Vinyl Memories | 126-150

126 | 16 DECEMBER 2022

Flick the Dust Off | Jonathan Kelly | Wait Till They Change the Backdrop | RCASF8353 | 1973

For the circle of faithful fans who gathered around Jonathan Kelly upon the release of the Irish singer’s breakthrough LP Twice Around the Houses, the follow up album, once again released on the RCA label, would’ve been eagerly awaited.  Presented in a smart gatefold sleeve, Wait Till They Change the Backdrop seemed to continue where the last LP left off, with more of the same highly melodic songs, such as the crowd-pleasing “Godas”, which features guest singers Gavin and Iain Sutherland, whose own success in The Sutherland Brothers was just around the corner.  The song would become a feature at live shows at the time and then again as recently as 2007, where Jonathan still invited audience members to get up on stage to join him as his Bandits for the song.  Guitarist Tim Renwick also lends his unmistakable talents on both electric and acoustic guitars, a sound that would become more prominent in the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver sound.  The country-inflected “Down on Me” is one of the highlights here, not only an album stand out but a career stand out too.  Produced by Ken Scott, Wait Till They Change the Backdrop remains highly listenable almost fifty years on, with some fine performances throughout.  Sadly, there’s little evidence today of the extraordinary mark this charismatic musician made on early 1970s folk club and festival audiences.  We sadly lost the singer in 2020 so perhaps a resurgence of interest is due.

Singled Out | Jethro Tull | Life’s a Long Song | Chrysalis WIP6106 | 1971

In 1971, the little orange box appeared to be crammed with a steadily growing collection of rock 45s and EPs, each numbered and then cross referenced on a card stuck to the inside lid.  I can’t remember which number I allocated Jethro Tull’s “Life’s a Long Song”, but it would no doubt have been somewhere in the middle of the box.  The gentle acoustic song was typical of the band’s early 70s sound, with a crisp and clear acoustic guitar augmented by piano, together with a rich string arrangement, steadily building throughout with one or two familiar flute flurries towards the end.  The song itself was worth the price, yet there’s no fewer than four additional tracks on this EP, the whimsical “Up the Pool” completing the first side, where mum’s jam sarnies and Aunt Flo beckoned the singer home for a freaky weekend in Blackpool, together with “Doctor Bogenbroom”, “From Later” and “Nursie” on the flip side, all five songs making up most of the final side of the band’s then current double album set Living in the Past.  Keeping to the 45rpm, even for three separate tracks on the second side, the disk was still fit for jukebox purposes and would frequently get a spin at the local pub.

Fifty Years Ago | Pretty Things | Freeway Madness | Warner Bros K46190 | December 1972

I always found this band’s moniker amusing; a less pretty bunch you could wish to meet.  The band was still going strong when I met up with front man Phil May back in 2011, together with guitarist Dick Taylor, confirming that age had done nothing to enhance their proposed aesthetic credentials.  Despite this small detail, the band’s output, from their early blues days through their adventurous pop opera period and on through their early 1970s rock fare, has always provided one or two surprises over the years.  Boasting the release of the first rock opera, SF Sorrow, which popped up a few months before The Who’s legendary Tommy, the band claimed some credentials that would serve them in the next decade, where rock music made some initial headway.   Freeway Madness came along in the early 1970s amidst other such albums, with even John Peel playing the riff-laden “Onion Soup” on his late night show, complete with the ”Another Bowl” coda, prompting a visit to the record shop shortly afterwards.  Judging by the scribble on the dust sleeve, I picked up my copy in 1973 and it still comes out to play almost fifty years on.

