Category Archives: THE RECORD SHELVES

Reviews, scans, sleeve notes, artwork and records found in the recesses of the Vinyl Junkyard.

MRS Authentic Jamaican Calypsos – The Mento Series and their sleeve notes.


Authentic Jamaican Calypsos & All Jamaican Calypsos – Stanley Motta’s 10″ Lp Output

In the 1950s Stanley Motta the early Jamaican record producer, released 5 x 10″ Lps, each a collection of Mento songs and instrumentals previously released only on 78rpm single. Rare and sought after they all host a collection of illuminating sleeve notes, which reflect the perceived exoticism of a Caribbean Island holiday destination to the nascent tourist and the long held traditions of Jamaica’s people in song.

They are indispensable to any collector of early Jamaican recorded music, folk music enthusiast, or lover of the Roots of Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae. Many of the lyrics, themes and songs feature in Jamaican popular culture today and once recognised one cannot ignore Mento’s influence on all styles of Jamaican music that followed because the first recorded Jamaican song was birthed on a Mento 78rpm record, one released by Stanley Motta in 1953.

Sleeve notes . . . 

Sleeve notes can tell the interested party so much about the time, the music and the people making it, that they are offered here for those of you interested in that history, but perhaps unable to get hold of the actual Lps themselves (yet).

Authentic Calypso?

Although labelled as Calypso, this is not, this is Mento, a distinct style and genre of music, related to Calypso, the form mainly of Trinidad, but that of Jamaica. In the 1950s though an audience in the USA who had fallen for the romanticism of Calypso would consume a variety of musics, providing it had the attraction of being called Calypso, hence much Mento has wrongly been attributed to this form. It’s something that annoys those that evangelise the Jamaican style, the peculiarly distinct sound of Mento.

The Series

Numbers 1-4 feature the same cover artwork in a variety of colours, the 5th edition has an entirely different cover and is actually called ‘All Jamaican Calypsos’ though it states ‘Series 5’ on the sleeve and shares catalogue and matrices with the other volumes, BUT different sleeve notes. And finally there was a collection, again with different variant artwork to the first 5 volumes and sleeve notes, released in the U.K. on London International Records. All are pictured below, and the accompanying sleeve notes transposed for volumes 1-4, then for Series 5 and finally for the London International  Record label release. It is thought that the sole London International release may have been part of a deal in exchange for pressing the other 1-4 Authentic Jamaican Calypso series and ‘All Jamaican Calypsos’ 10″ Lps for Jamaican release. Those releases all state ‘Made In England’. The London international release was only ever sold in England as far as I can find out.

Sleeve Notes Vols 1-4

CALYPSO JAMAICA

The visitor to Jamaica can never quite forget the music of the island. He finds himself haunted by the memory of the soft murmur of the trade winds, and the breaking of the blue Caribbean on white sand shores. But more haunting than ever, above the music of nature, is the music of the streets, the endless varied obligato against which the life of Jamaica is lived. It is heard in the plaintive cal of the coconut seller, whose “Jell . . . oooooohhhh … Jell . . . oooohhhh” trumpets through the streets in the cool of the morning as he offers the tangy-sweet liquid of the green nut to thirsty passers-by. There is music in the short barking call of the fishmonger who pushes his squeaky-wheeled wagon or rides his laden bicycle from the flat of the plains to the twisted roads of the hills to bring is sparkling catch–grunts, snappers, jack, cutlass — all the glistening treasure of the deep. It is in the laughter tinged gossiping of the market-place, where broad-accented countrywoman and sophisticated city-bred higher meet to share the latest scandals.

Yes, there is music everywhere in Jamaica. It pulses in the traffic of the streets, where the brazen voices of modern auto horns argue with the sharp sudden accents of the donkey driver; it is in the quiet avenues of the suburbs where modern houses sprawl on cool green grounds; it is in the teeming slums where the crowded population finds expression in laughter, and in the provocative music-story of the island.

Jamaica’s music is the mento and calypso. Calypso is the general term that is applied to the ballad song of the islands, the song that tells a story and nudges laughter or amazement as the mood chooses. This is the fiery, fast sometimes risqué song of the troubadour who finds his inspiration in everyday happenings and spins his melodies and words to both intrigue and entertain the listener. Calypso is generally associated with Trinidad, but is a generic term, common to all the Caribbean islands.

