brief HistoryNeutrons was formed towards the end of 1973 and in theory could be considered to be an offshoot of Welsh band Man. The main fulcrum behind Neutrons were Phil Ryan and Will Youatt together with John "Pugwash" Weathers (Drums); Martin Wallace (Guitars) Ray "Taff" Williams (Guitars); Stuart Gordon (Violin) and Caromay Dixon (Vocals). The name of the group came from an original group Youatt and Ryan together with Clive John had, called Iorwerth Pritchard And The Neutrons prior to these three joining Man.
Will Youatt started his musical career with the King Bees in 1964, later joined Quicksand and eventually Piblokto in 1970 where he met up with future Neutrons members Phil Ryan, and Taff Williams. In 1972 Youatt joined Man together with Phil Ryan and though a trained guitarist, played bass on two of their albums, Be Good To Yourself and Back Into The Future.
Phil Ryan 's musical career also started back in 1964 with the group The Smokestacks, following which he joined highly successful Swansea band Eyes Of Blue who went on to win the Melody Maker Battle Of The Bands Competition. Also present in this band were, amongst others, future Neutron members, Taff Williams and John "Pugwash" Weathers. Ryan left Eyes Of Blue in 1970 to join Piblokto and in 1972 joined Man together with Will Youatt. However things between Ryan and leader Micky Jones came to a head and Phil Ryan announced he was leaving the group together with Will Youatt to form Neutrons.
Fellow Welshman John "Pugwash" Weathers joined the group for the recording of the first album. At that particular point in time he was still a member of cult progressive band Gentle Giant, whom he had joined the previous year. His stint with both Eyes Of Blue and Piblokto together with Ryan, Youatt and Williams made him an automatic choice as drummer for the first album of the band. Ironically Weathers would eventually join Man in the late nineties. Weathers also guested on Graham Bond's last album before his demise , We Put Our Magick On You, and for whom Dance Of The Psychadelic Lounge Lizards was dedicated. Bond also knew Ryan and Youatt since he had played the organ on the 1970 Piblokto album, Thousands On A Raft.
Ray "Taff"Williams also known as Cue-Tar (due to his strong accent in pronouncing guitar) started his musical career in 1964 with the Mustangs before joining Eyes Of Blue and Piblokto in 1970. Also involved with Neutrons was violinist Stuart Gordon whose previous rock musical experience was playing on the album Earthspan (1972) by The Incredible String Band.
Ryan, Youatt and Weathers had already been playing together and thoughts of leaving Man had already crossed their minds towards the end of 1973. Both Ryan and Youatt had had enough of the extensive touring that the Welsh group undertook to promote its albums and Ryan in particular was feeling stifled with the inability to fully express his musical ideas as they had to fit the Man style of music.
Living In the World Today and Snow Covered Eyes (both tracks would end up on the debut album) were recorded in November 1973 by the trio at Rockfield studios near Monmouth and played to United Artists A&R man Andrew Lauder who immediately expressed an interest in the group. This was the perfect excuse for Ryan and Youatt who immediately set about leaving Man to form Neutrons.
The second recording stint involved another fortnight of recording and took place in April 1974 at Chipping Norton Studios, and this time the group was fully assembled with Taff Williams, Stuart Gordon and other guest musicians. Amongst these musicians were Caromay Dixon, Martin Wallace and Dave Charles all of who would be permanent members of the band by the second album. Mixing was done at Olympic Studios in Barnes with the album released in September, 1974 as Black Hole Star ((United Artists UAG 29652; valuation with inner sleeve 15.00 BS). The single released from this album was Dance Of Psychedelic Lounge Lizard/Suzy And The Wonder Boy (United Artists UP 35704; valuation 4.00BS). Suzy And The Wonder Boy never made it onto any of the group's LP's.
There are some interesting notes regarding this album especially with regards to the album sleeve. As can be verified when one reads the inner sleeve, the original intent for the album was to have a gatefold sleeve illustrating the Black Hole theme coupled with the Neutrons logo designed by Rick Griffin. However, the end result did not fit the cover and could not be used. The demo copies of the album involved the record packaged in a silver sleeve and the group also possessed promotional silver stickers of the Neutrons logo.
Thus the whole concept was changed with the album packaged in a silver cardboard sleeve. In fact the inner sleeve credits the front and back cover paintings to Paul Whitehead (paintings which are non-existent) as well as an Inside photo which ended up being placed at the back of the sleeve. Only the Kevin Doyle-designed inside bag survived from the original plan, yet side two of the records has the original album number UAG 29651 cancelled out on the run out of the record groove.