127 | 23 DECEMBER 2022

Flick the Dust Off | The Watersons | Frost and Fire | Topic 12T136 | 1965

It wasn’t until 1987 that I first got a chance to see The Watersons, the celebrated singing family band from Hull, despite having a couple of old LPs in my collection.  One of those LPs was Frost and Fire, an LP that takes us through a year’s calendar, with songs that accompanied the ceremonies, rituals and celebrations season by season.  The original line up was siblings Mike, Norma and Lal Waterson, with their cousin John Harrison.  After seeing the band on this occasion at the Rockingham Arms in Wentworth, with newest member Rachel Waterson, Mike’s daughter, and by then the long-time replacement for cousin John, Norma’s husband Martin Carthy, I was pleased to be present at the band’s second appearance at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1989, celebrating the festival’s 25th year. As far as folk singing family bands go, The Watersons are a hard act to follow, and some of the songs on this LP remain as important and as exciting today, an unbelievable fifty-seven years on.

Singled Out | John and Yoko The Plastic Ono Band | Happy Xmas (War is Over) | Apple R5970 | 1971

There are more than a handful of enduring Christmas songs that come out to play each year, many of which were recorded around the same time, the early 1970s, perhaps the golden age of the seasonal pop song.  Barely a year had passed since the biggest break up of all, when John and Yoko filled the airwaves with not just any old Christmas song, but one with a strong message of peace and optimism.  Originally conceived as a protest song against America’s involvement in the war in Viet Nam, the song has subsequently become a popular seasonal song, featuring Lennon’s band, his wife and the Harlem Community Choir, made up of around thirty children.  Even the specially created Apple label had temporarily ditched the core of the fruit to feature the merging faces of these two love birds, again suggesting unity in uncertain times. 

Fifty Years Ago | Martin Carthy | Shearwater | Pegasus PEG12 | December 1972

Shearwater was released in late 1972 on the Pegasus label and was Martin Carthy’s seventh album, sandwiched between 1971’s Landfall and 1974’s Sweet Wivelsfield.  It could also be described as Carthy’s dulcimer album, the instrument making several appearances throughout the ten-song set.  From the outset, the instrument takes centre stage, enthusiastically strummed throughout the short but vibrant “I Was a Young Man”, which also features Carthy’s multi-tracked vocal.  Not long free of the ranks of Steeleye Span, Carthy returns to his acoustic roots, with a couple of unaccompanied songs back to back, “Banks of Green Willow” and “Handsome Polly-O”, before his distinctive guitar playing returns for “Outlandish Knight”.   After one more unaccompanied song, a fine reading of  “He Called for a Candle”, Carthy concludes side one with “John Blunt”, complete with a confident guitar accompaniment.  Returning to the dulcimer for “Lord Randall”, Carthy delivers a masterful vocal performance, echoed further on the sprawling “Famous Flower of Serving Men”, one of Carthy’s finest moments.  Concluding this album, which now celebrates its fiftieth year, former band mate Maddy Prior joins Carthy for a rousing multi-tracked performance of “Betsy Bell and Mary Gray”.     

128 | 30 DECEMBER 2022

Flick the Dust Off | Love | Forever Changes | Elektra EKS 74013 | 1967

It’s hard to believe nowadays that Love’s third album Forever Changes failed to achieve any significant success upon its initial release back in 1967, at the height of the so called Summer of Love.  Co-produced by Bruce Botnick along with the band’s enigmatic leader Arthur Lee, who apparently replaced Neil Young, initially pencilled in as the original producer, the album is now considered one of the greatest albums of all time.  Though I was aware of the band in the early 1970s, I didn’t get around to taking it all in until much later.  It’s a strange little album, with equally strange song titles such as “maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale”, “Andmoreaghain” and “Bummer in the Summer”, not to mention the bewildering lyrics, such as the opening line to “Live and Let Live”, ‘Oh, the snot has caked against my pants’.

Singled Out | Simon Dupree and the Big Sound | Kites | Parlophone R5646 | 1967

Well before the three Shulman brothers formed the successful progressive rock band Gentle Giant in 1970, they had a brief stint together in a British psychedelic pop band under the presumably groovy name of Simon Dupree and the Big Sound.  The band released one studio album Without Reservations and a couple of compilations, with ten singles, the most successful being this one, which reached number nine in the British charts back in 1967.   Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, the song includes a spoken passage in Chinese, performed by the actress Jacqui Chan, not to be confused with the martial arts actor.

Fifty Years Ago | Incredible String Band | Earthspan | Island ILPS 9211 | December 1972

I have to confess, the Incredible Sting Band took a strange turn in their career when they introduced Malcolm Le Maistre as a bone fide member of the band, an unrequired third voice in my humble.  The band already had two of the best singers in the world in Robin Williamson and Mike Heron and Le Maistre, for my money, just got in the way of a good thing.  Introducing a theatrical side to the band, Le Maistre joined the band proper on the band’s previous album Liquid Acrobat as Regards the Air, and it looked like he was now in for the long haul.  Having said this, Earthspan opens with one of Le Maistre’s own songs “My Father Was a Lighthouse Keeper”, which is a decent opener.   Curiously, the high theatrics introduced to the band provided one or two interesting moments, not least the sprawling “Sunday Song”, which features some fine vocal sparring between Heron and the outgoing Licorice McKechnie.

     

129 | 6 JANUARY 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Arlo Guthrie | Running Down the Road | Reprise RSLP6346 | 1969

I first became aware of Arlo Guthrie when Alice’s Restaurant played at our local Arts Centre in Doncaster, renamed The Civic Theatre shortly afterwards, and now demolished.   The film shared a double bill with Richard Lester’s post apocalyptic black comedy The Bed Sitting Room.   I was about 14.   All my heroes seemed to be hippies at the time, so both of these films were right up my street.  I was so young in fact, that I was completely oblivious to the wooden performances and the implausible plot, not to mention the wildly inaccurate depiction of Arlo’s dad Woody, dying in a New York hospital bed, looking as calm and contented as someone with a mild cold; not the violently shaking Huntingdon’s sufferer in reality.  I then saw Woodstock and sank in my seat as Arlo embarrassed himself into the history books.  This LP was from the same year (1969) and features the original version of “Coming Into Los Angeles”, a song featured in the Woodstock film.  The album also features some fine session musicians, including Clarence White, Ry Cooder, James Burton and Gene Parsons.

Singled Out | The Nice | America | Immediate IM068 | 1968

Returning once again to memories of the Progressive Rock Night, which was held every Monday evening at the Top Rank night club and rock venue in Doncaster throughout the early 1970s, I distinctly recall a handful of regular tracks being played every week without fail.  One of the records that the DJ always played was this version of Leonard Bernstein’s “America” by The Nice, PP Arnold’s former backing band.  The six and a half minute keyboard frenzy, courtesy of Keith Emerson, included wild theatricals including the ceremonious burning of the stars and stripes, which got them banned from playing the Royal Albert Hall ever again.  Emerson described the record as being the first ever instrumental protest song, which comes complete with a spoken section at the end, where PP Arnold’s three-year-old son speaks the famous line ‘America is pregnant with promise and anticipation, but is murdered by the hand of the inevitable.’  The last word enunciated in the only way a three year-old can.  All pretty controversial stuff at the time, certainly in light of the assassinations of John F Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.  Still, the track was played every Monday night to the spaced out kids on Silver Street in Doncaster.

Fifty Years Ago | The Beach Boys | Holland | Reprise Records MS 2118 | January 1973