Then there is the music that is peculiarly Jamaican — the mento. This is the specific tempo of the island. The result of the meeting of Afro-Latin influences is a distinctive beat and rhythm in the music of Jamaica that identifies it to the tuned ear. To the foreigner there is little difference, but to the Jamaican, dancing his swivel-hipped measures to the reedy prodding of bamboo flute and guitar, bongo and mambo drums, to the tuned intervals of the marimba box, it is unique, a native tempo that has it’s route through the slave chants, the French quadrille, the Spanish flamenca, the English round, all the polyglot, pulsing beats of the many people who have blended their histories and lives to make the golden people of the Caribbean.

Jamaicans are proud of their music. They are proud because in the distinctive beat of their music lies all their own history. Here is the musical meeting ground of the Chinese, the English, Welsh, Irish, Scots, the Portuguese and Spanish, in fact, all the varied people who are hidden behind the designation “Jamaican.”

In this envelope you will find captured not only the music of the Jamaican, but all of the varied tempos of the Caribbean. They are performed by native musicians, often with handmade native instruments. But always they are played with the rollicking devil-may-care musicianship that comes so naturally to the West Indian. Here you have transfixed in a record, moments of pleasurable memory.
Here you have CALYPSO JAMAICA.

Sleeve Notes Vol 5

CALYPSO JAMAICA

FullSizeRender 16. . . Jamaica’s carefree people have expressed in song all of the throbbing vitality that is so much a part of their country. Their songs are humorous, gay, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, but always enjoyable. It is music with a distinctive character that marks it as unmistakably Jamaican. Its distinctiveness is a combination of the musical dialect of Jamaican speech, the unique sound of native instruments and the subtle rhythm that marks it and separates it from the music of the other West Indian islands. The musical dialect of back country Jamaicans is basically English so interwoven with colloquialisms and the burr of local accents that is is almost unintelligible to anyone not familiar with the island’s speech. It is this distinctive Jamaican accent that gives added interest to the Jamaican calypso. There is also a unique character to the music itself which derives from the hand-made instruments played by calypso troubadours. These are the bambasax, an instrument wrought from bamboo by dextrous native craftsmen, with a bit of wood from a matchbox serving as a reed; the marimba, a deep-toned bass instrument that is just a simple box with bits of metal spring called “reeds” because of their similarity to harmonica reeds, and is normally used in place of the bass fiddle; the chattering marraccas, seed-filled gourds; and a whole family of drums from tiny, tenor bongos to big-voiced congo drums. Bamboo fifes and flutes, bambolins, a violin-like instrument comprised entirely from bamboo, and such conventional instruments as guitars, saxophones, trumpets and bass fiddles add their voices to the song of Jamaica. With voice and instrument, the Jamaican calypso troubadour regales, entertains and amuses, having a wonderful time himself as he brings you . . . CALYPSO JAMAICA.

Sleeve Notes – Authentic Jamaican Calypsos – LONDON International

FullSizeRender 19The visitor to the West Indies awakes to find himself in a tropical paradise — the birds sing and speak, the waters sparkle and laugh in the dancing sunshine, the leaves rustle to the tune of it all: and all is music. The people are happy — they rise with a song and they sing all day, even as they work. The Calypso which is the fold song of the West Indies is the pièce de resistance to this wonderful setting of life and beauty. The Calypso is the crux of it all — its fascinating, pulsating beat and rhythm remain forever in the heart of the visitor stirring up vivid memories of the romance of the West Indies.

No matter where you go among these islands — Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, Grenada, Antigua — in any one of the long chain of islands, and irrespective of the language, you will hear the Calypso. It is a common link — the link in this chain of jewelled isles.

The Calypso is a form of minstrel music. The singer, or Calypsonian, cites the chief events of the time, recounts the noble or infamous deeds, as the case may be, of some person past or present. He might sing of the latest scandal or the state o politics. On the other hand, as he frequently does, he might describe some amusing incident in the everyday life of the ordinary person or comically examine the behaviour and habits of domestic and indigenous animals. The Calypso always provokes laughter. it is witty, comic, subtle, ironic. It discusses human relationships in an intimate way, yet it is not vulgar. The spice of the Calypso lies in the ability of the Calypsonian to tell you even about the most intimate things in such veiled, juicy and allegorical language that stirs you, shocks or startles you and yet leaves you to say, “Honi soit qui mal y pense” or otherwise, “Whom the cap fits let him draw the string”.

