• “Borrowed Iceberg off Trev – absolutely brilliant”
• “Gonna get Iceberg”
• “Gave Iceberg back”
I know what you’re thinking … “that’s a BIG picture of the album cover…. he must REALLY like this one?!”
… and you’d be 100% correct
In fact, I’d go so far as to state that Deke Leonard’s “Iceberg” is one of rock music’s undiscovered classics.
It really was one of those albums that I could NOT stop playing after I first heard it. I probably gave Trev his copy back for fear of wearing it out, such was my enthusiasm for it.
Deke Leonard’s musical career commenced in the 60’s, his early years spent in such bands as the Corncrackers,and the Dream. In 1968 he joined The Bystanders and enjoyed hit singles with 98.6 and When Jesamine Goes.
When the hits dried up, The Bystanders’ record label changed the group’s name to Man and moved them into the ‘rock’ – rather than ‘pop’ – category, allowing them to now write their own songs.
The band released two albums for Pye Records; “Revelation” and “2 ozs of Plastic with a Hole in the Middle” before signing with United Artists and issuing a series of critically-acclaimed, much loved, but (sadly) underperforming albums, some of which have already been mentioned in this blog’s portals. (Here, here, here and here)
Deke left the band before the release of Man’s second album for UA, immediately signing a solo deal for the same label. He then come up with “Iceberg”
I think what differentiates Deke’s solo work from that he performed (before and after) with Man is his reserved nature about guitar solos. Where Man was all about long-winded jam sessions that merely (often) rambled, Deke’s guitar work on his own was short, staccato and often impressively stunning.
Researching links for this post yielded little by way of links to videos or full songs (other than illegal torrents) so its tough for me to review the album song by song… however, here’s a handful of highlights…
The album kicks off with “Razorblade & Rattlesnakes“, a true taste of what’s to come with the rest of the cuts. I think Deke has a pretty unique voice, but others have disagreed with me over the years.
“I Just Can’t Win” carries the lyric “Papa don’t like my music, he says it sounds like playing a bass. But I don’t care cos I like it that way and I do it just to see his face, its a grooooovy face…” which has never failed to amuse.
“Lisa” is an acoustic ballad accompanied by some phased violin and studied drumwork. Like “Looking for a Man” that comes a little later on Side 1, it seems to feature “just the right amount” of clever guitar work. Nothing too flashy, but just enough so you’re in no doubt about Deke’s fret skills.
“Nothing is Happening” starts off in the same acoustic vein as “Lisa” but kicks up a gear at the 1’30” mark to allow Deke to show off with a short – but classy – solo.
I believe “Hard Way to Live” was a previous Man stage favourite which Deke added to his solo canon. (Please note that the linked live Man version is VASTLY inferior to Deke’s own studio cut)
“Broken Ovation” has always felt the most “Man”-like cut on the album. It rambles like they were prone to do, but whereas Man may have extended it to a tiring 12-15 minute jam, Deke wraps it all up nicely in under five, contributing some beautifully subtle guitar work.
If I have a cut that I have grown tired of since 1973, “Jesse” is it. Personally, I have always felt it to be a little ‘out of place’ amongst much stronger (IMHO) songs. That’s not to say it’s bad – it’s not – more that it has not stood the test of time as well.
The album’s closer “7171 551” became a Man favourite when Deke rejoined the band, but – again – I have never heard – or seen – a live rendition that comes across as powerfully as his original studio recording.
For some apparent reason, I seem to remember that in ensuing years Deke suffered some kind of illness or injury which made him forget how to play the guitar, write music or sing songs. Furthermore, I’m sure I read how he had to teach himself everything again from scratch. The problem is, no matter how much I investigate this online, I can find absolutely no mention of it whatsoever. So either I dreamt it, I’m getting Deke mixed up with someone else or there’s a vast Welsh online conspiracy going on somewhere?!
Every time I write about Deke – or Man (featuring Deke) – I am reminded that he has two apparently fabulous rock biographies to his name; “Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics” covers his time on the road with Man during the 60’s and 70’s, whilst “Maybe I Should Have Stayed in Bed?” chronicles his early (pre-Man) years and is subtitled “The Flip Side of the Rock’n’Roll Dream”. Both are on my Amazon wish-list but sadly both are currently out-of-print. One day I’ll get to read them!
I implore any true rock fan to snag a copy of “Iceberg” if they happen across it somewhere. Maybe you’ll be lucky like me and have an album you can appreciate for life?!