A Brief History
How can one best approach a band such as Delivery? In retrospect strictly speaking they are not what one would term as a progressive rock band in the general sense of categorisation. However when one really analyses the way the musicians approached and interpreted their music, then one could reconsider such as statement. In fact they are more akin to Big Brother & The Holding Company than other fellow Canterbury prog-rockers such as Caravan yet on the other hand their music does have a certain amount of experimentation and flair that goes beyond the routine rhythm & blues. More importantly they musicians that played with Delivery would go on to form an integral part of the Canterbury rock scene in later years.
The formation of Delivery harks back to the childhood of both Phil Miller and Philip "Pip" Pyle in Sawbridgeworth, Essex County. Music was always an integral part of their childhood and they grew up to playing together and by 1966 Phil (guitars), then still 17 and Pip Pyle on drums roped in Phil's brother Steve on piano and vocals together with bass player Jack Monck. Steve Miller had already started to make a name for himself in London as a session musician, and he introduced hi fellow band members to the music of artists such as Lux Lewis and Jimmy Yancy. The quartet was augmented by the addition of vocalist Dez Fisher and following several rehearsals, the stage was set for the band's debut at the Memorial Hall in Bishops Stortford. Their first band name was Bruno Blues Band.
The late sixties involved the British Blues boom and anywhere one went, one would find a blues band sprouting. Pip Pyle formed his own blues club called the Juniper Blossom Blues Club and by the end of that year (1967), Steve Miller had also formed his Ramblin' Jack's Blues Club. The bands that played at these clubs would one day form the cream of British rock with artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Chickenshack, Savoy Brown and Free all gracing the stages of these clubs. By the end of 1968, the band also underwent its first change in lineup with Dez Fisher replaced by Simon Leigh, who in turn did not last long within the band. However Leigh can be credited with one important factor to the Delivery history in that he introduced the band to veteran jazz saxophonist Lol Coxhill.
Coxhill was an important factor to the band as he introduced an element of freedom and improvisation to the band's music. Furthermore his arrival called for a change in name and the Brunos Blues Band became Steve Miller's Delivery, later shortened to Delivery. Steve Miller was also making a name for himself with veteran blues musician Alexis Korner and would go to Germany often to make TV appearances with the musician. At this po int in their history Delivery had already had the distinction of supporting blues legends such as Lowell Fulson, Eddie Boyd and Otis Span, as well as being a regular act at the legendary Ronnie Scott's. Another club that was frequented by the band was The London's Speakeasy Club, which also saw the band share the bill with Yes. Furthermore on October 22nd 1969, the band was playing on the same set as another group called Babylon. This band featured vocalist Carol Grimes who sat in for a few of the band's numbers and when her band broke up a few weeks later, she was invited to join Delivery.
Apart from her great vocals, Grimes also gave the band a certain amount of commercial value due to her contract with the Robert Stigwood Organisation who set up a record deal for the band. However recordings would not take place before there was one final change in lineup. Bassist Jack Monck left to join Ashkan and was replaced by Roy Babbington, himself nominated by Alexis Korner. Another blow to the band was the departure of Coxhill, who joined Kevin Ayers And The Whole World, though he did play as a guest musician on the album Delivery would record.
The band were signed by progressive label B&C Records who insisted on rushing the recording sessions. The pressure placed on the band as well as time constraints while recording was not conducive to an excellent recording atmosphere. Add to this the fact that recordings were made through independent mixes, a technique that did not ably translate the band's powerful live atmosphere, and one gets the one and only album that Delivery produced, Fool's Meeting.(The album would be also released on the Charisma label as CAS 1023, Value BS50.00)
Having said that the music on the album does offer a great example of progressive blues and rock. The gatefold sleeve design was by Grimes' then husband, and noted psychedelic artist Larry Smart. To add further insult to injury the release of the album was postponed by six months to November 1969. In the meantime various members of the band jammed or played alongside various other sessions such as Free (Steve Miller) and Centipede (Roy Babbington).