The Calypso is not only an expression of little doings and things and of great happenings, it is in itself an expression and a manifestation of the local society and tradition and its very interesting historical background and intricate blend of peoples, For once upon a time these islands were the El Dorado of the West — the rendezvouz of the buccaneers, the chosen land of pioneers and the Empire builders and the glorious battlefields of the sea-faring powers, Spices, sugar, tobacco, cotton, cocoa made them prized jewels in the Crowns of Europe, as also did their strategic position as the gateway to the Americas. Thus it was that all manner of people settled upon these islands. The indigenous Amerindians were out-numbered, decimated, and soon practically disappeared. Labour for the plantations was drawn from Africa and India. Descendants of the latter to-day form the great bulk of the population together with large numbers of persons of mixed descent having the spicy complexions drive from fusions of Spanish, French, English, Scottish, Dutch, African, Indian, Portuguese, Chinese and may others who settled there and completely mixed themselves into one solid society. The Calypso is the common denominator of all these cultures.

The pulsating rhythm of the African “tom-tom” blends with the tempo of the Spanish “quarto” and is polished off by the lilting sing-song of the French accent. The old-time Calypsonians or “chant-wells” (note the combination of French and English) used to sing in Patois or broken French. English is now commonly used for Calypso, but with the original exciting accent and intonation. It is written in four-four time, yet very subtly the singer can get in a good many words and syllables to a bar — or very few when he chooses.

Some say, a long time ago slaves on the plantations were not allowed to gossip — so the chanted to the same rhythm as their tom-toms as hey worked. these chants became cities as hey added strange words not understandable by their masters, telling of what was going on, and, in fact gossiping about their masters and the village. When “dancing the cocoa” or cutting the sugar cane or celebrating after work, these ditties became their folk songs. the leader was the “chant-well” later known as the Calypsonian.

The Carnival in Trinidad , celebrated on the two days preceding Ash Wednesday, is a relic of the old Spanish customs. At that time there is universal frolicking, singing and dancing in the streets. All sing the Calypso. The custom has greatly fostered the art of the Calypso. Trinidad’s Carnival and her very cosmopolitan background made her the home of the Calypso. From there it spread to all the other islands — to Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, etc. And now the world is getting to know of this sweet tantalising, minstrel music.

Summarising?

There are of course gaping holes in the tracery of the slightly amateurish musicology you see reflected in the sleeve notes, and yet some rather good early insights into the links shown in and around the Caribbean and it’s musical trade routes. For me the last set of notes on the purely U.K. only release on London International shows a mildly patronising attitude, awash with the kind of romantic notions that refused to engage with the pain of slavery, African servitude and the serfdom of other indentured ethnicities on the island. It also looks at the music therein from the angle of Calypso, and almost completely ignores the very Jamaican nature of the release, the differences between Mento and Calypso or the individuality of Jamaica.

In short all of the sleeve notes are much better than I would expect from what can be a rather blinkered and one dimensioned western approach to any and all cultural pursuits of non European ethnicity in a then 1950s world.

All the issues talk of the cultural influence of speech patterns, Patois, city hubbub and in mentioning the “chant-well” the notes are harking to the West African Griot praise singing and the very culture that helped give rise to Calypso in particular.

I’m also personally intrigued to find or see and more importantly hear a bambolin!
To my knowledge even with a large Mento collection at my listening disposal, I never have.

©MIKE MURPHY Feb 2019

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Daniel Romano – Finally Free – An Album Review


Daniel Romano – Finally Free – New West Records NW5255 – Released 2018

IMG_4102I’m going to be totally honest here, and brutally frank. I don’t know what the fuck this Lp is ‘really‘ about. That fact, in combination with my assertion that it is a work of beauty and genius has got me seriously fucked up and confused, I don’t get that way often. I like it though when I do. I like it when I can’t tuck something into a pigeonhole, when it tells me to get my listening ears on properly. I like it when it is music so obviously and adventurously wonderful. But when records are just pretentiously impenetrable, I lean quickly to placing them into the category ‘shite’ to be ignored, and money recently wasted.

I don’t normally have a hard time working out what an artist is trying to do, writing about, saying, who they sound like or where their influences lay, but that’s not the case with Finally Free. Daniel might feel finally freed by this Lp as if it were some cathartic exercise in musical self assertion, but it’s got me quite possibly ‘finally stumped’ in working out what’s going on with it.

But that’s a GOOD thing. I’m bored with knowing what the hell I’m hearing. In my dotage I need something I’ve not ever heard the like of before too keep my interest. To make me want to review it for instance, in a blog.

Just who the hell is Daniel Romano?

R-7294448-1438207251-8959.jpegI first ‘discovered’ my version of Daniel Romano, isolated and without musical guidance, while trawling YouTube for Alt Country songs, and found a wonderful song, that appears with an alternative title, feel and mix on his Lp. ‘If I’ve Only One Time Askin” but is on YouTube called ‘More Love From A Stranger’. I was immediately struck by his songwriting, playful attitude to wearing revival Nudie style suits with a big hat, and his obvious and only slightly submerged obsession with Hank Williams Jnr. The song was strong. Sounded like a man headed for romantic oblivion at the bottom of a bottle, and had me hooked. Shortly thereafter I bought the frankly disappointing cd album ‘Come Cry With Me’ on import. The songs were nowhere near as strong as his YouTube appearance and I put any further exploration of his music aside for a while.


Then recently while at a record store in Brighton England I took a punt on what is a recent but not latest release by him, Finally Free, the record I’m here to try and review. I bought it partly because Romano’s stuff just doesn’t appear in the UK without a pricey import tariff generally. It’s hard to find, and expensive when you do. The point I’m making is that my experience of his music was not explained or taught by anyone, he’s a rare thing for me a discovery I made. His music is a place I found, not one I was shown to, or recommended. I don’t know his story, I’m in a dark room and it’s as if he keeps his history close to his chest, there isn’t a lot out there about who is, or has been. I think he likes it that way, I think he likes to play with his perceived image. Do you Daniel? Is that what it’s about for you?

IMG_4695I took Finally Free home, listened, loved it, listened again, loved it more, couldn’t get the lyrics at all, found them impenetrable. Were they pretentious as fuck, or heartfelt? Then listened to the Lp over two months lots of times, loving it. But not getting any closer to the centre of it.

I had questions to answer.

The artwork by Daniel on the Lp sleeve and on the reverse of the frankly ugly poster included was it naïve, or just shitty? Was the assertion on the outer sleeve notes that the Lp was mastered on the stolen land of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinabek and Huron-Wendat, but produced and mixed on the stolen land of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabek just so much pretentious waffle or meant from the heart?

I remain confused and as yet unconvinced of just what he’s trying to do. That’s a good thing, I feel wrong-footed, confused, but loving the sound, the sound, the music, the music which carries all doubt straight through to the second side’s run out groove.

Don’t fuck me around Dan!

Is he just fucking with us, one minute he’s a finger picking singer songwriter (I’m here citing early YouTube videos of his performances), then he’s rhinestone cowboy, a hard drinking’ country star, then he’s alt something, love poet, romantic bard and fine artist who states that the Lp is ‘A Collection Of Poems In The Language Of Love’, and whom refers on the rear of the sleeve to his penmanship on it as ‘Notes From The Author’. Is he playing with us again, this time trying to impart on himself and perhaps the Lp project the perception of a literary milieu.

He's Canadian you know . . .
The first Lp I bought (and not the one I’m reviewing), the disappointing ‘Come Cry With Me’.

The cover, an area previously explored as a thing of artistic potential by Daniel Romano is left filled by ugliness, an ugly 3d photo, and two of the nastiest colours you could pick for anything, even a death warrant, and yet the innards, the guts of the Lp, the music, the production, arrangement, mix of musical happenstance and composition are deftly combined to produce a thing of utter transcendence. Some of the chord progressions are just wondrous, and not one song feels copied, hackneyed or unoriginal.

To all intents it looks like an Lp where the artist is trying way too hard to be noticed, way too hard to impress, to be original, not to quote and re-quote other musical styles and other artists, and yet he manages to do exactly that, to be beautifully original and to prevent the listener being able to catalogue his sound and style. I have my own opinions of course of where some of the sounds hail from, you will have your own when you listen to it (and I hope you do). I can hear strong hints of The Incredible String Band then The Beach Boys, The Byrds (back in 8 Mile High days), Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bob Dylan, Earth Opera, The Velvet Underground, Rocky Horror style Rock Opera shenanigans, Nick Drake, and the sonic 60s excesses of an LSD fuelled musical decade. Like all great music it sounds like you’ve heard it before, but you know you haven’t.

Unlike those Lps of old that used to say in little text long the top edge of the sleeve –  ‘File Under ‘Rock N’ Roll’, you won’t get any such advice from Mr. Romano. It’s going to have to go in a section all of it’s own. ‘Finally Free from category’.

