Unicorn – Blue Pine Trees (1974)

FrontCover1.JPGAs the old saying goes, appearances can be deceptive. Yes a very hackneyed cliché, but often true. Take Unicorn for instance: signed to premier Progressive Rock label Charisma, produced by Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd (then basking in the huge success of Dark Side Of The Moon), liberal use of a mandolin and this record emerged to the general public in the great-coat high watermark of 1974. Could this be anything other than super-overreaching, meandering Prog Rock? Well yes it is. If I am being totally honest, I felt a mixture of relief and disappointment at this. Relief because for me some Prog can be taxing in the extreme, disappointment as in the correct dosage it can remarkable listening in its insane over-ambition and sheer audacity. But let us accept and appreciate Blue Pine Trees for what it actually is, rather than what it clearly is not.

Before I heard this new version of Blue Pine Trees I knew next to nothing about Unicorn, bar some wild guessing they were some sort of early ’70s hairy bunch, but it turns out they have an interesting and diverting backstory (most of which, I’ll hold my hands up, I have cribbed from Malcolm Dome’s excellent sleeve-notes). Beginning as a skiffle band called the Senders in the early ’60s, they had a spell in the latter part of the decade backing heartthrob Billy J Kramer after he had been deserted by the Dakotas and also operated in their own right as the Late.


Finally a year into the new decade they became known as Unicorn at their record label Transatlantic’s insistence and released their debut album Uphill All The Way for which this album was the belated follow up. The band’s line up at this point was Ken Baker on guitar and vocals, Kevin Smith on lead (and that mandolin!) plus a rhythm section of Pete Perryer and Pat Martin.

Having spluttered on at length about what Blue Pine Trees is not, let us concentrate here on what music Unicorn did provide us with on this album. For a start, there is a big Country music influence going on here, but far more like the Country Rock the Byrds experimented with at length towards the end of their original tenure. The twist here though is that the singing of Unicorn (they had fine voices and could sing harmony) was very English sounding, taking the songs imbued with this uniquely US sound somewhere else entirely. They also had a great deal in common with Slim Chance, far more than any Prog behemoths. Of course if you’re resembling in any way Ronnie Lane’s team that can only be a good thing.


Electric Night is one of those evocative, dreamlike drifters that “the Chance” made a fine art of, but it’s far from a carbon copy and whilst The Farmer is not The Poacher, it is one catchy old hoe-down. But it is carefree Country Rock that truly defined them. Just Wanna Hold You is a lovely ballad in that mode, both sad and touching and the nippy Sleep Song is an excellent example of Unicorn’s strengths in smoky C&W. There’s even a hint of CCR on Holland that gets as close to chooglin’ as a UK band could.

When not indulging in Home Counties And Western or some raggle-taggle Folk Rock Unicorn favoured a restrained approach which had a lot of parallels with low-key indie bands of say 20 years later. This LP does in fact sound pretty up to date to these ears. In The Gym puts me in mind of something in the same sort of area as 10cc or even Beautiful South (I would have to say Unicorn are for me far superior to BS though), wordy, witty Pop music.


The Ooh Mother single that is among the bonus tracks relies and makes a virtue of the band’s vocal prowess within a complex arrangement. But Nightingale Crescent is the true ace in the pack on this collection for me – a magical take on the kind of kitchen-sink soap-opera the Kinks/Hollies specialised in, there’s even a bit of Badfinger in there plus a Adlittle of Needles And Pin” – mixing Proto-Power Pop, song story-telling and even a little Prog finally to great effect! It is wonderful.

As a footnote, during the recording of this album the band’s tour manager got bass player Pat Martin and drummer Peter Perryer to record with his mate’s young sister and as a result Dave Gilmour got to know about it too.

You’re probably ahead of me already – that 15 year old turned out to be Kate Bush and one of the songs they recorded with her ended up as the flip to the Army Dreamers single, which to her great credit she saw the Unicorn twosome alright royalties-wise even after the six year time-lapse between recording and release.