Other details regarding the album are the inclusion of certain relatively and other lesser known guest musicians on the album. Looking through the tracks on the album, one can see that Feel has a certain Pique on hand drums. This is none other than Pique Withers who also played on the seminal Spring album, and would later surface under a differently spelt first name as Pick Withers as drummer for Dire Straits in later years. Furthermore, the backing vocalists on Going To India labeled as The Quickies, are none other than Will Youatt's former group Quicksand.
Less than a year later, in April 1975, the group released their second album Tales From The Blue Coccon (United Artists UAG 29726). Once again recordings took place at Rockfield studios near Monmouth during two sessions in June and November 1974 while mixing took place at Olympic Studios and Advision, London..
According to Phil Ryan the name of the album was a satire on the titles with which various other progressive outfits were naming their albums, most notably Yes with Tales From Topographic Oceans. In fact the album sleeves depicts underwater scenes. On the other hand, he was extremely disappointed with the Pierre Tubbs-designed cover as his original idea was to have a shot of hundreds of people in sleeping bags on the bottom of the sea or under the water. This idea came to him while he was watching the Woodstock film which has a helicopter shot of the field of people present all in blue sleeping bags, looking like cocoons.
The album also brought with it a change in line-up from the debut album. John "Pugwash" Weathers could no longer retain his drumming duties with the group and his place was taken/shared by Dave Charles, who had also guested on Black Hole Star, and Stuart Halliday. Weathers would eventually end up playing with Man (as well as Will Youatt and Phil Ryan) in the late nineties. Dave Charles' previous stints included playing with Help Yourself, The Flying Aces with Martin Ace and Deke Leonard's Iceberg. Also Stuart Gordon was no longer featured in the lineup, his place left void and thus the string effect lost from the album. Gordon would remain playing as a successful violin session musician till this very day with various artists such as Tori Amos, Peter Hammil and most recently with Peter Gabriel on the album Ovo:The Millennium Show.
However all was not well within the Neutrons camp. Though it was not apparent that Ryan and Youatt were having personal differences, they clashed over each others decisions especially musical direction. Whereas Youatt wanted to move in a more rock-orientated direction (something which he would do with his next band Alkatrazz), Ryan was content to explore that musical sector which the first album was immersed in. To further complicate matters, Youatt fell ill with exhaustion towards the end of the production stages and was not present during the mixing sessions. Inevitably some of the finished product was not what he quite expected it to be.
Further evidence of the friction between these two leaders of the group can be seen in the song writing credits. Whereas the first time round the two were involved in practically every song together, this time they could not even collaborate on one single track.
Shortly after recording Tales From the Blue Cocoons, the group hit the road but almost immediately were hit by the departure of Taff Williams whose replacement was Richard Treece, a fellow band member of Dave Charles in Help Yourself. However, this was the beginning of the end for the group and by the end of 1975 the group had completely disbanded.
Will Youatt formed Alkatrazz with former Quicksand member James Davies. Though they promised a lot, the group only managed one release Doing A Moonlight, yet this clearly showed the rock guitar-based direction Youatt wanted Neutrons to move in. Unfortunately a strange publishing deal that he signed does not allow him to use his name for any material that he wrote with Man, Neutron and Alkatrazz.
Phil Ryan started working on a solo album called Road Of Cobras but rejoined Man in 1975before it could be released. The Welsh Connection album featured many of the songs and ideas intended for that album. However he did not rejoin for the 1983 reunion as he continued to work with lyricist and former Piblokto leader Pete Brown. In the eighties he relocated to Denmark but joined up with Man in 1996 when invited to replace the sick Deke Leonard and has remained with the group ever since.
Following Neutrons, Taff Williams continued playing as a session musician, Caromay Dixon's musical career would not progress much further than a stint with Global Village Trucking Company on their self-titled 1976 album while Stuart Halliday played with Will Youatt in Alkatrazz. For David Charles, Neutrons was just a stepping stone for a future as a session drummer (Jeff Beck, Airwaves, Dave Edmunds) and as an engineer/producer (Jeff Beck, Judas Priest, The Charlatans, The LA's).
Unfortunately, this group which released some good music in the early seventies has not been given the credit it is due. They form an integral part of the Welsh Progressive/Psychedelic scene which was so very promising during those years yet much to my dismay they are practically untraceable both in musical history annals and within the recording industry. Suffice to say that till this very day neither of the two albums the group has released has been produced or packaged on CD.