By the time this album arrived, the Beach Boys had put some mileage behind them, both in terms of the road and the surf.  Named after the country the LP was recorded, their nineteenth album Holland includes one or two memorable songs, certainly “Sail on Sailor”, later a single release, written Van Dyke Parks and Brian Wilson with Ray Kennedy, Tandyn Almer, and Jack Rieley, though Wilson would later pretty much disown the song.  Nonetheless, the song is perhaps the only viable opener, many of the other songs being rather too eccentric.  “Steamboat” plods on before side one concludes with what is essentially a suite of songs celebrating the band’s home state of California.  Mike Love’s contribution to the California Saga, “Big Sur” is largely forgettable, though “The Beaks of Eagles” includes some of the old Beach Boys magic, though much of it is delivered in the spoken word.  Side two, brings to the fore the voice of Carl Wilson on “Trader” and possibly the album’s best song “Leaving This Town”, co-written by a future Rutle, Ricky Fataar, concluding with Brian Wilson’s only other composition, “Funky Pretty”, with lyrics by Mike Love.  Far from the Beach Boys finest moment, Holland has a place in the summer canon, perhaps the band’s last hurrah, though we should perhaps not mention the awful fairy tale EP that comes with it.

130 | 13 JANUARY 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Clive Gregson and Christine Collister | Home and Away | Cooking Vinyl Cook003 | 1987

After the break-up of Any Trouble in 1984, Clive Gregson went solo first of all and then joined Richard Thompson’s touring band, where he would meet up with vocalist Christine Collister.  It must have been around 1986 when Richard Thompson suggested to his band mates that they should go out on the road as a duo rather than sitting around twiddling their thumbs.   Those who caught any of the duo’s early shows during this period would be astonished by Christine Collister’s raw and powerful voice, but also with Clive Gregson’s assured guitar playing and importantly, his songs.  Home and Away, captures some of these performances, initially a cassette and later released on vinyl.  Some of the album was recorded live, with other tracks recorded at home, hence the album’s title.  Notable songs on the album are “It’s All Just Talk”, “Northern Soul” and “Home is Where the Heart Is”, with one or two memorable covers, Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” for instance as well as the old Motown classic “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”, together with Keith Hancock’s “Chase the Dragon”.  Sadly, the duo’s personal relationship went the same way as Richard and Linda’s, yet individually, they’ve both since enjoyed some success as solo artists.

Singled Out | Medicine Head | (And the) Pictures in the Sky |  Dandelion DAN7003 | 1971

Strangely reminiscent of T Rex, Medicine Head was not only a duo that was initially championed by DJ John Peel in the early 1970s, but also, certainly in the case of this single, sounded like them too.  The ‘oo’s’ sit right there alongside Bolan’s ‘na’s’ on the contemporaneous “Hot Love”.  Medicine Head, which was made up of John Fiddler and Peter Hope-Evans, never won over the same sort of attention as T Rex, possibly due to the fact that Bolan looked like an elfin God, whereas John Fiddler looked like an OU lecturer in dynamical systems and differential equations.  Though the Keith Relf-produced single garnered some attention back in 1971, reaching number 22 in the UK charts, it was the later “One and One is One” that reached number 3 in 1973, proving that the duo were beginning to do better in the charts, if not in their maths.

Fifty Years Ago | Rick Wakeman | Six Wives of Henry VIII | A&M AMLH64361 | January 1973

After memorable stints with the Progressive Rock band Yes and the Progressive Folk band The Strawbs, as well as playing a key role in the world of session work, memorably with Cat Stevens – that piano on “Morning Has Broken” and David Bowie – that memorable piano on “Oh You Pretty Things”, Rick Wakeman was by this time ready to embark on a solo career. This unfortunately coincided with the changing world of Rock n Roll, which immediately placed the keyboard wizard at the epicentre of ridicule.  He was seen as the father of all that was supposed to be wrong with rock music at the time, not least for those who were in desperate need for three chords and the truth, and under three minutes at that.   The lavish and bizarre theatrical productions, involving coned hats, luvvy narrations and ice skates, didn’t help his case.  The Six Wives of Henry VIII is literally made up of six instrumental compositions, each inspired by Harry’s wives, some of which would meet stickier ends than Rick’s finger nails.  There’s one or two moments where Wakeman’s Classical training comes in handy, notably on “Catherine Howard” and certainly parts of “Anne Boleyn”, but much of it really hasn’t stood the test of time.    

