HEAD EAST – FLAT AS A PANCAKE: Southern-Accented Schlock Rock For The Arenas

This is a prime example of a group that trudged along in semi-obscurity for many years but managed to rack up one genuine classic of an album.  Head East was a journeyman arena-rock outfit that criss-crossed the country as a popular touring act during the latter half of the 1970’s.  Their sound is best described as a southern-accented variation of the AOR style that groups like Foreigner and Journey were popularizing around the same time.  They released a slew of albums during their major-label days but the one that fans of this stuff remember is their amazing debut, Flat As A Pancake.

The song you may know from this album is “Never Been Any Reason,” a song that Richard Linklater used in Dazed And Confused.  This classic rock radio staple that lays out the group’s strengths in full force  – full-blooded vocal harmonies, solid Southern-rock riffery & ensemble playing and a penchant for prog-style fanciness in the arrangements & keyboard licks.  In this song and on the rest of the album, the band pinches little bits of inspiration from everywhere – Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, the Moody Blues, even a bit of Grand Funk – but they synthesize these disparate influences in a personalized way (a defining element of quality schlock-rock).

Other notable tracks on here include “City Of Gold,” a synth-fortified rocker that works in a stunning and unexpected bridge of vocal harmonies against a mellotron backdrop, and “Jefftown Creek,” a moody Southern rocker whose unison singing shows off the group’s vocal chops to impressive effect.  Not every track is a standout like these aforementioned gems but each one harbors at least one nifty surprise in its arrangement – check out the way the keyboard player teaches his synth to sing the blues at the end of “Lovin’ Me Along” – and the album hangs together beautifully.

As a result of the group’s focus on carefully-crafted arrangements, Flat As A Pancake flows effortlessly from track to track and feels more like a best-of album than a debut.  It’s perfect car radio rock, especially if you are driving through the South… and take a close look at the album’s back cover – its ‘chomping on pancakes in a diner’ visual motif predates the similar, more famous shot from Supertramp’s Breakfast In America by four years (they were even put out by same record label!).

6 Replies to “HEAD EAST – FLAT AS A PANCAKE: Southern-Accented Schlock Rock For The Arenas”

  1. Never heard of these guys before. I’m really diggin’ this tune, though. I should check out the rest of the album.

  2. Definitely a hidden gem, was always one of those songs I would hear on the radio and wonder who the band was, until I did a bit of research. Interesting note, former lead singer John Schlitt was fired from the band due to drug use. After going through recovery and becoming born-again, he went on to lead Petra, one of the most successful Christian music groups ever.

    If you’re interested, another great band that really flew under the radar in the mid 70’s was called Hydra. They put out a couple really good albums, one self titled, and one called “Land of Money.” Kind of a marriage of Skynyrd and Free/Bad Company in my opinion. Never really had a hit which is a shame.

    1. Thanks for the tip. Martin Popoff wrote a great chapter on Hydra and their album Rock The World in his Ye Olde Metal: 1977 book. Their stuff sounds very appealing, I wish I could find it on CD.

  3. I grew up on “Never Been Any Reason,” but never knew the name or the artist until the DAZED AND CONFUSED soundtrack came out. Praise LInklater! I was a litle shocked when I realized the band was all dudes, as the dueling vocals on that track always suggested a guy and a gal putting the tease on each other.

    1. I love the DAZED AND CONFUZED soundtrack, both discs. On the “forgotten 70’s rawk” tip, I really appreciate that Linklater gave Black Oak Arkansas props by including a song from them on both discs.

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