Musicians: Phil Ryan (keyboards, vocals), Will Youatt (bass, guitars, vocals), John "Pugwash" Weathers (drums), Martin Wallace (guitars, vocals), Ray "Taff" Williams (guitars, bass), Stuart Gordon (strings, string arrangement), Caromay Dixon (vocals), Pique (Withers) (hand drums on "Feel'), The 4 Skins (backing vocals on Dance Of The Psychadelic Lounge Lizards), The Quickies (backing vocals on Going To India)
All tracks were composed by Phil Ryan and Will Youatt except for Feel (Martin Wallace), Mermaid And Chips (Phil Ryan, Will Youatt, Pete Brown), Doom City (Phil Ryan, Will Youatt, Martin Wallace, John Weathers). Will Youatt is listed as Y. Willis in the songwriting credits. Produced by Anton Matthews, Phil Ryan and Will Youatt
Engineered at Rockfield by Kingsley Ward and Dave Charles. Engineered at Chipping Norton by Barry Hammond.
Released in 1974,this debut Neutrons album clearly highlights where the most of the creative input to the Man albums, Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day and Back Into The Future came from. No wonder that the departure of both Ryan and Youatt caused a collapse (at least temporarily) of the Man band.
The album opens with Living In The World Today, one of two tracks laid down during the first recording session and features just three of the band members namely Youatt, Ryan and Weathers. The track blends the classic seventies progressive rock with a touch of fusion with what could be described as Hawkwind meets Amon Duul II, though Ryan's organ solo towards the end ensures that this track is in a class of its own.
Feel was the only track on this album penned by Martin Wallace who also tackles the acoustic guitar and lead vocals on this piece. In fact there is a noticeable difference in musical styles between this track and the rest of the album. An acoustic track without any instrumental sections, this track suffers from a sixties "Summer Of Love factor". Even drums are absent with the hand drums taken up by Pique (Pick Withers, later drummer with Dire Straits). Mermaid And Chips must have been a track written during the Piblokto days as listed in the songwriting credits is lyricist Pete Brown. Only Phil Ryan from the original members participates on this track and he shares vocals on this piano dominating rack with Caromay Dixon. Also involved with this track is Stuart Gordon who was in charge of the strings for this track which act as a filler to the piano and voices. A delicate track which however fails to leave a lasting impression as it runs somewhat in the middle between being a ballad and a progressive rock track. Towards the end of the track the momentum seems to pick up with the introduction of an organ while the vocals seem to multriply in effect with the introduction of harmonies, yet it somehow seems to lose its plot and become slightly repetitive and boring.
Dangerous Decisions, the closing track to Side 1 features what one could term as being the classic Neutrons linup, at least for this album. Ryan, Williams, Youatt and Weathers have a go at this rocker of a track which opens with a piano segue which gradually picks up in momentum to progress into a true progressive instrumental track. Synthesizer breaks lead the way on this track accompanied by the rest of the group producing a rhythmic backbone, until interrupted by Williams' wailing guitar which heralds a change in tempo as well as sound. Once again synthesizer intervenes to claim musical leadership till the end. An excellent way to close the first side.
Doom City opens side 2 with the track referring to Port Talbot. The track was a collectively written number originating from a jam with lyrics by Youatt and the introduction by Phil Ryan. The basic structure of the track is well set within the blues section, as can be expected from a song written during a jam session! Though the backbone remains within the R&B, the track is a good slow-tempoed rocker.
Dance Of The Psychadelic Lounge Lizards was the track used by the group as a single and is dedicated to the memory of the late great Graham Bond, who had died just months prior to the release of the album (5th May 1974). Of particular interest is the utilization of Stuart Gordon's violin playing alongside a psychedelic (as the name implies) piece of music. The sound at times is reminiscent of Gentle Giant (even though it is one of the few tracks not to feature Williams on the drums!) as the track delves into ear-friendly commercial territory to suddenly zoom out with a quick time change and almost discordant section. Most definitely one of the highlights of the album.Going To India opens with a grandiose piano/organ introduction coupled with some harmony to suddenly fall into an acoustic mode and of course the occasional musical diversion with various Middle Easter, influences, especially towards the end with the entry of the sitars.
Snow Covered Eyes is the second of tracks that the trio of Youatt, Weathers and Ryan recorded the first time they got together for recording purposes together with Living In The World Today. In fact they saw it fitting to open and close the album with these two tracks. Once again the style is different from what the rest of the album offers with the theme lending towards a more rockier style together with a lengthy and interesting organ solo.
