If you’re like me Thee Image are one of those bands that you may vaguely recall the name of in a “Pete Frame Family Tree” fashion, but nothing else, let alone what they sounded like. Information on the band must be hard to come by, for a goodly proportion of the liner notes are devoted to a potted history of Thee Image’s label, ELP’s Manticore Records with scant details pertaining to the band and their brief history. What we can glean is that they were formed in Miami in 1973 by former Blues Image, Iron Butterfly and Cactus guitarist Mike Pinera – ah, a name I’ve heard of! The band play a loose stew of blues, funk, soul, pop and rock, and produce a hybrid sound somewhere between late period Traffic, Little Feat and Dr John.
The first self-titled album, released in 1974, is a collection of tightly composed good-time songs, and the band has that American sunshine vibe you would expect given their location. For Another Day is a typical upbeat rocker with a nice barrelhouse piano break at the end. This is followed by a soulful piano-led ballad, and after that a white-boy funk workout including a wonderfully sinuous guitar break from Pinera. Those three songs sum up the band, and it’s all enjoyable stuff.
The funk continues into Love Is Here, where Duane Hitchings dominates with keyboard bass and a great synth break. The final track on the debut, Show Your Love, is an atypically sprawling synth dominated rocker which closes proceedings for the first half with the most dated-sounding outing on the record. Apart from that this is an album full of old-fashioned 12-bar ballads, Stax/Motown-influenced southern R&B, all steeped in unforced Americana and is certainly a fun time.
Although the debut failed to chart, sales were encouraging enough for Manticore to fund a follow up. And so a year later the band release their second album Inside The Triangle, a looser affair, more groovy and dance orientated, with longer instrumental sections wiggling their collective ass all over the shop. The funk tends to edge out the other styles, although they’re all still there. On opener Fly Away, drummer Donny Vosburgh gets the bongos and percussion out, Rebop Kwaku Baah style. The Traffic influence is all over this second album, not that this is necessarily a bad thing, as the two groups were contemporaries and at least Thee Image are not trying to recreate a sound form 40 years before their existence…heheh…I’ll put those acid drops down now.
With less focus on the song and more on the riff, Inside The Triangle would have been more of a party record than its predecessor, but has less hooks and so is less memorable. I.O.U.’s is a belter of a funk-boogie workout that should have been longer and probably was live. Pinera’s guitar break is scorching, and it has to be said all three of the band are great players.
Jamming on into the night, Good To You recalls Man from their funky Welsh Connection period, from the very same point in time – there must have been something in the air. The band take a well deserved breather on Alone With You, a tune with a very Winwood-like vibe that might sound cheesy in these modern “seen it all” times, but I actually quite like it in a nostalgic fashion.
Inside The Triangle suffered from a lack of promotion due to ELP’s waning interest in Manticore Records, and by 1976 Thee Image were no more. Pinera moved on to become an in demand session man and producer, as well as forging a decent solo career.
This gathering together of this short-lived band’s recorded output is a nice loose thread or two from rock’s rich tapestry, and a decent addition to the collections of those of us who because of our advancing years have become rock historians by default. “Nurse, where’s me slippers?…”
01. Good Things (2:53)
02. For Another Day (4:05)
03. Drift Off Endlessly (4:22)
04. Love Is Here (4:05)
05. So Hard To Say (3:45)
06. It Happens All The Time (3:07)
07. Come To You (3:02)
08. Temptation (5:13)
09. Show Your Love (6:43)
Inside The Triangle:
01. Fly Away (6:41)
02. Far Away Places (3:03)
03. High Time Feeling (3:39)
04. I.O.U.’s (2:35)
05. All Night Long (4:19)
06. Good To You (6:09)
07. Alone With You (5:08)
08. Rapture Of The Deep (1:44)
09. Nobody Wins ‘Til The Game Is Over (4:14)
Total Time – 74:55
Mike Pinera – Guitars & Vocals
Duane Hitchings – Keyboards, Keyboard Bass, Synths & Vocals
Donny Vosburgh – Drums & Vocals
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings/Manticore
Year Of Release: 2014
Info: Cherry Red Records