monday mornings no good coming down…

Lost classics shouldn’t necessarily be from 2005. Sixteen years ago The Eighteenth Day of May released their one and only album on CD and it was stunning. In 2020 on the 18th of May it was re-released on vinyl with all sorts of other bits and pieces that if you tracked them all down in other forms may cost a small fortune. It’s still stunning and sounds timeless.

specialising in crappy pictures one day at a time

At the time it was classed along with other”wyrd folk” a genre I think Judy Dyble created on her own. I still am not sure what that means, maybe folk that doesn’t require the finger in the ear! I think it’s just a great album.

There is a particular sound to English Folk-Rock from about 1968 to the mid 70’s, slightly hazy production with some raga rock feeling and the often close to nursery rhyme lyrics preferably sung with a super polite english female vocalist. The guitars overlap and create a unique wall of sound while mandolins and dulcimers and violins are all over the place. This was probably created by a lot of sincere young people trying to be original, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, any numbers of Albion iterations and the Pentangle personify this along with a slew of others such as Trees and Tir Na Nog. Eighteenth Day of May have managed to capture the feel without slavishly following the formula and every now and then the band will burst into a jangly byrdsian, California Monkees feel to break things up.

By track two of the Eighteenth Day of May’s one and only album they have covered all the bases. Then over four sides they hit all the stops, wall of sound, gentle pieces, indie pop jangle, they don’t head for the heavy metal corner but if they did it may be early Sabbath that falls out.

Of course all this is very surface and doesn’t actually do justice to how great a record The Eighteenth Day of May is, yes it does reference all that sunny summer of love folkiness, it also conjures up the Velvet Underground and the Cowboy Junkies in the same heady slice of pie.

The problem with all these comparisons is that you think you know what to expect.

They managed to cover Richard Farina’s Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood and managed to match Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny’s version.

I don’t do the song for song thing yet, maybe one day I will. This album though has consistently been the one I reach for if I want to smell the incense and frolic in the daisy’s on a summers or early spring day.

There is also a stunning version of Codine that may rival Mans version.

with music that would cure their souls…

It’s been 19 years since I listened to this album. I never knew you could get it on vinyl until I found this so thats a good thing that you can I suppose.

It’s pleasant enough, some nice reworking of old songs and some nice enough then new songs, as well as the cringeworthy Crowd song.

People who are new to Fairport Convention generally really like the current lineup, let’s face it this is the longest lasting lineup of Fairport Convention in the history of the band so consistency is everything I suppose.

It’s not a bad album, it’s just not as great as they have done. I watched Simon Nicol say on the John Peel youtube channel about Fairport Convention that the thing that saves them as a touring and recording band is that they have never had a truly defining great album. This has allowed them to go on creating music. I am sure there are many who would disagree with this statement, however it is easy to find flaws in all their albums of one sort or another, not enough guitar, not enough fiddle, too sappy, too happy or too drunk, who knows. So based on that logic this album is as good as all the others.

The truth is if you ask any Fairport fan to name their favorite album you will probably get a different one for every person you ask. Ask them about gigs though and thats where they light up tales of Peggy chasing people with a large inflatable banana, Simon fluffing his lines, Swarb causing trouble an grinning mischievously and drinking an entire bottle of wine during the bass solo, or was it port, Maart and his sarcasm, Mattacks and his cowbell, Rowland and his tambourine, Ric’s cosmic violin and Chris Leslie maybe being the nicest musician ever. The bad jokes, the musical pyrotechnics, Sandy’s shyness, Thompsons laconic wit and Iain’s youthful looks and amazing vocals, and Judy’s smile and the day Robert Plant strolled onto the stage.

XXV is as good or as flawed as all the others, there are moments of beauty and then the fluffed lines, it all sounded better live and damn I wish Simon would play electric guitar again.

Continuing the ageless Fairport tradition of bad album covers.

for summer is a coming in…

So punk rock was a thing, then the Pogues punked up some Irish songs and it was hip to cut your hair short, speed up the tempo and go hell for leather with the drinking songs if you were a folk band.

The thing is one band managed to go from performing one of the most cringeworthy songs about a charabanc to a small coastal town on the Menai Straits to convincing the record buying public that they were a real punk-folk band.

I give you The Oysterband who successfully reinvented themselves from being Fiddlers Dram with the gloriously frivolous song Daytrip to Bangor and didn’t they have a lovely time. To the serious folk-rock band that recorded the much more serious Another Quiet Night in England.

You can compare and contrast, yes it’s mostly the same band.

Now don’t get me wrong Daytrip to Bangor brings back memories of many a coach trip to North Wales from my hometown, it was just a couple of hours away but may as well have been another continent from Liverpool. Of course pick the right weekend in Rhyll or Llandudno and you could very well be on Church Street in Liverpool if you only listened to the accents. The coach on the way back would smell like brown ale and fish and chips and we invariably had to stop to use the toilet somewhere between Queensferry and Runcorn. Oh the heady days of childhood in North Wales.

Now The Oysterband are actually a rather excellent folk-rock band, they did get better when Cathy LeSurf decamped to join one of Ashley Hutchings incarnations of the Albion Band they got to speed up and get all jiggery with the music.