Get it.

© Murphy Feb 2019 ⤄

 

 

 

 

How to clean your 78rpm records


Cleaning 78rpm Records the toothbrush way.

So here’s a possible way for you to clean your 78 rpm Shellac Records, it seems a little rough, but they’re tougher than you think. I filmed and put this up on my Instagram account a while back; it seems to me that it may prove useful for someone, if I re-post the link here. You can view it here, without leaving Musical Traces.

Use warm, verging on hot water in a bowl mixed with not too heavy a dash of Fairy Liquid, scrub the shit out of your dirty old tunes with a toothbrush that has seen better days and better teeth, wipe off with as lint a free cloth or rag or towel as you can, rinse under the tap with cold water. Use a white cloth or whatever and look at the grime you pick up. It’s mad crazy Daddy O’s. Repeat if you think necessary. Let ’em dry really good before you play them again.

 

 

Knosti – Disco-Antistat – an unbiased review


The Disco-Antistat Record (Cleaning System?)

An entirely independant review

IMG_4678There’s something a little worrying about the Disco-Antistat cleaner, namely that for something quite so obviously simple, it does the job rather too well.
I’d had one bought for me as a present years ago, used it and then put it to one side, a little concerned that there were rumours that it might leave a residue. One which would fur up the needle, and sit in the grooves for years to come. I had postulated at the time that any level of film left in the grooves of the record could only affect sound quality adversely. But I have never to date had any problems, I have never found any residue from the Lps and singles I washed coming off on the stylus, nor any degradation of the records treated, no reduction in sound quality. However I still don’t quite trust the Cleaner, trust is a hard thing to give when it’s your pride and joy record collection that could be destroyed by some cheap record cleaner system and a few positive online reviews.

 
IMG_4679The ‘System’, if a few bits of plastic can be called a ‘System’ consists of a big bottle of what is surely mainly Isopropyl-Alcohol and something mysterious that cuts down static issues. Then also a bath for the record with brushes welded inside, brushes that when you suspend the record via the handy label protecting spindle adaptor and rotate the record manually, clean said record. Hands get wet with the solution while rotating, it sloshes a bit, you rotate both anti & clock wise, you finish, somewhat awkwardly unscrew label protecting spindle ‘thingy’ and place newly cleaned record to drip and evaporate dry in the handy, ‘this was once tucked in the bottom of the bath section drying rack’, as pictured right.

It feels a little jim crack, but it was time to give it a proper test.

Mystery Cleaner, Mystery Train

So when I was recently given a record that had once belonged to my mother, ‘Mystery Train’ on the HMV label, the re-issued Sun Recording, sold with Elvis’s contract to RCA, and it was in it’s terrible 60 year old uncleaned state, I took this test worthy opportunity to see just what this relatively cheap record cleaning system could really do (again).
Frankly I was floored by it’s performance. With a few manual turns (in both directions) of the record in the cleaning bath, through the brushes and then a short drying time, the improvement was gobsmacking. A lead-in groove which had previously sounded like a commando attack with accompanying light arms fire now only hinted at it’s previous incendiary and crackly state and the record played clean, with a full sonic range and looked shiny and as if it had only just been pressed. It improved the record from unplayable to playing and damn fine in about 10 minutes.

Quite amazing.

Since then I have washed a few further records including some valuable Jamaican singles which were in an unplayable state. All have been massively improved. Rather than leaving them to fester on the shelves, they’re getting played and that’s what it’s all about.

IMG_4680The kit I have as I understand it has been superceeded by a MkII version, and the one I have does suffer from a cheap construction and a rudimentary and manually operated design. The fluid is impossible to pour back into the bottle supplied via the funnel and grime filter without spilling a sizeable ammount every time you use the kit, and it goes everywhere. This is very annoying and poor design is poor design, whether it is cheaply produced or not. The kit retails for under £50, new bottles of fluid are about £10 and to look at the boxed contents of what you get for your buck you would be forgiven for being disappointed; and yet if you considered the results only, you would consider the money it costs, to be VERY well spent.

I’m still reserving some judgement, just in case there proves to be an issue with any residue long term, but currently I’d give it 9 out of 10 for results, considering it’s simple operation and outlay.

This ‘article was written because though rumours abound of residue issues, with some people even just using the bare bones of the machine with distilled water and not the ‘Majic Formula’ to avoid those rumoured problems, no online review existed that directed talked about this head on and I could myself find no information to either confirm or deny the residue rumours with this kit.

