Jan Dukes de Grey – Sorcerers
Often overshadowed by its follow-up Mice and Rats in the Loft, which would see Derek Noy expand his compositions into long, winding epics that pushed the norm at the time, there’s plenty to love in hindsight about Jan Dukes de Grey’s debut. The group was formed as an offshoot of Buster Summers Express, which Noy had been a member of before he began working on his own compositions, splitting to work on his own band in 1968. When approached by guitarist/flautist Michael Bairstow about joining the Express, Noy instead convinced him to form the new outfit with him and the group began crafting Noy’s expansive library of songs into an album, eventually signing with Decca.
Cue the usual tales of underperforming sales and poor distribution. While the band did well on the road, opening for Pink Floyd and The Who, the record was met with tepid reactions, which isn’t entirely fair. While its pretty standard hippie folk for the time, there are some notable inclusions that push them, if not to the top of the pile, past quite a few of the more revered stragglers. There’s a bit of an early Tyrannosaurus Rex warble in these tracks (apparent in the title track for sure) and Biarstow’s flute adds some lightness to the record. They’d change labels following the release of Sorcerers, putting out their seminal Mice and Rats in the Loft on Transatlatntic in 1971. The band then shifted lineups until the name wore away, replaced by the simple Noy’s Band.
Noy’s Band wouldn’t find much footing and eventually that too was disbanded. Not would go on to play in a proto-punk outfit, Rip Snorter before trying once again with Jan Dukes de Grey in 1975 with his wife, Fiona Deller and a rotating cast of mucians. Through connections with Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, the band obtained a production deal with Britania Row studios and put together their third and final album, Strange Terrain, which, through costing a small fortune to record was never released at the time. It was finally issued by Cherrytree in 2010, which brought a bit more light to the band among folk-heads at the time. Good to see the band’s early works getting the reissue treatment, though.
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