The Action

Rolled Gold

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Review

The term "lost classic" is applied liberally and often erroneously to unreleased recordings that resurface years later in a maelstrom of hype. However, for the forgotten mod rock also-rans the Action, the term is not only justified, it is painfully bittersweet. On par with such classics of the era as The Who Sell Out or Ogden's Nut Gone Flake but more focused than either, the Action's Rolled Gold goes beyond "lost classic" -- it is the influential masterpiece no one was ever allowed to hear. Despite being signed to Beatles producer George Martin's AIR label and benefiting from a strong club following, the Action never scored a chart hit. By the time they recorded these demo tracks in 1967, the band had grown weary of the musically limited mod scene, which was on its last legs. Guitarist Pete Watson had been replaced by Martin Stone, and the band had developed a more mature sound, one only hinted at on such previous cuts as "Twenty-Fourth Hour." Prefiguring the coming psychedelic movement, the songs were epic, heartfelt, melodic socks to the gut that hinged on vocalist Reggie King's sanguine blue-eyed soul voice and Alan King's slabs of guitar harmony -- think The Who's Tommy meets The Byrds' Fifth Dimension. Unbelievably, EMI -- AIR's distributor -- was not interested, and the tracks were shelved. Subsequently, Reggie left the band to work on a solo album, and the rest of the group struggled on, eventually morphing into the short-lived hippie band Mighty Baby. Rather than bemoan what could have been though, you are left with what is. Playing like the brilliant missing link between mod and psychedelic rock, Rolled Gold is experimental without being silly or twee and emotionally mature without being pompous and boring. It is the type of album that reveals its brilliance within seconds of hearing the first track and builds momentum from there. Tracks such as "Something to Say" and especially "Brain" with Reggie pleading for immortality over a hugely anthemic chord progression are as good, if not better, than anything that charted during the late '60s and sound less dated than many of the Action's contemporaries' efforts. It's as if Paul Weller time-traveled back to 1967 and wrote the best songs of his career. Every track is a fully realized melodic and lyrical statement. While there is a roughness to the demo-quality recording, it only magnifies the raw emotions the Action were able to translate into timeless music -- music that deserved much better than it got. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi