Spirogyra – St Radigunds – 1971 – B&C Records

Super classic acid folk entry here. Rather too fashionable and collectible for my wee blog about cheapie records. This record currently retails for this original piece at about £200 so why is this piece of gold here? Well, about 5 or 6 years ago I saw it in a whole collection of interesting stuff in my local recycling shop. I bought about 20 records for £2 which made this record 10p. I don’t expect to find many of these bargains particularly in this day and age of vinyl snobbery but this was a genuine one and one of my best finds ever. Of course it would be worth lots more without that big chunk of picture off the top right hand corner

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The general feel with this record is one of paradox between the sinister aggressive rasping vocals of sing writer Martin Cockerham and the sweet folk voice of Barbara Gaskin. They contrast each other wonderfully working best on those tracks which they directly duet with each other.  Gaskin’s perfect pitch and sweet harmonies gives a stable base to give Cockerham the scope he needs to give his voice the true expression of a ruddy travelling story teller . It is a very similar sounding record to Comus’s debut. Oddly Cockerham maintains that he did not know Comus until much later despite being released within months of each other. That’s the power of musical movements eh?

The whole band consist generally of Cockerhams acoustic strumming and characteristic vocals, Gaskin’s faultless folk voice delivery, Steve Borrill’s wandering bass lines and the keyboards and violin of music student Julian Cusack. The is the odd peppering of drums from Fairport mainstay Dave Mattacks.

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Look…its 1971 ……

The album opens with ‘The Future Won’t Be Long’ Cockerham professing his position as a master crafts man being shipped out to the war and losing his girl via the bombing of the armaments factory, the fiddle squealing like an air raid siren…… ‘I called her an angel and I was right, she was’. Great line Martin

Island and Magical Mary are both  angular strumming and fiddling fests going through differing difficult sinister song phases until suddenly without warning Magical Mary brings in Gaskin to prettify the whole song in the middle section with an achingly beautiful melody….only to exit stage left into more wild strumming and fiddling

More war stories from Captains Log takes us aboard a schooner in a monsoon, in fact there are lots of shipping and sea and war references on this record giving it a great historical atmosphere. A rugged, acne scarred face of a record blown ragged by northerly winds and crusty salt.

Some gentle folk with At Home in the World with added strings follows and then another one of Cockerams character heavy epics stories closes the first side with Cockerham yelling, yelping, shouting and scowling while gentle Barbara holds the melody together

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On much of side two Martin Cockerham goes fairly quiet and Barbara takes the reigns. On Time Will Tell and Love is a Funny Thing she sings alone with quiet instrumentation gentle and sweet rivaling her contemporaries Judy Dibal, Sandy Denny, Sheilagh MacDonald etc as one of the high priestesses of early 70’s folk.

We were a Happy Crew and The Duke of Beaufort return to the Gaskin/Cockerham gentle/rough epic stories of Cockerham. He really stretches his range in The Duke of Beaufort to compliment her giving a rousing complex finale where you can hear progressive rock just beginning to wake.

All in all a terrific piece of acid folk history and worth seeking out on any format

 

 

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Alright Jack – Home Service – 1986 – Making Waves

Here we have a direct descendant of one of my other reviews. I didn’t of it until I had virtually done this one. The Home Service rose from some of the escapees after the Albion Bands greatest album (previously reviewed) ‘Rise Up Like the Sun’. John Tams, Greame Taylor and Howard Evans all played with the Albions and went on to form the Home Service.

I think I have said before that I consider John Tams one of folks greatest singers and here he teams up with the worlds greatest folk ….er brass section. What makes this record is knock out Tams tunes (4 of them) and some really superb brass and woodwind playing which I realise isn’t your usual folk rock fayre but then again this record is only a third folk rock. It is also a third traditional and a third brass virtuoso workout. It is quite unique and terribly unfashionable. It was even quite unfashionable at the time. While the charts were full of manufactured electro pop and the fashionable folk of the day was young acoustic thrash bands doing a mixture of traditional tunes but punked up to the eye balls (The Pogues, the Men They Couldn’t Hang) here was this band of incredibly talented musicians that had far more in common with Fairport and Progressive Rock.

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The record starts with the title track which is a standard Tams political song of  avoiding sitting on the fence. Rose of Allendale is a beautiful old English folk song covered by everyone and usually assumed to be Irish.

With Radstock Jig you get a wee taste of whats to come. The finery of their incredible brass and woodwind section dancing jigs in and out of the weaving guitar and keyboard lines. Howard Evans was a trumpeter who worked with the London Symphony Orchestra. He became the assistant general secretary of the Musicians Union and I can’t help feeling that this record reflect the miners strike at the time with its colliery band sounds at times. He and trombonist Roger Williams were in Brass Monkey at the time promoting brass folk.