131 | 20 JANUARY 2023

Flick the Dust off | The Amazing Blondel | Evensong | Island ILSP9136 | 1970

And then there were three.  Having already worked their way through three bands during the late 1960s, John Gladwin and Terry Wincott had evolved into a duo for the first Amazing Blondel album, recorded in 1970 and released on the Bell record label.  Two major developments followed the release of The Amazing Blondel and a Few Faces, firstly, fellow Scunthorpe musician Eddie Baird joined the band and secondly, they signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island label, a risk at the time, when their label mates included Free, King Crimson, Traffic and Cat Stevens to name but a few.  The cover shot of the three musicians posing in the cloisters of Lincoln Cathedral was almost evidence of the music to be heard, even before the record reached the turntable, as was some of the song titles, “Old Moot Hall”, “St Crispin’s Day”, “The Ploughman” and “Lady Marion’s Galliard”.  The first few notes of the opening song “Pavan” more or less sealed the deal; you were either ‘into’ it or not.  Evensong is made up of songs written by John Gladwin, except for a short instrumental by Eddie Baird, which closes the first side.  Much of the album features instrumentation from an entirely different era, from the lute and the cittern to the variety of recorders and the crumhorn, an essential combination for the band’s completely out of time and out of step music.

Singled Out | Amazing Blondel | I’ll Go the Way I Came | DJM DJS661 | 1976

Perhaps included in the Singled Out series, simply due to the fact that the single is so far removed from the rest of the Amazing Blondel canon.  If you’ve devoured the beauty of the band’s previous albums from A Few Faces, through Evensong, Fantasia Lindum and England, not to mention the equally revered Blondel or perhaps better known as the Purple Album, “I’ll Go the Way I Came” might come as something of a surprise.  Released on the DJM label, possibly most famous for Elton John’s golden years, certainly from Empty Sky through to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and one or two albums beyond, it’s probably not coincidental that this particular song sounds pretty much like Elton, in the vein of “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” or “Love Lies Bleeding”, with Dave Skinner’s heavy handed piano and frantic horns helping the groove along.  The flip side is Terry Wincott’s rather more laid back “Liberty Belle”, both songs taken from the band’s eighth album Bad Dreams, an odd final album before the band called it a day in 1976.   

Fifty Years Ago | Blondel | Blondel | Island ILSP9257 | January 1973

And then there were two, again.  After the departure of founder member John Gladwin, the two remaining musicians Eddie Baird and Terry Wincott found themselves in a tricky position.  Not only had their lead voice, a voice that dominated much of the band’s material thus far, but they had also lost their main song writer, the man behind such memorable songs as “Spring Season”, “Dolor Dulcis (Sweet Sorrow)”, “Seascape” and the magnificent “Celestial Light”.  Then there was the contractual problem of owing Island another album.  All eyes turned to Eddie Baird, who took on the role of song writer for the band’s final Island album Blondel.  Dropping the adjective and separating it by one letter in the alphabet, thus taking up residence in the B section of the record shop browsers, Blondel or the Purple Album, shows a surprising departure from the previous albums, with one or two highly melodic moments, which possibly came as more of a surprise to Eddie Baird than the rest of us.  The album appears to be a masterclass of song writing created by someone who didn’t know he had it in him.  There’s little doubt that the first side’s suite of songs, “The Leaving of the Country Lover”, Young Man’s Fancy” and “Easy Come, Easy Go”, each song linked by orchestral arrangements courtesy of Adrian Hopkins, demonstrates an affinity with the craft of song making.  Like England and Fantasia Lindum before it, the first sides of which are made up of cleverly crafted suites, while the second side is a collection of complete separate songs, Blondel follows suit, with a further five songs, from the easily accessible “Sailing”, not to be confused with the Sutherland Brothers/Rod Stewart song, through to the melancholic “Depression”, which brings the album to an end.  The album also features contributions from Free’s Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke, together with Traffic’s Steve Winwood and singers Sue and Sunny, known for their later hit “Doctor’s Orders”.