Unicorn, despite their outward stylistic trimmings, plainly knew the value of a good tune and stuck to what they felt was right by ignoring fleeting trends. Though perhaps a better fit for the then thriving Pub Rock circuit where the brand leaders Brinsley Schwartz were doing something not entirely dissimilar, their take on Country Folk Rock has stood the test of time really well and rather better than the vast majority of outfits seemingly more in tune with the zeitgeist. (by Ian Canty)


Kenny Baker (guitar, keyboards, vocals)
Pat Martin (bass, vocals)
Pete Perrier (vocals, drums)
Kevin Smith (guitar, mandolin)
David Gilmour (pedal steel-guitar)


US front + backcover

01. Electric Night (Baker) 4.58
02. Sleep Song (Baker) 4.59
03. Autumn Wine (Smith/St.John/Waters) 3.04
04. Rat Race (Smith/St.John/Waters) 4.24
05. Just Wanna Hold You (Baker) 5.08
06. Holland (Baker) 3.28
07. Nightingale Crescent (Baker) 3.37
08. The Farmer (Baker) 3.33
09. In The Gym (Baker) 5.29
10. Blue Pine Trees (Baker) 3.49
11. Ooh Mother (Baker) 3.57
12. Volcano (Baker) 3.18
13. The Ballad Of John And Julie (BBC Session 1974) (Baker) 4.52
14. Bog Trotter (Baker) 4.53
15. Ooh Mother (single version) (Baker) 2.46
16. I’ll Believe In You (The Hymn) (Baker) 3.36
17. Take It Easy (Baker) 2.43



Unicorn – One More Tomorrow (1977)

FrontCover1And this is the story of Unicorn:

Fans of rock music from the 1970s may remember Unicorn, a local band, that made some great albums, but unfortunately never had the fame they justly deserved.

Unicorn’s bass player was Pat Martin, who grew up in Send. In 1963 he began making music with Ken Baker, a friend from St Bede’s School, in Send. During the summer holidays Pat would ride his bike from his home to Ken’s house in Ockham with his guitar. They then both plugged into a home-made amplifier that Ken’s uncle had made.

Pat says: “My dad thought that if continued to pursue my love of beat music, it might keep me away from what he termed ‘the yobs’ he said I was mixing with.

“He bought us some better equipment, became our manager and we soon recruited a drummer, Pete Perryer.”



The band was originally called the Senders. They then became the Pink Bears, later changing their name to the Late. They played many gigs in and around the local area and not long after they had left school aged 17, they were performing as a living. In the early days various members came and went, including, Trevor Mee. He was a gifted guitarist, so Pat switched to playing bass guitar.

Other gigs Pat recalls playing with his band include the Stereo club that was above the Co-op store in Woking. He says: “We got a gig there as a replacement to another band. I don’t think it was a licensed premises, but there was a lot of good beat and rhythm ’n’ blues bands who played there.”


Not only did Pat and his bandmates play at Woking’s famous Atalanta club, he saw many other bands there – some of whom are now legendary. He says: “I saw the Who, the Turtles, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Graham Bond Organisation, and Cream, who were playing their second-ever gig when I saw them there.”

Atalanta owner Bob Potter managed Pat’s band the Late for three years. Pat recalls: “We did an audition for him and he liked us as we sounded like the Hollies. We were signed to him from 1967 to 1969. He had a studio in Mytchett and when we had some free time we recorded some demo tapes there.

The Late

“Under his management we got gigs from Hampshire down to Cornwall and up to North Wales. We never made much money, but it was great fun.”

The band rehearsed in Pat’s dad’s garage, which he had converted into a studio for them. They called it The Shed. Some recordings they made in it, have now been released on CD.

After a while their bookings for gigs slowed up, but they were lucky in that they became singer Billy J Kramer’s backing band. It was regular money, but they quit after about nine months as the routine of playing a medley of all of Kramer’s hits every day became somewhat tiresome.

By this time band member Ken Baker was writing his own songs and they got a break when Transatlantic Records offered them a deal. Now named Unicorn, the album was titled Uphill All The Way and was released in 1971.


Their style was soft rock with a country tinge plus lots of vocal harmonies. Gigs took them to countries in Europe such as Sweden and Italy where they were well received.

