If were probably one of England's finest jazz/rock outfits, alongside the likes of The Alan Bown, Keef Hartley Band and The Greatest Show on Earth, and even though they were not as large in terms of members, they were often referred to as England's answer to Blood, Sweat and Tears. They were formed in the late sixties by sax player Dick Morrissey and very underrated guitarist, Terry Smith. A septet of immense talent, they oddly enough didn't go down very well in their home country, although they were very popular in Europe and in the US, where they toured relentlessly. Their first two stunning albums, both released in 1970, are amongst the finest examples of jazz/rock ever commited to vinyl/CD, and are highly recommended. Later albums followed the same path, with 1972's "Waterfall" being a classic. In the early seventies, all the original members left the band, leaving Morrissey the job of putting an entirely new line-up together to record the band's final three albums. At this stage, he was joined by guitarist Geoff Whitehorn, bassist/vocalist Walt Monahan, drummer/vocalist Cliff Davies and keyboard player Gabriel Magno, and If's music took on a decidedly rockier feel, which, although quite different to their earlier style, suited them actually very well. After the band's demise in 1975, Morrissey teamed up guitarist Jim Mullen in The Morrissey Mullen band. Original drummer Dennis Elliot was a founder member of Foreigner.

If - Child of Storm, from "If 3" in 1971. Another great British brass rock/jazz outfit that could easily rival any of the US giants. If have been featured on The Dinosaur Days many times since we first started the show all those years ago and as a result, they've become one of the most frequently requested bands by listeners. This week, by special request, we have an imported copy of "The Best of If" to give away in the Dino Quiz (number 187). The band's roots go back to the late sixties when they were formed by sax players Dick Morrissey (J.J.Jackson/ Jimmy Witherspoon/Freddie Mack and Harry Smith) and Dave Quincy (Jet Harris and others) and guitarist (and a terribly underrated one at that!) Terry Smith (also Jimmy Witherspoon and J.J.Jackson). Initially, our three friends were joined by Spike Wells on drums, Lionel Grigson on keyboards and Daryl Runswick on bass. They were eventually replaced by Dennis Elliot, John Mealing and Jim Richardson respectively. Ex-Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames vocalist J.W.Hodkinson was also brought in. This was the classic and best If line-up, and they released their imaginatively titled debut album, "IF'', in 1970 on Island Records. "Brilliant!" - the only word to describe this band and their debut album. The album was a fitting tribute to seven very talented and gifted British musicians. The second If album, "IF 2", in the tried and tested formula, was just as good, and like its earlier partner, is quite collectible today. Which brings us to our featured album, which is very well represented on the giveaway "Best Of "album. This album was in fact the first If album to be released on the United Artists label, and it featured one of the best 70's-era jazz/rock tracks you will ever hear in "Fibonnaci's Number". If went on to record albums of a consistently high standard, always demonstrating excellent musicianship and songwriting. The rare "Waterfall" album (aka "IF 4", released in 1972)), was a masterpiece. "Double Diamond", with a totally different line-up, came out in 1973 too, but it was and remains their only moderately weak album. It was at this stage that the line-up changed yet again, with the likes of guitarist Geoff Whitehorn, bassist Walt Monaghan, drummer Cliff Davies and Gabriel Magno on keyboards joining sole surviving member Dick Morrissey in a new rockier/bluesier IF. Two final albums, "Not Just Another Bunch of Pretty Faces" and "Tea break's over ... back on your heads", released in 1974 and 1975. Not as jazzy as the earlier albums, they were still excellent, with some excellent vocal and drumming from future Ted Nugent band member Cliff Davies. When If finally split in the latter part of the seventies, Smith and Quincy went on to work with John McCoy in ZZebra, although Smith left after their debut album. Morrissey had linked up with guitarist Jim Mullen in the Morrissey/Mullin band. Drummer Dennis Elliot would go on to become a founder member of Foreigner. Hodkinson later joined Darryl Way in Wolf. If deserve to be fondly remembered- nobody makes music like that today, which is a shame. 
  

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Biography by Jim Newsom
If was Great Britain's contribution to the jazz-rock movement begun and popularized in the late '60s/early '70s by Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago. Formed in 1969 by Melody Maker jazz poll winners Dave Quincy, Dick Morrissey, and Terry Smith, the band never found popular success in the United States. However, If produced several albums noteworthy for placing jazz players in a pop/rock band context and producing a true fusion of the two genres without diluting the players' improvisational skills. Unlike most of their horn-band contemporaries, If had no brass players in the band, relying solely on the saxophones of Dick Morrissey and the flute and saxophones of Dave Quincy. But what really gave If its unique sound were the vocals of J.W. Hodgkinson and the guitar of Terry Smith. Hodgkinson's vocal timbre was unusual — smooth, flexible, and strong in the high end, sounding like no other vocalist. Smith's trebly guitar sound was also unique, combining a rocker's use of sustain with the jazz fluency of Wes Montgomery and Django Reinhardt. The original incarnation of If produced five excellent albums between 1970 and 1972, but these albums failed to find an audience. Morrissey soldiered on with the If name for two more albums with a totally different lineup and a more generic rock-type sound, but these, too, went nowhere. Drummer Dennis Elliott was later a member of the platinum-selling rock band Foreigner. 

 

Dennis Elliott
J.W. Hodgkinson
John Mealing
Dick Morrissey
Dave Quincy
Terry Smith

Freudiana
Sunday All over the World
Spock's Beard
Chris Squire
Nektar
Grobschnitt
Happy the Man
Eloy
Nucleus
Supersister
Greenslade
Ian Anderson
Starcastle

If you have any contribution to make to this band or something to add, email me - Japie Marais.

 

 

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Here are a list of websites for this band.  More...

 

 

If - 1970 - If 2 - 4/5

If - 1970 - If - 4/5

If - 1971 - If 3 - 3/5

If - 1972 - Waterfall - 4/5

If - 1973 - Double Diamond - 3.5/5

If - 1974 - Not Just Another Bunch of Pretty Faces - 3/5

If - 1975 - Tea Break is Over - 3/5

If - 1997 - Europe 1972 - 4/5

Rating

 

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