The Creation – Action Painting

Fans of the Who and the Kinks should take notice

The early singles of the Kinks and the Who are unparalleled for their raw immediacy.  Songs like “You Really Got Me” and “My Generation” are the building blocks for pretty much everything that came after.  Producer Shel Talmy, who had a large hand in creating those timeless recordings, also worked with the Creation, a band that never achieved the success of the previous two, but nonetheless, released some killer tracks, that rivaled the best of early British rock.

Numero Records has just issued Action Painting, a two-disc set bringing together everything this seminal band recorded during their early heyday, along with unreleased tracks and new stereo mixes.

Right out of the gate, the band’s debut single, “Making Time,” was breathtaking.  Crunchy guitar, soaring bass and aggressive drums, this should’ve been a huge hit.  It also features Eddie Phillips playing his guitar with a violin bow (something Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page would steal later on).  

Their next single, “Painter Man,” used the guitar/bow combo to propel the song, and was a big hit in parts of Europe. The b-side “Biff, Bang, Pow” contained the same groove as the Who’s “My Generation,” which had come out a few months earlier (and was also produced by Shel Talmy, it REALLY sounded similar).

But, a series of odd career moves halted any momentum the band had garnered.  First, original vocalist Kenny Pickett left and was replaced by Bob Garner.  Then, the band chose the ballad, “If I Stay Too Long,” as his introduction (it sounded nothing like their previous singles).  Much better was the psychedelic-infused  “Life is Just Beginning.” Marvel at the Herculean drum sound on “How Does it Feel” (here, presented twice, in the original UK mix and the US version, featuring strange sound effects).  The driving “Tom Tom” was another excellent single.

Just like other Mod bands like the Who, the Creation tackled R&B covers, with varying results.  “Cool Jerk” and “Mercy Mercy Mercy” are decent, if inferior run throughs.  Better is “Sylvette,” an instrumental version of Eddie Holland’s “Leaving Here,” which features searing guitar work by Phillips.

Disc two is for those who’ve already heard the Creation but want more.  It leads off with a pair of singles from an earlier incarnation of the band, then known as the Mark Four.  “Hurt Me If You Will” has a similar dark feel to that of the Yardbirds.  But it was the feedback-laden b-side, “I’m Leaving” which gained notoriety – the guitar solo almost sounds like avant garde jazz.  “Work All Day (Sleep All Night)” is an excellent rocker with a great, melodic chorus, while “Going Down Fast” actually could pass for a long, lost Bob Dylan track.

The remainder of disc two is shored up by brand new stereo mixes from original producer Talmy of virtually all key Creation tracks.  “Painter Man” sounds particularly good in a stereo setting, while “Can I Join Your Band” was really noisy in it’s mono form, here it really has a chance to breathe more.  It’s amazing how good these tracks sound after all these years.  The only bummer is that their best song, “Making Time,” is presented without vocals (those were added during the mono mixdown, a common practice back then).

The discs come housed in a hardback booklet, complete with an insightful essay and archival photos.

Mono mixes, new stereo mixes, alternate versions, plus the accompanying exhaustive booklet makes this the ultimate statement for the Creation.  For fans of early British rock, this is quite a revelation.  —Tony Peters