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Sorrow, a Tams special, with extremely sorrowful trumpet lament at the beginning is twinned with another traditional tune ‘Babylon (is Falling)’ which doesn’t sound so traditional with the folk rock feel and the rousing chorus but is apparently a traditional civil war song

The second side is a Tams sandwich. Two of his excellent songs act as the bread between what for me is the highlight of the record which is the brass/trad workout. It starts with the Duke of Marlborough Fanfare and then goes through the various stages of the Lincolnshire Posy which is a standard brass piece incorporating 16 minutes of folk songs collected by composer Percy Grainger. Sounding at times classical, colliery, folk song and progressive with the interplay between brass, woodwind and keyboards and guitar this is one tour de force of wriggling musical spaghetti.

This is one of my absolute guilty pleasures because it is so unfashionable. This is a record I can’t really share with anyone but I do love it and put it on repeat plays. My copy was dirt cheap, you can tell by the state of the cover but money can’t but you love.

 

Here they are live. I think you will find it is a unique sound

 

 

Thee Oh Sees – A Weird Exits – 2016 – Castle Face Records

This was purchased on the year of release from a charity shop for 75p. From swirling melodious folk to a right old bloody cacophonous racket and forty six years between them but strangely there is an element to this record that reminds me of a similar era. Thee Oh Sees is a San Francisco garage psychedelic who at times sound like the classic psychedelic bands of Joni’s era but have a range of styles and  a contemporary edge, John Dwyer and his compatriots have been really busy over the last decade pumping out record after record. A Weird Exits paired with their album of the same year ‘An Odd Entrances’ sees them doing some of the work of their life but don’t expect them to stand still as they have just released their next. They release swift albums and there is feeling throughout this album of speed. Its all sorted in 35 minutes. I like that. Get your songs out, don’t do loads of solos and extended jams and large build ups. Efficient unit. Proper punk spirit

However a fair amount of this record takes me into progressive realms but still keeping the punk spirit. The sounds here range from punk rock to Pink Floyd to Goblin; heck there’s even a drum solo (2 drummers, all over in 10 seconds)

I guess their trade mark sound is pummeling duel drum garage with wailing psychedelic guitars and this is plain on opener Dead Mans Gun and Plastic Plant. Those Oh Sees boys also love an instrumental and I am a sucker for instrumentals too. Well placed they can be so powerful. Think Mac Demarco’s Johnny’s Odyssey – gorgeous and sweet at the end of Salad Day and my very favourite- the imaginatively titled ‘Instrumental’ on the Only Ones’ ‘Even Serpents Shine’. Jammed Entrances is all full of science fiction morse code noises and ‘Unwrapping the Fiend’ is all punctuated by John Dwyers frankly metalic guitar style.

Bang in the middle of this they strangely morph into the Rezillo’s with Dwyer sounding almost exactly like Eugene Reynolds in the frenetic Gelatinous Cube. Later they deliver a very slow Norwegian Wood and then turn briefly into Goblin/Pink Floyd for the closer The Axis ending appropriately on an explosion. Well with all the jumping about with your identity what the hell would you expect

 

 

 

Joni Mitchell – Ladies of the Canyon – 1970 – Reprise

Its perfectly possible to choose any one of 6 of Joni’s first 10 records and totally immerse yourself in them. The quality of her back catalogue is stunning. Gorgeous tunes, great phrasing, breathtaking vocal gymnastics, inspiring lyrics and some interesting left turns away from her folk roots into the jazz inspired direction of her later records

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Ladies of the Canyon is number 3 after ‘Clouds’ and before ‘Blue’ which is actually my favourite. However ‘Ladies’ is a really accessible album and is as light and airy as the breeze blowing down Laurel Canyon to which she had just moved from the Chelsea district of New York. It seems the Joni often writes about her surroundings usually with accompanying light, art, craft and keen observation of folk such as ‘Chelsea Morning’ and on here ‘Ladies of the Canyon’ with a wandering eye on her artistic neighbours in the canyon in late 60’s California

She is a master of description, character and stories all wrapped up in 4 minutes. ‘For Free’ tells of a meeting with a talented busker who is doing her job without payment with skill equal to hers. ‘Conversation’ is a heartbreaking tale of  unrequited love from the point of view of a friend supporting her unhappy male companion.

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The difficult Jazz inspired Joni track is of course in evidence with the piano based ‘Arrangement’ but to counter that we also have the hits. ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, everyone’s favourite Joni hit shouts out from the rooftops to stop building over green sites and is as relevant now as it was then and still stands out as a great song despite hearing it so many times. We also have the best version of Woodstock (2 other versions are available) with an almost native American backing that perhaps originates in Joni’s Canadian past.