I hope this has been helpful to those of you with old grimy Vinyl that needs a gentle scrub.

⍟ Murphy ©2019 ➹

THE BEST OF IAN AND SYLVIA


The Best of Ian & Sylvia – une Lp excellent… ?
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So, for years my Mum, or should I say Mom, for she is the true American of the family, an Alabama gal, would talk of Ian and Sylvia with a wry smile and a hidden laugh in her voice. I never understood the lilt to her voice as she recounted this folkladymanduo quite and yearned to understand.

Was she remembering the heady days of a Southern education at Auburn, records dropping on to the portable record player like pancakes on a Tuscaloosa griddle? Was she recalling a life unhindered by musical taste or by the demands of her new life as wife to Barry Michael and mother to her two boys Michael Cullen and Barry Christopher? Was she revisiting the strains of Ian and the mysterious Sylvia drifting upon the long corridors of her young ladies only dormitory as friend Sarah berated her for stealing yet another letter from ever missing boyfriend ‘Phillip’ to the soundtrack of a giant weather balloon being woman-handled along those same now time dusted halls of residence?

Such is the un-folk of Ian and Sylvia.

I always got the impression that Mom had once thought them rather fabulous, in an early 60’s preppy U.S.A. folksie way; that they were artistes akin to those used to base ‘A Mighty Wind’, the comic feature film mockumentary outing about Frat-Folk that Spinal Tap’s creator Christopher Guest had made, and I had seen. And they are.

I also postulated that my Dad who was a folk dedicate and hardcore lover had ‘re-educated’ her tastes somewhat with a bigoted bias against all folk second handers … people like Ian & Sylvia would not have impressed my old man, a man taught Banjo by Peggy Seeger and taught musket shootin’ by Doc Watson.

I’m going to tell you about a fantastic tune on this Lp in a moment, but first I need to tell you that the Lp, the Stereo version of the Lp on Vanguard VSD-76269 is a hotch-potch of confused versions of trad folk music, chanson and pop moozack and as such it’s much more Peter, Paul and John Denver, than Clarence Ashley and Bob Dylwot, and much more Wanksy than Planxty.

However there is a tune on here… a bona fide tune, a tune to drop, a tune to impress the rest, a tune to test the best.

Catfish got der Blues?

On side two and in an Velvet Underground-ish stylistic triumph is a rendition of Catfish Blues, where the session guys groove out and Sylvia rocks the mic. The guitarist takes a drug riddled ride on the riff and though Sylvia is obviously sober, it sounds like the session players were out late last night and may possibly have dropped an Owsley.

So you got to check it, the Lp is probably worth all of 25 cents, but this tune, overlooked as it obviously has been (fuck you should see how little it goes for on Discogs), is worth all of that 25 cents on it’s own.

You heard it here first… Catfish Blues here on their collection of ‘The Best’, originally on their Lp. So Much For Dreaming on VSD-79241 (Stereo). So lick it from the top, to the very last drop, .. well track 4 side 2 anyway.

Final credit goes to Uncle Jack Brown for sending this Lp to me in the U.K., such is my international renown as record collector and musically fuelled auteur or as that Joe Boyd might say, musical ‘Eminence Grise‘,  . . . the toss pot.

Murphy

Folk Psych – a tasting menu.


An intro of all-sorts

The bouquet it hit me like a tonne of bricks, a tonne of sweet-smelling hay and straw bricks, made of Summer daze, lazy riverside ramblings with sylph like cheesecloth bedecked Timotei maidens; it hit me like thick hashish smoke; I envisioned the whispering of caterpillars, of heat laden grass, the shifting cool of shaded lambs under neatly tooth trimmed trees and the quiet beckoning of a hidden mystical hand, a tune came drifting amongst the tree faeries and water sprites and alighted upon mine ears… . and it was good,… and it was UK Folk Psych. I asked for the menu and it was given of freely in little pieces and I complained and was told, ‘no mate it’s only the tasting Menu’. ‘Well bring me something HEAVY’ says I, and so it came to pass, and so it was that it was done.

Psychotic to like UK Folk Psych?

Dust on The Nettles - 4CD 1967-72 Box
Girlfriend’s gift consigns me to new collecting addictions. See above.