In 1973, David Gilmour, the guitarist in the world famous rock band Pink Floyd took Unicorn under his wing and the results were the albums Blue Pine Trees (released in 1974), Too Many Crooks and Unicorn2 (both released in 1976) and One More Tomorrow (1977).


Pat recalls this as an exciting time as they toured the USA, playing support to such bands as Fleetwood Mac, Manfred Man’s Earthband, Billy Joel and Linda Ronstadt. Unfortunately, Unicorn never made it big in their own right and by 1977 the emergence of punk music meant only the biggest country-soft rock bands could survive.

Unicorn played its last gig that year in Canning Town, London, to an audience that was so small the band cut the performance short.

After driving lorries for a living and also driving a mobile library bus for a while, Pat has now retired, but music is in his blood and he still plays. (by David Rose)


77’s One More Tomorrow proved to be the final Unicorn album. Capitol Records issued it first in the U.S., before Harvest brought it home to the U.K. in early 1978. While David Gilmour returned to helm the album, the record label also brought in Muff Winwood. Muff had played with his younger brother Steve in the Spencer Davis Group before transitioning into an A&R role at the Island and CBS labels. Winwood was enlisted by EMI (parent of Harvest and Capitol) to add a commercial sheen to the album. (The cover, a departure from the Hipgnosis-designed sleeve for Crooks reflected this as well.) Winwood recorded four tracks with the band which would supplement the Gilmour sessions, and in fact, his quartet of productions was selected to lead off the LP.


Hoping for a hit, Winwood brought along a pair of songs from outside writers – the first time Unicorn had recorded non-original material since the band’s debut. Covering John Fogerty’s CCR (“Have You Ever Seen the Rain”) and Eagles pal Jack Tempchin (“Slow Dancing,” a contemporary hit for Johnny Rivers in 1977), Unicorn nonetheless sounded comfortable. Muff also helmed two Ken Baker songs – the catchy, upbeat “New Shoes” and smooth, ironic “Get Along Fine.” Surprisingly, Winwood’s productions fit snugly on the album with Gilmour’s; “The Night,” like “Get Along Fine,” would reside comfortably on a so-called “yacht rock” playlist. The SoCal-inspired country-rock of Crooks wasn’t abandoned entirely, cropping up on songs like “Eric,” “The Way It Goes” and the jaunty, breezy “British Rail Romance.”


The Byrds’ influence is keenly felt on title track “One More Tomorrow,” with Baker adopting a natural drawl for his rueful lyrics. Baker’s bandmate Kevin Smith teamed with Roy St. John to pen the atmospheric “Magnolia Avenue.” One More Tomorrow was elegantly-crafted soft rock with impeccable musicianship guided, in large part, by David Gilmour’s deft and organic production touch, but like its predecessor, it failed to make a chart impact. After a brief parting of the ways between Baker and his bandmates, resulting in a handful of singles, Unicorn quietly broke up. The bandmates went their separate ways, though all remained involved in music, in one capacity or another.

This edition adds the non-LP B-sides “Give and Take” and “Nothing I Wouldn’t Do” plus three demos, and two performances from the same December 1975 radio session.


Ken Baker (vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboards)
Pat Martin (bass, vocals)
Peter Perrier (drums, percussion, vocals)
Kevin Smith (guitar)
Howie Casey (saxophone on 10.)
Bill Livsey piano on 03., 04.)
Chris Pidgeon (keyboards, percussion on 03., 04.)

AlternateFront+BackCoverAlternate front + back cover

01. Have You Seen The Rain (Fogerty) 3.11
02. New Shoes (Baker) 3.02
03. Slow Dancing (Tempchin) 3.33
04. Get Along Fine (Baker) 3.29
05. British Rail Romance (Baker) 3.10
06. Eric (Baker) 4.19
07. One More Tomorrow (Baker) 3.14
08. So Hard To Get Through (Baker) 3.42
09. I’m Alright (When I’m With You) (Baker) 2.48
10. The Night (Baker) 4.29
11. The Way It Goes (Baker) 3.53
12. Magnolia Avenue (Smith/St.John) 3.26
13. Nothing I Wouldn’t Do (Single B-side) (Baker) 4.51
14. Give & Take (Single B-side) (Baker) 3.54