Music Reviews: The Creation’s ‘Action Painting,’ plus Chicago, Richard Farina, and More

The Creation's Action Painting

Even if you’re old enough to have spent the British Invasion years glued to a radio, you may well be unfamiliar with the pop/rock group the Creation. Little-noticed latter-day reunions with assorted lineups aside, the original band’s career lasted only from 1966 to 1968, during which time they released just one album and a handful of singles. “Painter Man,” their biggest hit, made it only to number 36 in the U.K., though it reached number 8 in Germany. The Creation did develop a bit of a post-breakup cult following and have influenced artists ranging from the Who’s Pete Townshend to Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. But they remain largely unknown in the U.S., where their greatest claim to fame is probably that three of their numbers surfaced in 2001 on Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts from the British Empire and Beyond, a Rhino label box set.

Now comes Action Painting, a 46-song, two-CD collection that delivers far more of their work—every one of their studio recordings, in fact. It includes remastered versions of all their album and single tracks (some with new stereo mixes) and even four tunes recorded in 1965 by a pre-Creation version of the band called the Mark Four. Accompanying the CDs is an 80-page hardcover book that contains photos, original album art, track notes, and credits, plus essays that argue the group deserves far more attention than it has received.

“They were certainly as good as the Who and the Kinks,” says Shel Talmy, who produced both of those bands as well as the Creation (not to mention Cat Stevens, the Easybeats, and others). Tamly says his biggest regret is that the Creation “didn’t achieve the standing they should have. I truly believe they could have been as big as the Who.”

Though some of the material on Action Painting seems dated, there is a lot to like on this package, some of which sounds so reminiscent of My Generation-era Who that it could easily be mistaken for that group’s work. There are also enough psychedelic elements to recall the first Pink Floyd LP, and I hear similarities to such other acts as the Move, the Pretty Things, and the Blues Magoos. The original tracks feature inventive music and frequently excellent guitar work. There are also a few likable (albeit atypical) covers of 1960s hits like “Hey, Joe,” “Cool Jerk,” and “Like a Rolling Stone.”

As for whether the Creation were “as good as the Who and the Kinks,” well, they weren’t nearly as good as those groups eventually became. The Creation got off to an auspicious start, but unlike the Who and the Kinks, they didn’t hang around long enough—at least with their original lineup—to show us how much they could have grown. Might they eventually have produced something on par with, say, the Kinks’ Something Else or the Who’s Sell Out? We’ll never know, but this package is promising enough to make me wonder.

Also Noteworthy


Carol Noonan, Raven Girl. Richard and Mimi Farina’s 1965 album, Reflections in a Crystal Wind, inspired this one, which includes seven songs from the earlier record, among them its title cut and “Hard-loving Loser.” Also here are “Sweet Sir Galahad,” which Mimi’s sister Joan Baez wrote about Richard Farina’s death and his widow’s sadness and eventual recovery; and the classic “Pack Up Your Sorrows,” which Richard Farina wrote with Pauline Marden, Mimi and Joan’s sister. Noonan—a lovely singer who sounds redolent of Baez—does the material justice on this release, which features backup by an excellent six-member band.

Chicago II

Chicago, Chicago II: Steven Wilson Remix. Though derided by many critics, Chicago has long delivered a frequently noteworthy mix of jazz, blues, rock, pop, and even classical elements. Chicago II—the 1970 double album that includes some of their best and best-known work—has been previously remixed and remastered, but not quite to the extent that it has been for this latest reissue: British producer Steven Wilson completely rebuilt the mix, giving songs like “Make Me Smile,” “25 or 6 to 4,” and “Colour My World” new clarity and punch. Unless you own a high-end stereo and are a big fan, there’s probably not enough reason to replace a copy of Chicago II that you currently own. But if this platinum album isn’t already in your collection, the remix offers a new incentive to put it there.


Lowland Hum, Thin. Lowland Hum is the Virginia-based husband-and-wife duo of Daniel and Lauren Goans, who wrote all the songs on this harmony-laden third album. Their music is acoustic and their lyrics are poetic, abstract, and sometimes abstruse. (From “Palm Lines,” the opening track: “Lift up your face so the sun can shine on it / Frailty is a friend who makes you sleep until the morning / The valley is dry but a steady rain is coming.”) The songs are gentle and soothing, and at their best, they establish a mood that reminds me of such embryonic Simon & Garfunkel creations as “April Come She Will.”

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