Listening to Step Outside by the Oysterband these days it’s easy to get caught up in the less than muscular sound, it really is not as good as the live sound they managed to have at the time. The songs really came alive live and the dancing was wild and frivolous, as shown by my awful blurred photograph.

There may have been some movement involved in the photography here as I relived a moment from my youth. If you could see the photograph you would notice that they are such nice clean cut young men, even though they seemed to have a decidedly socialist bent to the lyrics which could be worrying in this age of nationalism and fear of the other, or was that last year?

tail toddle and other crap…

All hail you beer swilling hellions and buffoons, welcome to the world of 70’s folk rock.

There is something truly awe inspiring in the audacity to take ancient tunes, electric them up and then go hell for leather in the dancing and leaping department. Legendary dancing moments and liver damaging excesses galore as the man who started it all probably, Ashely Hutchings, looked on in his fringed suede jacket and smiled, or smirked.

Those psychedelic chaps had there lysergic insanities and the metal heads had their speed, it was less risky for a working class lad to put his elbow in his ear and become sensory deranged by Owd Roger and Old Peculier and dance the night away to the jiggery and reelery of Fairport Convention the Albion Bands and Steeleye Span and their like, there was also the sensitive side with Harper and McTell and Stewart, the brilliance that burned too bright of Jackson C. Frank and you could also get it together in the country with John Barleycorn and Traffic or just be bemused by how great John Martyn could and would be.

All you had to do was avoid Ewan MacColl and his cod working class elitism about the purity of folk like some authenticity supremacist while he wrote about the gasworks.

The big plus side was that girls enjoyed this stuff too. So if the beer and barley wine was flowing you may get to dance with a young woman without begging although you may get walloped for saying the wrong thing, not that that ever happened to a silver tongued devil like me.

So here on the Electric Muse you have four albums romping through the late sixties and early seventies folk-rock boom. Most of the important bands are here and it’s a pretty good collection, although as with any compilation like this there are omissions, although this was probably more to do with licensing than choice. There’s nothing too challenging although it does remind me why I need more Bob and Carole Pegg or Mr Fox in my life and I should go find a Davey Graham album one day.

This type of music was pushed aside by punk much more than any prog rock band, or was it just driven back to the clubs and pubs that it came from where it flourished grew and erupted late as the Mumford phenomena.

There have been whole books written about the folk revival and the rocking up of it, there are also a plethora of collections, this however may have been the first.

you own it…

Sandwiched between American Stars and Bars and Rust Never Sleeps, Comes a Time often gets swallowed up by the major songs recorded on those two albums. It’s an album of affecting and effective (see what I did there?) love songs some bitter sweet and then there’s always Motorcycle Mama to stir stuff up.

It took three producers, ten engineers and twelve guitar players and a seventeen piece string section and Nicolette Larson to create what is often described by critics as the simplest and most direct of Neil Young’s albums.

It truly is the middle of the road album, way more than Harvest, there is not a song on here that your mom or dad would make you turn off half way through because they find it uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad album at all it just means it is an incredibly consistent and pleasant album. It’s the album that you can curl up with at the end of the day, the dog at your feet and get cozy with the love of your life. This really is the predecessor to Harvest Moon and its romantic vibe, although there may be as many songs on Comes a Time about the decline of a relationship as the success, but that’s life maybe.

Neil looks pretty happy with himself on the sleeve as well.

Let’s face it in the field of opportunity it’s ploughing time again.

see the lonely boy out on the weekend…

Time to slip into some comfy jeans and relax man. It’s been a long strange ride and maybe time for something warm comforting and familiar. Time to head for the middle of the road.

Is Harvest really middle of the road though or was it just thrust there by the record buying public

It’s an album like most Neil Young albums that addresses issues from drug addiction, to racism and somewhere in the middle of this relationships, good and bad. Now it does not always address those issues in a coherent manner. Like most Neil Young albums sometimes the lyrics are clunky and when he gets his hands on an orchestra the production is overblown. Of course that is at times the charm of the song.

It’s always struck me as a slightly quirky if amiable ramble of an album, a bit out of focus and stoned as Neil dealt with his back pain. Rather like the picture in the doorknob in the inside gatefold.

Of course all the classics rock crowd really remember are Harvest, Heart of Gold and Old Man, Alabama, Needle and the Damage Done and Words (between the lines of age) are usually consigned to the go get the popcorn or beer time. These are the same people who walk out of the gig when Neil starts his slightly cynical and ironic politicizing.

So tonight me and the dog rolled up our jeans and relaxed to Harvest and it was good.

After a fairly solid diet from the Rust Bucket this was something of a welcome change although I now want a Crazy Horse version of Words.

that was the week that was…

Hating the block editor.

Debut album day, not sure why but here they are.

It was all a bit left field today.

Some of this, actually quite a lot of this, has C.F. Mott Teacher Training College in common which may be too obscure for many.

Other parts of the week involved this:

Some additions just to prove I don’t just sit around listening to records and eating grapes all day, sometimes I go out in the woods too.

There’s a lot of Manchester there it seems.

she’s looking at me while I’m writing…

Written on the mailer in large block letters, “remember this?”

