Aloha and welcome back to Found Sound (29th set)
This week Highlight :: Steel Mill – Green Eyed God (1972)
The first time I heard Steel Mill, I was in a car full of dirtbags on the way to Kern River. My friends iPod was plugged in, and “Green Eyed God,” the title track off the band’s first and only album, popped up on the shuffle. The song opens with a gentle flute, then a steady drumbeat, both in a haunting tone, almost tribal, ceremonial. About a minute and a half in, a guitar picks up, and then a voice, singing, “Green eyed god in the midnight sun.” Nearly three minutes in, the song turns into a proto dream, with heavy riffs that just get heavier and heavier, until diminishing back to that opening drum and flute dance. The song is epic, in every sense.
Steel Mill recorded Green Eyed God in 1971 at Kingsway Studios – now De Lane Lea Studios – in Soho, London. The band, led by Dave Morris on vocals and keys, John Challenger on woodwinds, flute, and sax, Terry William on guitar, bassist Jeff Watts, and drummer Chris Martin, would only ever release their debut before fading to obscurity.
The album opens strong and confident with “Blood Runs Deep,” a standard hard rock track with licking riffs and a surprising saxophone that fits perfectly. “Summer’s Child,” my favorite, is softer, bluesier, with a hint of Tony Iommi in William’s chords. “Black Jewel of the Forest” opens like a Navajo war song and quickly escalates to a mesmerizing whirl with Morris’ vocals, pleading “Demons of the night I long to see you.” “Mijo and the Laying of the Witch,” another long epic like “Green Eyed God,” demonstrates the band’s ability to blend instruments and ultimately genres in one single piece. Green Eyed God plays like a kaleidoscope of sound, bright and dizzying and heavy, with elements of rock, folk, and blues all in one, done well in what was then an unprecedented way.
Despite touring with musicians like David Bowie and Tyrannosaurus Rex, Steel Mill never made it big. They never headlined a sold-out arena show like Sabbath or Jethro Tull. Their one and only album, originally released on independent German label Bellaphon Records in 1972, barely caused a ripple. Penny Farthing Records in London released Green Eyed God domestically in 1975, but by that time, the band had already parted ways.
Steel Mill was one of those immensely talented underappreciated bands that unfortunately got lost in the frenzy of the competitive music world back in the 1970s. Meager record sales, little name attention, and the bands’ ultimate dissolution all played roles in their short-lived career. In 2010, Rise Above Records, an independent label in London, unearthed Steel Mill and reissued Green Eyed God in its entirety with bonus tracks, unheard singles, and b-sides, all in a neatly plumped package. The original is rare and expensive, as it should be. But like any true gem, the hunt and discovery of a record, now reissued for your listening convenience, is equally rewarding.
by Maya Eslami
Listen to the 29th full playlist
1. The New Wave – The Evening Mist/Morning Dew
2. Night Beats – Satisfy Your Mind
3. Van Shipley – Jan Pahechan Ho
4. The Idle Race – Morning Sunshine
5. Giant Jelly Bean Copout – Awake In A Dream
6. Steel Mill – Summer’s Child
7. The Entrance Band – Fine Flow
8. Trap Door – °‡
9. Can – Turtles Have Short Legs
10. MC5 – Let Me Try
FOUND SOUND is curated by Matthew Correia.