Finally another familiar song ‘The Circle Song which always sounds to me as if Joni is an ethereal school teacher having a right old Jamboree before the children go home. and that’s how she signs off

Gorgeous and available at knock down prices because of the amount that made it out during the seventies. Another bonus, Its in a gorgeous gatefold with all her delicious poetry in so you can sing along. As you should…

The Albion Band – Rise Up Like the Sun – 1978 – Harvest

 

Here’s a perfect slice of classic folk-rock that is cheap as chips on vinyl although my copy is on CD snatched from my local library media sale for a quid. I have just witnessed this on Ebay for 99p on vinyl and is on buy it now for £4.00. My connection with the Albion band goes way back to 1978 when I think they were on the Reading Festival when I was just a wee boy and went on one of the other days.

The Albion Band was formed by Ashley Hutchings from Fairport and at this stage in their development contained such folk rock heroes as Dave Mattacks, John Tams and Graeme Taylor both of whom went on to from the equally excellent Home Service.

This is very possibly the second best folk-rock album ever made lying just behind (but not by much) Fairport’s Liege and Lief, in my opinion. However am way open to other opinions.

Its a quite unfashionable album in that it brings synthesisers into folk but it works a treat. There is a fair amount of quite fiddly electric guitar work as well but it is always nail sharp sounding

Afro Blue/Danse Royale, Ampleforth and a fair amount of Lay Me Low are largely instrumental and demonstrate the bands effectiveness as a folk unit. Phil Pickett’s Pipes and fiddle are particularly haunting until Lay Me Low becomes a proper folk rock anthem with Linda Thompson, Kate McGarrigle, Julie Covington all joining on the chorus. It pays to be Ashley Hutchings, you know everyone!

Kate McGarrigle also duets with Tams on a House in the Country proving that the band can so achieve gorgeous melodies among their tricks

Ashley as I’m sure you are aware is a great keen fan of Morris/English dance tunes which is how the next tune ‘The Primrose’ comes over. Hankies can be seen in the minds eye dangling from every waving arm.

Gresford Disaster is a sprawling 10 minute epic of a song that ends the original vinyl album and therefore my review as one cant be doing with songs that weren’t intended. Tams as always sings beautifully, having one of the best English folk voices of all. Drama is brought into the middle section with Taylors sinister guitar mimicking the rather grim nature of the story of a Welsh mining disaster continuing on towards a sad refrain at the end

If you are at all interested in folk and like a bargain please picks yourself a copy of this record as it will never be regretted. A true classic of the field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third World – Third World – 1976 – Island Records

Now this a lovely record you can still pick up for a song. Recently picked this up for £2 in a charity shop. Vinyl for £2. Unbelievable. Believe me they are still out there.

This is a mango soaked, clear ocean slice of Caribbean sunshine appropriately enough on Island records – home of profitable reggae in the seventies.  I like to imagine this debuting in the red hot summer of 1976 with the ground cracked, Viv Richards batting his way to another century, ice cold lilt in the fridge and this record on the deck. Mmmm nice.

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Third World were a Jamaican reggae  band, or were they? Listening to this album sometimes you wonder whether you’re listening to the Wailers or some mid seventies soul train bound funk band. Make no mistake Third World were a classy band, smooth as silk, excellent musicians equally home with reggae pop as funk. This is a collection of their own songs and two corking covers.

The album begins with a gorgeous low riding version of the Abyssinians ‘Sette Messgana’. I have no idea why it is spelt so different on this record but it is a cover to die for with some incredible jazzy flute in the centre that really gives it swing.

 

After a wee bongo interlude along comes the other really classy cover of Burning Spears ‘Slavery Days’ which is every bit as good as the original with a electric piano solo worthy of of Herbie Hancock

In Brand New Beggar we walk a line straight through the genres of reggae and funk and step liberally all over each side

Flip over to side two and I swear Johnny Guitar Watson is all over the funky workout that is Cross Reference and during Got to Get Along you would swear they were the O’Jays or any of those classy seventies soul Philly groups doing full on soul ballad.

Next we glide along on a wave of Wailers type reggae pop for the final two songs. All in all a lovely warm classy record.

Oh and look at the insert….all that classic reggae!

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Kim and Buran – Kosmos for Children – 2004 -Solnze Records

What we have here is a perfect piece of Soviet science fiction picked up for under £4 from Normans Records in Leeds. Brainchild of Russian Slava Zavylov and helped out by his mate Igor Cvetkov, Kim and Buran use melodies only previously available on er…Barry Gray soundtracks.

All fully instrumental these jaunty tunes bring into mind comic book adventures of interplanetary travel. They are said to be influenced heavily by 1950’s Russian science fiction literature and what ever is going on in your head with that concept is exactly what you have here. Chock full of full of fully mature cheese each tune screams out to be loved and you cannot fail to have a massive smile on your face for the whole album. Even my wife liked it for goodness sake! Ridiculously toe tapping and with theremin cream filling this record also has great titles all staring in wonder to the skies.

