A Selection Of Curious & Interesting CDs
Aside from the steady stream of Bert Jansch reissues, the Andy Roberts anthology and the forthcoming Pentangle 4CD box set (for all of which, see elsewhere on this site) here’s a few other releases I’ve been involved in recently: sleeve-note writing and, in all cases bar Alison O’Donnell’s all-new album, compiling. I’ve no doubt all available somewhere online. All heartily recommended, of course.
Alison O’Donnell & Isabel Ni Chuireain – Mise Agus Ise (Myself & Herself)
One of the two legendary ex-vocalist/writers from ‘70s Irish prog/folk/rock ensemble Mellow Candle, Alison asked both me and writer John O’Regan – unashamed fans of her stuff – to write some kind of endorsement for her first album of original material in years. Track it down – it’s terrific…
Skid Row – Live And On Song (Hux, 2006)
I promised Brush Shiels, when I interviewed him for Irish Folk, trad & Blues: A Secret History that I’d see what I could do about unearthing some BBC recordings of his mythic 1969-71 band Skid Row, featuring Gary Moore on lead guitar. As ever, Brian O’Reilly at Hux Records was up for a bit of arcanery and though the BBC only retained one (completely frenzied) BBC In Concert half-hour on the band, we added their four incredibly rare singles sides released on Dublin’s Song label in 1969 – one of which features Phil Lynott’s first ever vocal recording. Hence the punning title of the compilation. Brush and drummer Noel Bridgeman contribute vintage pics. Of course, as soon as it was manufactured someone contacted Brian saying he had a fabulous recording of a 1971 BBC studio session for Sounds Of The Seventies. Looks like a sequel might be on the cards…
Sweeney’s Men – The Legend Of Sweeney’s Men (Castle, 2005)
A long-plotted projct this one – a 2CD set featuring everything released by the hugely influential Irish folk/embryonic folk-rock group, namely two albums, four non-album single tracks and various covert appearances on showband singles spanning 1966 – 69. It also follows various threads from the group during the early ’70s – Johnny Moynihan recording ‘Willy O’Winsbury’ with Anne Briggs for example, and Gay & Terry Woods shortly after the group’s demise recording Sweeney-related material with Steeleye Span and The Woods Band. Also featured is the classic 1976 recording of Andy Irvine’s mesmerising 1968 song (written shortly after leaving the group to bum around the Balkans) ‘Autumn Gold’ and his 1990s musical memoir of the Sweeney’s era ‘My Heart Tonight’s In Ireland’. just about the only period oddity we couldn’t find to licence in was Skid Row’s ludicrously rare 1969 single ‘New Places, Old Faces’, featuring Johnny Moynihan on tin whistle. But, as the Skid Row set above demonstrates, it didn’t escape the net for long…
Dave Swarbrick – It Suits Me Well (Castle, 2004)
I’ve never interviewed Dave Swarbrick, fiddler/vocalist with my favourite Fairport Convention line-up (the ‘Full House line-up’, circa 1970), but I annotated and compiled this 2CD set using previously published interviews, chiefly Karl Dallas’ 1981 Melody Maker piece on the man. Disc 1 draws on Dave’s four albums for the Transatlantic label 1976-83 (Swarbrick, Swarbrick 2, Smiddyburn and Flittin’) and brings together all of the tracks from those albums which feature Martin Carthy and the surreptitious Full House band reunion; Disc 2 comprises two previously unavailable BBC broadcasts of Dave’s bands from the 1980 and 1984 Cambridge Folk Festivals.
Davy Graham – Godington Boundry (President, 2004)
I’d previously annotated Castle’s expanded reissue of Davy’s first album, The Guitar Player, notable for featuring the results of an email exchange with Bob Monkhouse – one of Davy’s early champions. That sleeve note, though lengthy, reused a lot of material from my previous writings on Davy (in Mojo, Record Collector and Kay Thomson‘s DG fanzine Midnight Man), but the enthusiasm of Sam(antha) Czerpanski, in charge of veteran label President’s reissue programme at the time, nudged me into going an extra mile with this one – a reissue of Davy’s last album, first released in 1971, from what might be termed his heyday. I drew on Karl Dallas’ two 1970 Melody Maker interviews with Davy but was delighted to track down in time a previously untapped, as far as I’m aware, 1975 interview from Guitar magazine by Ralph Denyer. Sam also unearthed some additional photographs from the recording sessions and while there were no bonus tracks, the remastered sound was superior to the album’s previous outing on CD. A satisfying project to be involved in – and delightful to find out that Sam was a pal of ex-Atomic Rooster vocalist Pete French. Which leads me to…
Atomic Rooster – In Hearing Of… Deluxe Expanded Edition (Castle, 2004)
This is one of six Rooster albums I compiled and annotated for Castle aka Sanctuary. It all started because I was increasingly fed up with the same brief encyclopedia entry being rehashed on one shoddy Rooster compilation after another. Two of the group – most significantly their pianist/chief writer and visionary Vincent Crane – and nobody was fighting their corner in terms of honouring and making available their recorded legacy in a way that might be appreciated in the CD era. Bar owning a few compilations and a battered vinyl copy of the amazing In Hearing Of (the third of their five albums from the band’s original existence of 1969-73) I didn’t know much about the band, so set about sourcing and buying as much vintage press material on them as possible and tracking down reference copies of foreign vinyl oddities, such as the US-only single version of their UK hit ‘Devil’s Answer’ which featured In Hearing Of vocalist Pete French replacing its original (by then sacked) vocalist John Cann. The first release in what turned out to be a series was the 2CD compilation Heavy Soul (Castle, 2001), featuring a 6000 word band history based on vintage press interviews and a painstakingly reconstructed chronology of tours and line-up changes – something Rooster seemed to specialise in. This was followed by expanded versions of their five 1969-73 albums proper, including B-sides, BBC radio session tracks and alternate mixes/foreign releases where appropriate. I interviewed a few Rooster survivors – one per album – and in the case of In Hearing Of… it was the fabulous Pete French – lovely bloke, huge talent, massively under-rated. Pete had previously been the driving force in Leaf hound – a Zeppelin-ish early ‘70s act which recorded one now legendary album, Growers Of Mushroom. I interviewed Pete a couple of years later for a Mojo ‘Buried Treasure’ feature on the album – now available in remastered, expanded form from repertoire Records. Better still, Pete has formed a new version of Leafhound and at the time of writing (May 2006) has a new album in the can – including a new version of the classic opening cut from his sole album with Rooster, ‘Breakthrough’. I have a feeling it’ll be blistering…
Pentangling – The Collection: Pentangle * John Renbourn * Bert Jansch (Castle, 2004)
A no-frills 3CD compact slip-cased set offering a great value introduction to the band and its two simultaneously-solo-artist guitarists, with one disc apiece to the group (1968-72), to John (1965-73) and to Bert (1965-73) – sampling all of their album releases during those periods, including a couple of non-album single tracks. Also useful, in utilising the 2000+ remastered versions of all the tracks, to anyone wondering whether to replace their vinyl or indeed previous CD versions. Go on, you know it makes sense!
Gordon Giltrap – The River Sessions (River Records, 2004)
River Records own the archive of the defunct Radio Clyde, and aside from unearthing an incredible 1974 Glasgow concert by Bert Jansch (also released under the slightly under whelming River Sessions title) they turned up this fabulous, and fabulously recorded, 1979 performance by acoustic instrumentalist Gordon Giltrap, touring at the time with a one-off trio. For my money it’s the best, purest, most exciting and most fun example of Gordon’s art on one disc – all the better for being captured on tape almost candidly (if Gordon ever knew it was being recorded, he’d certainly forgotten all about it). I was involved in River getting hold of Gordon for approval in releasing the concert and Gordon was keen for me to interview him and write the notes – and I was, of course, happy to oblige.
David Gates – The David Gates Songbook (Jive, 2002)
A bit of an odd one for me, this – not in terms of the artist, of whom I’m a big fan, but rather in the label being a subsidiary of a major and the album being quite a prominent release, featuring several specially recorded new tracks alongside Bread and Gates solo classics and accompanied by promotional radio and TV appearances in the UK from the man himself. I’d interviewed David for Mojo and Record Collector before, during the ‘90s, and I suppose the label tracked me down on that basis. I touched base with David during the process of writing the notes – short and sweet, at the label’s request, rather than the multi-thousand word Harper epics I seem to foist on everyone else – and also the press biog material. It’s quite odd watching Richard & Judy interviewing someone on a sofa using anecdotes/info you’ve compiled in their questions. But then, for me, it’s quite odd watching Richard & Judy at all… During the promo campaign David appeared in a live Radio 2 outside broadcast from a bar in Belfast of all places and I managed to stop him in a corridor between his 10 minute stage spot and a waiting limo, to say ‘Hello, nice to meet you, I’m the guy who did the sleeve notes on the record…’ Alas, my brief interruption was enough time for a horde of veteran Bread fan women to surround him and impede any further thoughts of speedily exiting the building. David was clearly bewildered. Slightly embarrassed, I quickly disappeared…
Duffy Power – Sky Blues: Rare Radio Sessions (Hux, 2001)
A project I’m very proud to have been involved in, and a complicated one to explain fully. Suffice it to say that after our project to record a new album with the veteran British blues/jazz/soul legend – a great singer and an equally great, underappreciated writer, harmonica player and guitar stylist – in collaboration with Janet Holmes (see elsewhere on the site) had reached an impasse, more down to logistics than anything else, I decided it would be nice to try and pull together for Duffy an album of BBC radio session material from his heyday. It proved much more involved an adventure than I ever imagined – the BBC themselves had wiped everything he’d done, but once I’d put the word out via various magazines a netherworld of collectors, radio buffs, retired producers and erstwhile Duffy collaborators came out of the woodwork and a terrific album was assembled, spanning 1968-73 Radio 1 and Radio 3 sessions with various different line-ups (solo, duo, full band) plus a bonus 1993 Radio 2 set with ‘60s sax legend Dick Heckstall-Smith. We even had the luxury of leaving off a 1968 track Duffy wasn’t entirely happy with, and an entire 1998 full band session which would have possibly upset the vintage focus. As ever, Hux did a great job on the packaging. If you haven’t heard Duffy before buy this – you won’t be disappointed!