It’s mad, I collect Reggae and Jamaican music, what the hell am I listening to ‘Psychedelic’ Folk music of the late 60s and early 70s for? Nope.. not a clue? Me either; though it may have been that while I rambled musically I started separating out a sound, a style, and began to distinguish the genre as distinct, of itself, not of this earth. Then my ever musical girlfriend bought me a decent introductory Cd compilation, ‘Dust On The Nettles’, and down the slippery slope to more record collecting I flew. I’d been searching for a female vocalist that I could actually say I really liked all my life and this too led me in the direction of this sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a fractal like musical sub genre disappearing into the abyss of my fractured mind,…  and this too led me in the direction of this sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a fractal like musical sub genre disappearing into the abyss of my fractured mind,…  and this too led me in the direction of this sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a fractal like musical sub genre disappearing into the abyss of my fractured mind,…  and this too led me in the direction of this sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a sub genre of a fractal like musical sub genre disappearing into the abyss of my fractured mind,…  to a place where Sandy Denny appeared each night, where Bridget St John still spoke French like a native, where Anne Briggs lived in a hole on a beach in Ireland amongst the Gorse and the Furze and cared not for ‘our’ world and wrote songs that would put us on a spaceship to the place we should have been born unto, to another planet, another beach, another life in and on a parallel dimension.

I’d always wanted to explore the Incredible Stringband’s music and they are probably the starting point most oft launch padded upon for those entering these sacred fields of discovery; and so I shall launch this little ship of fools off the cosmic slipway and onto a sea of meanderings via the ISB (as you will see below), where I outline my listening pleasures and give you, perhaps, a starting point at which to remove your denims and dive headlong into the this little mill-pond of music. Thing is the ISB weren’t really Psychedelic Folk, actually, scrub that, de-gausse that. Thing is the ISB were really Psychedelic Folk, but they aren’t representative of the genre wholly, they are too much ‘the other’, too strongly, of their own ilk, too different, too original. HOWEVER… phew! They are the starting point (and perhaps ending point) I shall start (and end?) with.

Their first Lp – ‘The Incredible String Band’

Recorded around one Mic, in a day, it’s a very good Lp, just not star on the dressing room door good, but damn, dang good, worth every penny, but, still… hmm… out of focus.

And so they recorded their first Lp, the result of happenstance meetings and gigs and a club they ran in Scotland, connections made, decisions decided upon, quickly… and then one buggered off to North Africa with his share of the proceeds (Robin Williamson), one kept on gigging (Mike Heron) and one was left by the wayside, probably because he didn’t take enough Acid to ‘fit in’, ‘tune in’ or ,.. oh no, actually.. he did ‘drop out’, or slide out, or ooze on down the line, whatever…, or he just fancied carrying on playing Parlour Banjo tunes, and frankly, that ain’t got legs mate, not for late 60s UK ‘projects’. Like all first Lps, the ideas were there, it was all in place, but they hadn’t realised it yet, when they did, all shit would break loose, crap would happen, faeces would smack the fan up. When Robin Williamson returned from North Africa clutching his fucking Gimbri he and Mike Heron hooked up, (Mike had been gigging more traditionally around the folk clubs of Greater Britain during Robin’s absence (and no I can’t even be bothered to mention the other bloke, no that would be rude, right.. Clive Palmer, Mr Victorian Banjo Gt Britain 1966) they recorded the scene changing, prop wobbling record you will see below. See it??

5000 whatnots on the layers of Huh?

R-1345732-1256851696.jpegThe 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion, actually.

A veritable deep space 9 of tunes. Just look at that COVER! Overall this is my personal favourite Lp by them, though everyone goes on about Hangman’s, there are of course stand out songs on all others, but this just hangs in totality to my taste man. Like the other Lps that originally came out on Elektra, tizz goodly, tizz very goodly.

Look I can’t be bothered with this anymore, I’m not going to go through each Lp, critiquing them, these are just suggestions for listening. So go get copies and listen, make your own mind up, just like Bucks Fizz did. Then the next Lp, The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, and the next  Wee Tam & The Big Huge and, and and and… until they petered out signed to Island and nailed by the musical virus ‘differences of a musical and or artistic nature’. And this brings us neatly to other shit of a Psych Folk vein to check out…

other shit of a Psych Folk vein to check out…

I spent a long time thinking that this stuff was childish, fay, thinnish, and was Hippie music; that as such it was something that I should grow out of, move away from, and I did in my early 20s, only to realise recently in my late 40s, in part to the revolutionary nature of John Peel’s Dandelion label, that this music was as out there as the German feedback and noise bands Peely played on his show in the 1980s. So I became baited and hooked again. And now I’m up to my bollocks in new music, casting my fly, bobbing for apples, spearing for melodic and well-odd’ic fishes once again.

