Music collectors will rejoice with the CD release of the legendary Natural Gas album featuring Badfinger, Humble Pie and Uriah Heep alumni. The Natural Gas album has been given the CD treatment by reissue label Renaissance Records in conjunction with ItsAboutMusic.com, who has an impressive back catalog of releases. Originally released in 1975 on the Private Stock label, the eponymous debut by Natural Gas featured Joey Molland of Badfinger, Jerry Shirley of Humble Pie and Mark Clarke of Uriah Heep and Colosseum.
"I went to this place called Blakes in London, which was a hangout for rockers," recalls Joey Molland. "It was a cool little place. One night I saw a friend of mine there named Mark Clarke, a bass player from Liverpool who’d played with Uriah Heep and Colosseum. We were just talking and having a laugh and I asked him, 'What are you doing?' He said, 'I’m going up to Jerry Shirley’s this weekend. I’m going to stay there and we’ll probably have a jam – why don’t you come with us.' I didn’t really know Jerry, but I thought it would be cool. So Mark calls him and Jerry says. 'Come on up.'
"We go on up to Jerry Shirley’s house – he had a lovely little farmhouse outside of London. We found out that day that he had just left Humble Pie. Later on that night we had a jam; I think it was Clem Clemson, Jerry, Mark, myself and there may have been one or two others. We had a lot of fun, just playing rock ‘n’ roll songs and blues songs.
"The next morning Mark, Jerry and myself decided to put a band together. We thought, 'Why not. But do we have any songs?' I had a couple of songs, which I played to them. One was called 'Once Again A Love Song' and the other was called 'Dark Cloud'. Likewise, Mike had a couple songs. We also got a keyboardist, a guy named Dave Kafinetti from the band Rare Bird. He went on to be the keyboard player in Spinal Tap. What a knockout guy!"
Kafinetti was replaced before the recording of the album by Peter Wood who co-wrote "Year of the Cat" with Al Stewart.
The Natural Gas album was recorded at Crystal Studios in Los Angeles and produced by producer Felix Papalardi (Cream, Mountain).
"Felix was really nice," says Joey, "a real sociable guy and talented fellow. As far as a producer went, we really wanted Mal Evans to do it. But the label wanted Felix Papalardi, the bass player from Mountain who’d done Cream and all that – the label wanted him to do it. Apparently Felix wanted to do the project as well, so that was that. I think Mal was pretty disappointed actually."
And what about a name for the new super group?
"I think Jerry Shirley came up with the name ‘Natural Gas’ – he was very into it. I never really suggested names for bands – I’m not really good at it. At the time in 1975, natural gas was very much in favor; it was the new clean burning fuel being more and more used. So it seemed like a good idea, and I guess it’s a cool name. It did suggest energy, which was what we were all about. The philosophy of the band was to rock out, you know what I mean…just have a really good time doing it."
The LP was released to critical praise from the music press worldwide. Natural Gas would support the album release with a major tour opening for Peter Frampton on his Frampton Comes Alive world tour.
"Jerry Shirley had played with Peter Frampton in Humble Pie and so they were obviously close," Joey recalls. "I’d known Peter myself kind of at arms length since he was with the Herd all those years before. So on and off, we’d cross each other’s paths. I think Jerry had been working with an agent who’d worked with Humble Pie – Frank Barcelona of Premier talent. He got in touch with them to see if they’d be interested in booking Natural Gas. They were at that time putting the Frampton Comes Alive tour together. They were able to get us opening slots on a lot of the shows – they did us that great favor!"
Unfortunately, Natural Gas's debut album would became the band's only release. Joey Molland would soon return to the Badfinger fold, while Jerry Shirley would go on to work with Fastway and eventually return to Humble Pie. Mark Clarke would find work with Rainbow, Billy Squier and Leslie West, while Peter Wood, who passed away in 1993, would later work with Roger Waters and Bob Dylan.
The Natural Gas album sadly drifted into obscurity and eventually would become a much sought-after collector's item. Now fans of Natural Gas can rejoice with the new remastered version of the album, which features the original album artwork and photos. Along with the pristine sound of the new CD is the addition of three unreleased bonus tracks. Never before issued in any form, two rare demos of "Little Darlin' " and "Christmas Song," along with a rocking rehearsal of "Christmas Song," is included on the CD, creating the ultimate Natural Gas collectors edition.