Thus B&C Records released Fool's Meeting in November 1969, and to aid in promotion of the album a non LP single (Harry Lucky/Home Made Ruin)(B&C CB 129, Value BS6.00) was released. As the band hit the college circuit to promote the album, criticism of the recording was favourable. However the band were finding enormous pressure from the corporate side of the musical business. A reference to coke in Harry Lucky led to the single being banned by BBC Radio 1 while the record company were adamant that the band become a vehicle for Carol Grimes and wanted to market her as England's answer to Janis Joplim and Grace Slick. The album was also marketed as Carol Grimes And Delivery! In all fairness to Grimes, this was something that she absolutely refused to bow down to as she wished to appear simply as a band member.
In January 1971, following a BBC Top Gear Session, founder member Pip Pyle left the fold to join Gong and he was replaced by Laurie Allan, an acquaintance of Steve Miller's from his stints in Germany. The band began to evolve in a jazz direction, leading to Grimes leaving in March of that year and Babbington following soon after, thus bringing Delivery to an end. (Babbington would join jazz legend Ian Carr in his band Nucleus)
However in summer 1971, Lol Coxhill roped in the remaining three members of Delivery (Phil Miller, Steve Miller and Laurie Allan) together with ex-Fairport Convention vocalist Judy Dyble to form the more improvisational inspired DC & The MB's (Dyble, Coxhill and the Miller Brothers). This lineup manage to last a tour of the Netherlands and the U.K., though shortly after disbanded with Steve Miller joining Caravan and his brother joining Matching Mole. The sound of Caravan would be changed completely with the addition of Steve Miller and tracks on the album Waterloo Lily, Songs And Signs, Nothing At All and It's Coming Soon, are all tracks that were written during his Delivery days and can be looked at as tracks that were never recorded by the second Delivery lineup.
This by no means was the end of Delivery. It is true that the band was effectively dead as a recording entity, however the band can also be credited as being instrumental in the formation of another legendary Canterbury band. In between Caravan tours, Steve Miller shared the bill on a Lol Coxhill album and on the same album Phil, Pip and bassist Richard Sinclair (Caravan) dropped by during sessions and played on the track One For You. On July 21st 1972, Steve Miller, Richard Sinclair, Phil Miller and Pip Pyle reformed Delivery to play at the Music In The Moat Festival at the Tower Of London. They played d a continuos 35-minute set consisting of One For You"/"Big Jobs No. 2"/"Finesse Is For Fairies"/ unknown/"Nan True's Hole"/"Shaving Is Boring"/"God Song. On September 29th, the same lineup together with Didier Malherbe (Gong) played in Brighton. However Steve Miller wanted to play a more jazz orientated style of music and left the band to join Coxhill and Allan for a series of European dates. His replacement was Dave Sinclair (Egg/Caravan/Matching Mole), and his addition also resulted in the formation of a new band and new name. Thus, under the suggestion of Mike Patto, Hatfield And The North was born!
Sometime in 1973 a BBC In Concert was organised and Steve, Lol, Phil, Roy, Richard, and Pip played together at the Paris Theatre. This was not to be the last time the band would play together. Unfortunately Steve Miller was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas and on June 28th 1998, at London's Vortex Jazz Bar, Mark Hewins, Eddie Prevost, Mark Sanders, Elton Dean, Fred Baker, Lol, Phil, and Pip played in various combinations with Steve before Carol Grimes and Delivery reunited for a set of old songs. Only two musicians could not make it to the benefit gig and they were Roy Babbington, who was on a tour, and Peter Lemer who was on holiday with his family. Unfotunately Steve Miller lost his battle to cancer and died on 9/1/98.