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That’s right, you get the idea

My First Cosmic Love, Shepochkins Journey, Happy New Year Martians, Electromagnetic Secrets of Slave Transistor and Tania and Vania (how convenient to have rhyming names) are Flying to the Moon give you a pretty good idea about the various Cosmonautical activities that K&R are clearly obsessed with. They are also in love with fifties novelty (Secrets of Two Captains) sixties surf rock (Rock’n’Robot), seventies disco funk (Happy New Year Martians), nineties lounge (Dancing Cosmognomes) but mostly they are just so in love with cheesy tunes just like our Barry.

Buy this now because a. It’s ridiculously cheap and b. anything could happen in the next half hour.

Betty and the Werewolves – Teatime Favourites -2010 – Damaged Goods Records

This is the way it is, no argument. Three girls, one guy. One guitar, one bass, one casio keyboard one drummer.  14 2-3 minute pop songs in c86 style. Plenty of good tunes. Every song sounds similar. One is in French. One is about David Cassidy. They all kind of look quite cute. They all love a cup of tea and a bit of cake. They love their mums and dads.  The CD is one whole pound in my local library. Perfect. Listen in.

 

Fairuz – Good Friday – Eastern Sacred Songs – 1962 – Parlophone Voix de l’Orient Series

Not one to be shy of the odder side of recorded music I picked up this Arabic Christian collection of Easter hymns for 50 whole pence a few weeks ago.

I was immediately struck by the juxtaposition of the picture of the crucified Christ on the cover with stacks of Arabic writing beside it (my copy paired with a big ‘Anita’ on the back in bold biro). It was crying out to be bought. It just looked so interesting and it is certainly that.

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It is a collection of very down tempo hymns done in an almost East/West crossover. One can hear those church organs providing backing but Fairuz’s gorgeous faultless voice sings in a distinctive eastern  manner using Eastern scales. She also works at times without instrumentation with a choir in what appears to be a call and response fashion

It says on the sleeve notes that Good Friday is remembered by Arabic Christian communities in a very sorrowful way and the songs apparently reflect upon Christ’s suffering on the cross.

Fairuz is a well known Lebanese singer active from the 1950’s and started her career in her local church. She became an international star in the 1060’s and continues to this day to sell out huge venues on the strength of her Lebanese popularity.

This is a meditative piece and becomes almost Gregorian at times. It would sound fantastic in the churches where it is meant to be heard with knee deep reverberation. On a record from 1962 you do loose a little depth to the sound and of course there are 50 years of crackles to contend with (but I never mind crackles – shows character)

All in all a fine piece of Eastern promise in a collection without enough of it and to top it all it turns out that this is quite sought after fetching between £15-20. Nice to know but I ain’t going to sell it now

 

Andre Previn & His Pals (Shelley Manne and Red Mitchell) – Modern Jazz Performances of Songs from Pal Joey -1957 (1991 reissue) – Contemporary Records

I am going to start including records that would normally be left at the bottom of the bargain bin and haven’t really got enough hip followers to raise them up in the fashion stakes to grab high prices because there are still plenty of really lovely records there staring you in the face at the price of about a quarter of a cup of coffee. Just what the bargain hunter needs and my hunting recently has been based of this very strategy as I find that as vinyl prices go through the roof and become more and more unobtainable there more I become interested in the bargain bin. I pulled this out of the back of my local record shop in his £1 (or 4 for £3) section.

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My first selection is a lounge jazz classic. I kind of went off jazz for a good while but am swinging back with a vengeance. My son is a jazz guitarist and has introduced me to so much more that I have again found my enthusiasm for it. This record is easy to like. Melodic, not too much lengthy soloing and a great swinging feel to the trio.

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It is recorded by Andre Previn on piano (yes him of the Mr Preview Eric Morecombe fame), Shelley Manne on drums and Red Mitchell on bass. The trio were apparently noted for their modern jazz interpretations of Broadway Musicals and this is their interpretation of Pal Joey. This was a Rogers and Hart musical opening in 1940. The trio recorded this in 1957 and were completely improvised at the two recording sessions.

The songs here don’t actually sound like Rogers and Hart songs although the tunes are good and strong. The trio manage to entirely reinterpret them as if they were simple jazz tunes. Oddly the one that sounds particularly like a Rogers and Hart tunes is the ballad ‘I’m Talking with My Pal’ that wasn’t actually used in the show.

Elsewhere on the record with have a little Afro-Cuban ‘What is a Man?’, blues on ‘Its a Great Big Town’, a gorgeous ballad ‘Bewitched’ but mostly up tempo swing ‘Zip’ ‘Do it the Hard Way’ and ‘Take Him’.  All through the record there is adept swing taking place demonstrating Previn’s considerable talents as a jazz pianist (for which he isn’t ever so well know). All in all a great addition for those quiet winter evenings