Featured Album | Iona Lane – Hallival | Hudson Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | 01.04.22
With one or two EP releases and dozens of gigs behind her, the Leeds-based singer songwriter Iona Lane takes bold strides forward with the release of her debut album Hallival, named for one of the mountains on the Isle of Rum. Atmospheric from the start, Hallival indicates clearly a confidence in songsmithery, an album that places the singer alongside her contemporaries, rather than beneath them, a confidence that also places such material as “Western Tidal Swell”, “Humankind” and the title song, firmly within the new folk canon. “Mary Anning” looks at one of our criminally overlooked heroines in the world of Paleontology, a scientist based in Lyme Regis in the nineteenth century, recently depicted by Kate Winslet in the Francis Lee film Ammonite. Iona makes no secret of her admiration of the women around her, both contemporary and historical, and Hallival features a handful of such creative forces, with appearances by Jenny Sturgeon, who provides backing vocals on “Humankind”, and both Lauren MacColl and Rachel Newton on both fiddle and harp respectively on the evocative “Schiehallion”. An inquiring mind is at work with each lyric. With Andy Bell at the helm, Iona and her band make a bold statement here, with an album they can be proud of.
Flick the Dust Off | Vinegar Joe – Rock ‘n Roll Gypsies | Island ILPS9214 | 1972
When the jazz/blues outfit Dada first came to my attention back in 1970, when a track from the band’s debut album appeared on the Age of Atlantic sampler album, I would have been completely unaware of Elkie Brooks, who wouldn’t pop up on my radar until the band morphed into Vinegar Joe shortly after the arrival of Robert Palmer to their ranks. The cover of Vinegar Joe’s debut self-titled album was illustrated in plasticine in a similar fashion to the aforementioned sampler album. A short lived band, Vinegar Joe launched the careers of both Brooks and Palmer who both went on to enjoy successful careers, yet neither musician ever really demonstrated the raw, almost feral stage presence of Vinegar Joe’s early days, opting for a more MOR image, certainly in the case of Brooks. Released under the watchful eye of Ahmet Ertegun in the US (Atlantic) and Chris Blackwell in the UK and elsewhere (Island), Vinegar Joe’s brief blip on the radar remains memorable, as does the lively cover artwork, a rare live shots only Hipgnosis design.
Singled Out | John Prine – Illegal Smile | Atlantic K 10530 | 1972
I first became aware of John Prine in the early 1970s when I heard the song “Sam Stone” on the Old Grey Whistle Test, accompanied by a poignant black and white promo film. The song was included on the 1972 sampler album The New Age of Atlantic, along with such diverse acts as Loudon Wainwright III, Buffalo Springfield and Led Zeppelin. The song first appeared however on Prine’s self-titled debut LP from the year before. It was this particular song that led to the discovery of other great songs such as “Angel From Montgomery”, “Paradise” and “Hello in There” as well as the opening song “Illegal Smile”, which was subsequently released as a single on the Atlantic record label, backed with “Quiet Man” from the same album. Contrary to popular belief, according to Prine, the song is not about substance abuse, but has more to do with smiling at things that others don’t necessarily normally smile at.
Fifty Years Ago | Richard Thompson – Henry the Human Fly | Island ILPS9197 | April 1972
I didn’t get around to Henry the Human Fly or for that matter, any Richard Thompson album until the early 1980s, having an aversion to Thompson’s voice; it was one of the longest periods of taste acquisition known to man. Despite this blatant refusal to accept the voice, I couldn’t avoid the fact that what we had in Thompson, was a superb guitar player and an equally superb songwriter, whose involvement with Fairport Convention couldn’t possibly be ignored. I would therefore return to Thompson’s solo albums and the albums he made with his then wife and musical partner Linda, to try and break through my own musical prejudices. I think it’s the only time I have really made an effort to come to terms with a voice I don’t particularly enjoy. Once Thompson’s voice slipped within my own personal taste parameters though, possibly midway through Hand of Kindness, there was no turning back. I borrowed Henry from a friend and then worked my way in. Over the next fifty years, or at least from the mid-1980s onwards, I have worked my way through all of Thompson’s albums and have grown to love his voice as well as his writing and his musicianship, and I still pop Henry onto the turntable every now and then to remind me of just how important this musician is to music appreciation. He rarely, if ever, lets me down, even when he does Britney.