Currently Marc Brierly, Bridget St John and the less Psychedelic but equally as ‘Folk’ Anne Briggs all interest me in particular. Alongside these the more ‘Folk Rock’ John Martyn, Steelye Span and Fairport Convention all beckon, and I’ve got one more Incredible String Band Lp to get to complete the set.

There is loads out there to find, and I expect to be exploring for a while. Come with me on my trip.

Bridget St John – Two Lps and A short introduction


Dandelion Days

It’s been over two years since I posted anything on this blog, shame on me!
More importantly it should be of some indication as to the esteem in which I hold this lady to get back to posting and to write something about her and her music.

So for a good long time I’ve been trying to find my female voice, my female singer. As a collector of records I have over the years realised that my collection is highly male centric, and it’s been a difficulty finding a female voice I really like. I’ve dabbled with Grace Jones, Marianne Faithful, Nico and those that just happened to come along; but just recently I stopped for a second to realise that it’s the English female folk voice I hold highest and went off to search further. Subsequently checking out Anne Briggs, Maddy Prior, June Tabor, Sandy Denny and more before alighting on Bridget St John.

Bridget initially appeared playing at Sheffield University, disappeared off to France for a bit, reappeared and hooked up with John Martyn; Martyn introduced her to John Peel and Dandelion Records the now famous (and highly collectable) Peel funded and often Peel produced label was formed initially to release her material. It released three Lps. She later did one more for Crysalis records, critical acclaim.. shorthand for didn’t make enough money for the label.

Later she gave it up or at least that’s how it reads to those that didn’t live a life, her life, she moved to Greenwich Village, and now happily gigs infrequently in the US and UK. Potted history. She does wonderful things like speak beautiful French to the French crowd that come to see and hear her play at the filmed gig I watched months ago on Youtube.

Sounds?

Like a deeper Nico, a velveteen female Nick Drake. A serious contender, passionate, mature, connected to nature, bound by cosmic debris, wistful, romantic, poetic, mystical, wonder-full, original, a one off, a superstar that didn’t superstar like Joni and thank goodness.

Lps?

Her Lps are not cheap to get in their original form, frankly you’ll probably have to spend over £100 for the first two and a little less on the third for the Dandelion Lps. For you will want to get them in decent and listenable condition. Worth doing as with quieter acoustic passages, you really don’t want too much snap crackle and pop. It detracts.

The first Lp – Ask Me No Questions

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So.. fairly standard fare as far as arrangements and instrumentation, but beautifully written songs with more than one featuring John Martyn too. The title track, I will admit made me uncontrollably boo my little manly eyes out, such was it’s love connectedness.

I love it and as with other Bridget St John Lps don’t expect to gain entry to it straight away, you get value for money with her output, it takes at least two listens, two concentrated listens where you aren’t distracted by the ironing or cooking something to feed your growling belly to get into it.. This is one of the things I do like about her, yes the original Vinyl may set you back (there are lots of reissues) but you get your money’s worth! Her guitar playing is subtle and understated, nothing is too ornamented, everything is there for good reason. It’s very much a debut Lp, feet finding, slightly bigger than baby steps for sure, but you get the feeling throughout that there’s something very grown up going to arrive in later career, and there is… the next Lp, which is one giant leap for mankind and a pretty giant leap for Bridget St John and popular music in general.

The second Lp – Songs For The Gentle Man

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This is the one I think, Ron Geesin takes the production credit and arranged much of the strings, Ron is the Dad of a friend of mine, I know Ron, he’s a bit of a genius, mad genius, but genius all the same and now I want to talk to him about making this Lp.

It’s actually a bit beyond description, there aren’t easy to pluck reference points to throw at you, happy little musical links with other people’s output, it’s too original for that, too special.
It’s going to perplex you a little, widen your ears a little, ask you to engage a little more than most, you may have to work a bit to absorb fully this Lp, but it’s worth it. It also has one of the most beautiful labels ever created, anywhere, ever, or at least one side of the record does. I’ll put it somewhere below for you to enjoy.

 

Dandelion Three

Bridget St John actually recorded three Lps for Dandelion, but look I’ll be honest here, I haven’t got the third Lp yet, sure I’ve heard bits and it sounds damn good, but I was so excited about the first two, I had to write this blog, while I’m saving up.. again.

Get all three!

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