Rod Argent - organ, piano, synthesizer, vocals; Russ Ballard- guitar, vocals; Jim Rodford - bass, vocals; Bob Henrit - drums, percussion
Following disillusionment over the lack of success and the subsequent 1968 breakup of the great British Invasion band, the Zombies, keyboardist Rod Argent and songwriter/guitarist Russ Ballard teamed up to form the progressive rock group Argent. As luck would have it, the Zombies' final single, "Time of the Season," had just been released in America and became a monumental hit. Reaching sales of nearly two million, and charting at #1 in Cashbox and #2 in Billboard, it soon became an international blockbuster. Naturally, this translated into huge record company pressure to reform the Zombies in order to cash in, but by then the decision had already been made, and all of Rod Argent's efforts were directed toward his new band, Argent.
Argent's self-titled first album received plenty of critical acclaim in 1969, but produced no hits. This situation was repeated when Ring of Hands was released the following year, although "Liar," a song from their first album, was soon covered by Three Dog Night and became a hit. A single of "Sweet Mary" was released from Argent's Ring of Hands album and seemed destined to become a hit, but was soon banned from US radio stations due to supposed drug references, postponing the group's success once again. However, during this time, the band was really jelling and discovering its own identity, with Argent and Ballard's writing styles complementing and strengthening each other. Their vocal and instrumental approaches were innovative and the group was touring successfully and building a loyal following. The group's future took a brighter turn upon the release of an EP which featured a seemingly un-commercial six-minute track titled "Hold Your Head Up," containing an extended organ solo. Alan Freeman, a BBC Radio One DJ, championed the record in spite of its length. Thanks to his relentless airing of this song and its gradually increasing popularity, the band's record label edited the track to three minutes and released it as a single. A 'Top of the Pops' appearance soon followed, which resulted in the song leaping up the charts in the UK, soon to be followed by similar success in the states. Released in long form again on the group's next album, All Together Now, they finally had their first hit album.
This 1973 performance, when Argent took to the stage at Manhattan's Palace Theatre to perform a set for a Don Kirchner's Rock Concert television show, captures the band shortly after the release of 1973's In Deep album. Featuring some of the greatest tracks from their hit album, All Together Now as well as key tracks from their newest album and a pair of unreleased (at the time) rarities, this partially televised performance would attract a legion of new fans in America.
Argent kicks things off with the hard rocking "It's Only Money." Expanded to nearly 11 minutes long, despite the recording beginning in progress, this features all of the progressive rock grandeur, as well as the excess, that often defined the band's live performances. Next up is the song that was most popular on FM radio at the time, "God Gave Rock and Roll To You." With a memorable bass and guitar line, an infectiously catchy chorus and some fine instrumental work from all, this Russ Ballard number would also become a moderate hit and was later covered by KISS. Ballard's "I Don't Believe in Miracles" is another particular treat. Originally recorded in 1972 by another ex-Zombie, Colin Blunstone, for his second solo album, here one can enjoy it by the writer, two years before Ballard would record it himself.
The remainder of the set focuses exclusively on live arrangements of material off the All Together Now album, plus a remarkable composition which was unreleased at the time. From All Together Now, Argent treats the audience to the dark and monstrously aggressive "I Am the Dance of Ages," the rocking road boogie of "Keep On Rollin'" and an extraordinary "Hold Your Head Up," that is far more elaborate than even the expanded album recording. The mystical adventurousness of the album version is stretched out to over nine minutes here and features some impressive improvisations, including the Star Spangled Banner surfacing in the middle. It's quite obvious that the group is thoroughly enjoying themselves. However, the most intriguing performance may well be the then-unreleased "The Fakir," containing a distinct Far Eastern flavoring, layers of compelling keyboard work from Argent, and a tour-de-force performance all around. Clocking in at a solid 13 minutes, this reveals the most adventurous and original aspects of this band at the pinnacle of their performance powers. This material was highly edited and of course in mono on the eventual television broadcast, so this nearly complete stereo soundboard recording is an important addition to the band's legacy.