132 | 27 JANUARY 2023

Flick the Dust Off | Robin and Barry Dransfield | Popular to Contrary Belief | Free Reed FRR018 | 1977

Oh the amount of times I’ve played tracks from this album on my radio show, only for listeners to say later, you got that the wrong way around.  Damn those North Yorkshire pranksters.  Sadly, the once popular Harrogate siblings Robin and Barry Dransfield are rarely mentioned in folk circles these days, though they left a huge impression on me when I first heard their debut LP Rout of the Blues, a good few years ago.  The two brothers were Ashley Hutchings first choice of musicians invited to join him on his new Steeleye Span venture but turned down the offer.  Instead, the brothers continued to perform as a duo throughout the early 1970s, gaining a reputation as folk brats among the established folk community, at one point forming a folk rock outfit simply called Dransfield and made their concept album Fiddler’s Dream shortly afterwards, which was received with mixed reviews and with little help from the record company in terms of marketing.  Photographed outside a pub, raising their glasses, the brothers looked set for a come back in 1977 when they released Popular to Contrary Belief for the Derby-based Free Reed Records, performing the sort of traditional songs they first found fame with seven years earlier.  There’s little difference between the opening song on their debut album seven years earlier, and “The Talcahuano Girls” and fans of the duo would have been pleased to hear the boys return to this sort of music after the more experimental Fiddler’s Dream the year before.  “Bogie’s Bonnie Belle”, “The Holmfirth Anthem”, “Peggy Gordon” and “The Conscript’s Farewell” are among the very best performances by these much missed brothers.

Singled Out | The Move | Fire Brigade | Regal Zonophone RZ 3005 | 1968

Written by Roy Wood and performed by The Move, “Fire Brigade” is one of those memorable pop songs from the late Sixties.  It was the band’s fourth single release and is loaded with twangy Duane Eddy styled guitar licks together with a great chorus, just the thing to guarantee chart success, but also it adheres to the Summer of Love sensibility, particularly in the middle eight, where there are rainbows in her hair, pretty standard fare for the previous year.  ‘Cast your mind back ten years to the girl who’s next to me in school, if I put my hand upon her leg, she’s hit me with a rule’ was perfectly true of the era, only in my case with one Lorraine Bailey, it was a sharpened pencil, for which fifty-odd years on, I still have a mark.  It may also be worth noting that the guitar lick inspired the Sex Pistols “God Save the Queen”.

Fifty Years Ago | Little Feat | Dixie Chicken | Warner Bros K46200 | January 1973

Like many UK fans of Little Feat, my introduction to the band was via the Old Grey Whistle Test, where they performed one of the tracks from this album, “Fat Man in the Bathtub”, together with “Rock and Roll Doctor from the band’s next album Feats Don’t Fail Me Now.   Failing to catch the band on that tour is one of life’s little regrets, though seeing them on the box in our family living room on that occasion was almost as good.  I still sit in wonder at the British audience reaction to Little Feat going on as a warm up for the Doobie Brothers.  The Dixie Chicken Little Feat was still very much led by Lowell George and therefore endowed with one of the finest and most soulful voices of the 1970s, if not the entire history of rock and roll, together with one of the hottest slide players around.  This very much comes across throughout Dixie Chicken (or are we expected to just call it ‘Chicken’ these days?)  Once again the sleeve artwork was produced by Neon Park, who was responsible for the band’s previous album Sailing Shoes. This third album also saw the departure of original bassist Roy Estrada, who was replaced by Kenny Gradney as well as the addition of Paul Barrere, who would become a key player in the band for the years to come.  The album also featured contributions by both Bonnie Bramlett and Linda Ronstadt as well as Malcolm Cecil, the synth pioneer responsible for Tonto’s Expanding Head Band and his work on some of Stevie Wonder’s finest albums.