Listening to this album one can realise were the creativity for the Man album, Be Good To Yourselves At Least Once A Day came from and thus it is not surprising that the departure of Youatt and Ryan from their ranks to form Neutrons almost caused a collapse of the band. On the whole this album is an interesting debut album which augured well for the future, yet for some reason is not available in CD format.
Musicians: Phil Ryan (Keyboards, vocals), Will Youatt (bass, guitars, vocals), Stuart Halliday (drums), Dave Charles (drums), Martin Wallace (guitars, vocals), Ray "Taff" Williams (guiatrs, bass), Caromay Dixon (vocals)
Songwriting Credits: Will Youatt (No More Straights, Come Into My Cave, L'Hippie Nationale); Martin Wallace (Northern Midnight), Ray "Taff" Williams (Live Your Lie), Phil Ryan (Welsh R Blunt), Phil Ryan/Martin Wallace (Take You Further, The Jam Eaters)
Produced by Dave Charles and the Neutrons. Engineered at Rockfield by Kingsley Ward and Dave Charles. Engineered at Olympic by Doug Bennett and Nigel Brooke-Harte. Engineered at Advision by Dec O'Doherty
The album opens with A Youatt track, No More Straights which picks up from where the band left off stylistically on Black Hole Star. The track in itself is a straight forward rock number with plenty of undistorted guitar work, almost delving into the psychadelic with a short vocal section followed by a lengthy instrumental piece.
Northern Midnight, a Wallace penned track, sees the appearance of Caromay Dixon who on this album takes up a more prominent role than on the debut. Vocals duties on this track are shared between Wallace and Dixon, much like happened on Feel, the only Wallace track on the debut album. Musically it seems that Wallace seems to prefer an acoustic based touch to his music as the track rarely moves away from an almost folky feel.
Come Into My Cave (Youatt) has the group returning to their blues-based rock coupled with tinges of psychadelia, as they once again show an amount of musical diversity with Youatt and Williams indulging in a lengthy guitar solo followed by a spacey keyboard solo. This album is one of the highlights of the album and features some excellent material that the group should have tried to consolidate on.
Live Your Life is Williams' first (and only) track on a Neutron album and is strikingly different from the rest of the material present on any of the two albums by the group. An extremely short track at just under two minutes, it was probably added in as a filler when the short length and lack of material for the album became apparent. It features just him on acoustic guitar accompanying Caromay Dixon on vocals. Her voice is a pleasure to listen to , yet it is out of place on this album with its folk touch especially when compared to what the group had produced so far (in musical terms).
The soft folk touch is carried over to Side 2 of the album with L'Hippie Nationale. However, the track does pick up halfway through with the introduction of more of a beat as well as Youatt's voice as he takes over lead vocal duties and tends to lead the band out of the folk rut it seems to be getting stuck into.
Take You Further is the first track that Ryan contributed to on this album, though it is co-authored with Wallace. It features a return to the style that is not too distant from that of the first album and one can immediately sense that Ryan's musical direction lay in a more experimental orientated mode than that of Youatt. It could be considered as one of the more progressive tracks on the album with a lengthy keyboard solo which is something that this album sorely lacks. In fact it shows clearly that the Ryan touch was absent from all of the first side of the album.
Welsh R Blunt (or The Dexidrine Dormouse) is a track that dates from the days that Ryan was in Piblokto and had also featured in Man's live sets but for some reason did not work out and was thus discarded. Ominously, Youatt does not appear on any of the last two tracks of the album, Welsh R Blunt and The Jam Eaters. This latter track is a totally instrumental piece with the group playing in a manner that was surprisingly absent from the album, especially after hearing the debut. A bombastic keyboard sound heralds the entry of the track which however is not as powerful as the introductory segment. Of interest on this track is William's handling of vocal duties with Caromay Dixon. The track progresses into an upbeat piece of music that almost verges on the Renaissance-style as guitars and keyboards duet away to David Charles' solid backbeat.
Possibly these last two tracks on the album were also the last to be recorded and for which Youatt was too ill to attend. However the total lack of musical collaboration between Ryan and Youatt as well as the lack of musical consistency present makes the album a disappointment when compared to what the album promised. Individually this album still makes a good listen, but from the progressive point of view it is the first album that should appeal to the progressive rock fan.
There is no official Neutrons website yet. Should you have any further information regarding Neutrons that could be added to this page, do not hesitate to contact me.