No letter, no card, just an album, The History of Fairport Convention.

This may be the most important record in my entire life, this actual record with its red ribbon intact, issued sometime between 1976 and the end of the decade. I have memories of sitting on my Aunts floor by the record player listening intently to this album over and over again while my cousin Tony did his biology homework or math or something equally important. I was obsessed at reading all of the lineups documented on the Pete Frame rock family tree album cover, I devoured every word in the booklet inside the sleeve.

In 1982 at the age of 16 I rode in the back of Tony’s Hillman Imp to Cropredy on Thursday the 12th of August, to see the band that no longer officially existed perform twice over the weekend, Friday the entirety of Babbacombe Lee, Saturday a 3 hour plus set covering the entire history of the band. Buce Lacey was there with his robots and Maddy Prior’s band and my young mind was blown.

One of my outstanding memories of that first Cropredy was driving into the middle of the field by the canal, stopping wherever we wanted, falling out of the back of that car and just setting up the tent. By the afternoon we were surrounded by tents, cars and vans and there was no way we were leaving. Health and safety be damned.

I was shaking as I played this tonight and closed my eyes and I could smell the beer and grass and sweat of an English festival before they became institutions and we all got too old to sit on the ground.

This album pretty much covers the first five years of the bands existence and apparently seven lineups. It’s all here sensitive pastoral songs, bawdy barroom humor, epics and some instrumentals. If you only own one Fairport Convention album, well you are frankly not doing it right, but this should probably be it.

I don’t wanna drown in someone else’s wine…

The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3 was the very first Dylan I ever owned for myself. It was bought as a gift one Christmas by a beautiful woman, this is probably how everyone should get their first Dylan album. It should be a rite of passage that a person of beauty carry the first Dylan album to the supplicant on a red velvet pillow that they can rest their sweat wracked head upon after digesting the album.

This collection may have needed two red velvet pillows as it was a lot to digest at 58 unreleased versions of Dylan.

Here we are with Disc 5. Dylan on the cover looking like some punch drunk boxer fumbling his way through his first three chords in the Ralph McTell learn to play guitar book. This may be a good analogy for Dylan in the eighties heading towards the 90’s reeling from the blows he had taken to the head. Many saying his best days were behind him and he was a washed up has been, others lauding him as the great songwriter who cold do no wrong.

I wanted to hear Blind Willie McTell but I have a rule that you have to lay the whole album when listening to Dylan. Luckily this does not mean the whole box set.

On the way I was reminded how great When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky is from the much ridiculed and maybe rightly so Empire Burlesque album. It’s a brash hectoring song, full of great lines and attitude. Dylan is out Dylaning himself at times with his delivery.

Syd got into the woods again today, about a half second after this picture he ended up in the creek.

you think inside out…

My mum had a friend called Maureen.

Maureen had a daughter who loved Kate Bush called Deborah.

When Maureen visited I was forced to entertain the daughter. We both went to schools away from our neighborhood so didn’t have a close group of friends locally. This meant that during school holidays and weekends we both would get dragged along to wherever our respective mothers went.

Entertaining involved me listening to Kate Bush with her in the dining room. I was probably about 13 years of age and she was maybe 14. To this day I remember her long auburn hair and the scent of lavender soap and apple shampoo as she sat on the floor in the dining room with me and tried to explain why Kate Bush was so great. She had every album and single and endless copies of fan club newsletters. She also had every album on cassette for some reason. She knew every word to every song and would shyly mumble along as the songs played on the infamous 70’s radiogram.

We would sit together our foreheads almost touching as she showed me the album covers and the lyrics her pink fingernails following along to the lyric sheets. She would point out lyrics that were important to her and at times blush and explain the double entendres.

Our mothers would sit there drinking tea and smoking cigarettes in the front room and we would be in the corner playing records. At some point she turned up with a cassette player with headphones, she would turn the headphones around so we had one ear piece each and almost cuddle in the corner listening to Never for Ever, for years I associated that album with only the left hand channel as that may be how I heard it most on that small cassette players headphones. We would lean against each other companionably and listen.

Deborah would bring every new Kate Bush album to wherever I was living to play it with me first. Sometimes she was happy and sometimes sad but she always smelled of apple shampoo and lavender.

Our mothers always lived in the same road and Deborah remained a visiting friend up to me leaving the UK in 1994. This was a year after Kate Bush made her last record for 12 years.

In 2005 I got a package in the mail. It was a copy of Aerial, Kate Bush’s then new album. In the package was a foam headphone cover, and I swear I could smell lavender and apple shampoo. There was no note.

I sat on the floor and played the album and cried a little.

During these strange times these memories of people and music seem more important.

Deborah and her mum have been dead awhile, on some level I am glad they never got to experience these odd times. Maureen because she missed her husband so and Deborah because she always seemed a little out of touch with the real world, maybe that is why she loved Kate Bush so much.

Tonight I played Aerial and got lost in the otherworldly world of Kate Bush. It is a remarkable album to come out of nowhere after 12 years of silence. It feels timeless and out of step with whatever else was going on with music or me at the time.