Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
In 1970, in Los Angeles, California there was change afoot, as the Flower Power generation seemed to be regressing, based on recent events in the vicinity of the City Of Angels.
Some months prior, a cult of vagrant criminals under the demented direction of Charles Manson, committed a series of nine murders in four locations around L.A. There was a very uneasy feeling permeating the counter culture’s communal habitats, one that would eventually find its way into the music and film entertainment industries there. That looming infiltration would gradually produce some of the best boundary-pushing examples of each medium, but for right then, that was a place on down the road.
Musician Noel Redding was coming off stints as the guitarist and singer for Fat Mattress and, prior to that, bassist for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Like the quintessential musician he is, Redding wouldn’t sit inactive long enough to gather moss. In short order, he and two other musicians, former Rare Earth guitarist and vocalist Rod Richards, and future The Gas/Stray Dog drummer Les Sampson, formed a band.
They took the rather simple moniker ROAD, not to be confused with a Dutch band using the same name and active at that time. The trio spent some time developing their songs, playing live gigs, and hanging out around the L.A. music and cultural scenes. Their plan was to record an album that year if possible, but this was put on hold when Redding’s friend and former bandmate, Jimi Hendrix, died in September of that year (1970).
Another full year passed, then in March of 1972, ROAD entered the Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles to record a debut album. Redding and Sampson were more than ready to get at it, having just participated in jam sessions that resulted in Randy California’s 1972 album, ‘Kapt. Kopter And The (Fabulous) Twirly Birds‘. The pair, along with Richards, producer Tom Wilson, executive producer Murray Roman, and engineers Bob Hughes and Doug Graves, recorded a 7-song, self-titled album.
Of its seven tracks, all were original compositions, but the song “My Friends” was initially recorded (though unreleased) by Redding’s previous act, Fat Mattress. This made the ROAD version the first published recording of the song, while the eponymous album it’s on saw release through the label Natural Resources sometime before the end of 1972. The record was not a commercial smash by any stretch of the imagination and promptly received some unfavorable reviews.
Time, however, has been much kinder to ‘Road‘, the one and only record from the trio of the same name. Over the years, people have come to appreciate its hard-edged take on heavy acid rock wrapped in fuzz. With all three band members providing vocals at times and each fully engaged with their instrument, ‘Road‘ is a truly underrated one album wonder. The trio disbanded not long after it was released, with Redding and Sampson forming The Noel Redding Band, and Richards going on to pursue a solo career.