Tracks 1-10 recorded at Morgan Studios, London April 28th - May 2nd 1970. Produced by Roger Quested
Tracks 11-12 recorded live in London, late 1970
Track 13 recorded at Mushroom Studios, Chalkfarm, London, (probably) Autumn 1971. Engineered by Vic Keary
Line-up: Steve Miller (Piano), Phil Miller (Guitar), Roy Babbington (Bass, Tracks 1-12), Pip Pyle (Drums), Carol Grimes (Vocals, Percussion, Tracks 1-3,5-12), Lol Coxhill (soprano/tenor saxophone Tracks 1-8,10), Roddy Skeaping (Violin Track 2), Richard Sinclair (Bass, Track 13)
Tracks Composed by Phil Miler (3,5,7,10), Phil Miller/Carol Grimes (Tracks 1,12), Delivery/Carol Grimes (Tracks 2,6,8), Keith Jarret (Tracks 4,11), Steve Miller (Track 13), Steve Miller/Alfreda Benge/Pip Pyle (Track 9)
First of all one must add that the sole Delivery album, Fool's Meeting has recently been released by Cuneiform Records together with several bonus tracks. However one must also state that unfortunately much of what this band had recorded, has unfortunately been lost. Master tapes of this album have been lost as have also been the recordings of the band live at various concerts such ss the BBC Top Gear Sessions. Notwithstanding all this the label have managed to include two "bonus" tracks from the same recording session of the album, including the single release Harry Lucky that was unavailable on the vinyl edition, together with two live tracks and the track One For You from the Lol Coxhill/Steve Miller album sessions.
The album opens with the track Blind To Your Light, which with its running bass line conjures up a definite bluesy atmosphere thus confirming the record label's aspirations for Grimes' contention as a vocal ist to rival Janis Joplin and Grace Slick. However the saxophone playing of Coxhill together with Steve Miller's piano helps add spice to the atmosphere giving it a jazz touch alongside the likes of bands such as Colosseum. The live version of this track is played in an incredibly much slower pace with the guitar coming to the fore of the band's playing, something that was not too conspicuous on the studio version. The absence of Lol Coxhill on saxophone is probably the most plausible reason for this and it is up to bass and guitar to fill in his shoes. The slow bluesy touch is maintained on Miserable Man, though the pace is slowed down considerably (in comparison to the studio version of Blind To Your Light) and the overall sound of the track has its roots in the sixties psychedelic rock scene, with Jefferson Airplane a strong contender for inspiration.
On Home Made Ruin one can start to fell the progressive rock slowly creeping into the band's music. The first track that had Phil Miller as sole composer, the music sees the guitar coming to the fore to reply to the jazzy keyboard solo, though the striking factor of this track is the strong ever increasing rhythm and power with which it is played out. The alternate take of this track features a completely different overall structure with some delightful interplay between piano and guitar. With Is It Really The Same, the band start to take on the sounds that were pervading the British rock scene, namely via bands like King Crimson. Coxhill manages to infuse a raw energy into the band's performance giving them a much more raw rock sound, rather than the polished feel that many progressive and Canterbury bands would tend to follow. The live version has Phil Miller's distorted guitar carrying the load of the saxophone, though one must admit that there is a lack of broadness and harshness when the track is executed live.
Once again it takes a Phil Miller composition to bring out a more obvious progressive feel to the music of Delivery. We Were Satisfied is just one such track with a mixture of prog and psychedelia while tracks like The Wrong Time and Figuring It out sound more like a jazzed up version of The Grateful Dead with elements of R&B surfacing occasionally. The last track that was originally on the vinyl album was the title track, Fool's Meeting, which is a true bluesy number that once again re-evokes the Grace Slick/Janis Joplin comparisons with Carol Grimes' powerful vocals.
Harry Lucky was originally omitted from the vinyl version, but was released as a single to promote the release of the album. Of the tracks on the album it is probably the weakest of the lot featuring little of note, unlike the final track on this album, One For You. Written after the official demise of the band it was recorded during the Coxhill/Miller recording sessions in Autumn, 1971 ad could be considered to be more of a jam session than anything else. However it shows how the involved musicians had matured over the short period since their last official recording. The music had evolved from a broad blues style to a more improvisational jazzy approach, a sure feature of most Canterbury bands.
It is indeed a pity that both the album and the band have become mere footnotes in the history of Canterbury music. The album should prove of interest to all those who want to see (or hear!) how much of the British progressive rock scene evolved from the British blues sixties boom. This album is an important stepping stone for such bands standing somewhere in the middle of both genres.
This album has been reviewed previously on DPRP by Jerry van Kooten and can be accessed from here.
There is no official Delivery website, but the most authorative site (in my opinion!) related to the Canterbury Progressive rock scene is the Calyx Website.
Should you have any further information regarding Delivery that could be added to the site, do not hesitate to contact me.