Posts Tagged ‘Dave Mattacks’

The Thompsons were without a record contract in 1980, when Gerry Rafferty offered to finance an album for them with his “Baker Street” producer Hugh Murphy. The sessions yielded 10 tracks – and Richard later rejected them all. Eighteen months later, though, he and Linda re-recorded six of the 10 songs with producer Joe Boyd as “Shoot Out The Lights”. Rafferty’s Folly, then, offers an alternative version of what became the couple’s final album.

It’s more polished, with more instrumentation – keyboards, Moogs, accordion, simulated strings – compared to the stark Shoot Out The Lights. Other surprises include “Wall Of Death” and “Don’t Renege On Our Love” with Linda on vocals, as well as a beautiful version of Sandy Denny’s “I’m A Dreamer” (later included on Linda’s 1986 comp, Dreams Fly Away).

Both Thompsons have since relaxed their attitude to the Rafferty sessions – Linda has admitted she prefers some of her vocals here. But it wasn’t bundled in with last year’s deluxe edition of Shoot Out…, and for now, it exists only in boot form, including this and Before Joe Could Pull The Trigger, which throws in demos from ’80-’82.

Tracklist:

Don’t Renege On Our Love, Back Street Slide , Walking On A Wire , The Wrong Heartbeat , Shoot Out The Lights , For Shame Of Doing Wrong, I’m A Dreamer Written By – Sandy Denny , Modern Woman , Just The Motion , Wall Of Death , Lucky In Life , How Many Times Do You Have To Fall? , Pour Will & The Jolly Hangman , Wall Of Death , Sword Dance / Young Black Cow , I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight .

  • Bass – Dave Pegg
  • Drums – Dave Mattacks
  • Fiddle – Dave Swarbrick 
  • Guitar – Simon Nicol 
  • Guitar, Vocals – Richard Thompson
  • Producer – Gerry Rafferty 
  • Vocals – Linda Thompson

Sound quality: Excellent
See also: One Brave Henry, live folk club gigs from 1973

Recorded September/October 1980, Chipping Norton Studios

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English folkie Nick Drake barely created a ripple during his lifetime. He recorded three albums of beautiful acoustic folk, but barely sold a copy during his lifetime. His acoustic music was sophisticated, with flourishes of jazz, and his acoustic guitar finger-picking was beautiful; he used alternative tunings to create tone clusters. Drake studied English literature at Cambridge and enjoyed the poetry of Yeats, Blake, and Vaughan; his lyrics have the same evocative spirit, with images drawn from nature.

Nick Drake passed away in 1974 from an overdose of anti-depressants, leaving a legacy of three studio albums. He didn’t enjoy playing live, and languished in obscurity despite his immense talent. The release of the “Fruit Tree” box set in 1979, shout-outs from famous fans like The Cure’s Robert Smith and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, and the use of his song ‘Pink Moon’ in a US car commercial all contributed to Nick Drake’s growing stature.

By the 1990s, Nick Drake’s work, overlooked at the time, had been reassessed. Drake’s three albums are now all critically acclaimed.

Each of Nick Drake’s three studio albums provide a different angle on his acoustic folk sound. His 1969 debut, “Five Leaves Left”, is a pretty mood piece, with Drake’s guitar often accompanied by the bass of Danny Thompson (from contemporary folk-rock band Pentangle) and by Robert Kirby’s string arrangements. 1971’s “Bryter Layter” is more detailed – Drake is accompanied by a rhythm section on almost every tune. 1972’s final album, “Pink Moon”, is stark, with Drake performing completely solo – it was recorded quickly in two late night sessions.

Additionally, Time of No Reply and Made to Love Magic are overlapping compilations that mop up Drake’s studio out-takes, most notably the four songs that he recorded in July 1974. It’s worth hearing one of them, but they’re not as essential as his studio records.

All of Nick Drake’s albums require some persistence to enjoy, as Drake’s songs are subtle and nuanced, but the diversity of Bryter Layter makes it the most accessible. The fuller sound also helps; the Fairport Convention rhythm section of Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks appear, while Fairport guitarist Richard Thompson plays lead guitar on ‘Hazey Jane II’. Robert Kirby reprises his role of orchestral arrangements from Five Leaves Left, although John Cale’s beautiful arrangements on ‘Fly’ and ‘Northern Sky’ are next level.

Choosing a favourite Nick Drake album is purely an academic exercise, as all three are essential, but it’s the magical contributions of the other musicians, particularly John Cale, that elevate Bryter Layter as Nick Drake’s best album.

“One of These Things First” On the gentle and jazzy, Drake is joined by a cast of American musicians – rhythm section Ed Carter and Mike Kowalski were both involved with The Beach Boys, while pianist Paul Harris later joined Stephen Stills in Manassas. The gently meditative song was later featured in the film Garden State.

John Cale, at a loose end after his dismissal from The Velvet Underground, was sent a demo from Drake. Cale was impressed by Drake, particularly his “sensuality”, and added his arrangements to two songs on Bryter Layter. The classically trained Cale is a terrific foil for Drake, adding an exquisite beauty to his songs without drowning them in sentimentality. ‘Fly’ is the more ethereal of Cale’s two arrangements, with his viola colouring Drake’s delicate song.

The other song arranged by Cale, ‘Northern Sky’ is a romantic tale of wistful longing. While the subject of the song has never been confirmed, it was reported to have been inspired by Linda Thompson. Cale augments the song with beautiful work on celeste, piano, and organ. None of Nick Drake’s records were popular upon release, and none charted.

A contemporary review of the compilation Nick Drake in Rolling Stone by Stephen Holden read: “An incredibly slick sound that is highly dependent on production values (credit Joe Boyd) to achieve its effects, its dreamlike quality calls up the very best of the spirit of early Sixties’ jazz-pop ballad. It combines this with the contemporary introspection of British folk rock to evoke a hypnotic spell of opiated languor.”

All three of Nick Drake’s albums are included in the original edition of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Unhalfbricking front

1969 was a roller-coaster year for Folk Rock band Fairport Convention. In January of that year they released their second album “What We Did On Our Holidays”, the first one to feature singer Sandy Denny. In May they hit rock bottom with a tragedy that killed two people including one of its members. Miraculously they recovered and released the album that defines Fairport at that time, “Unhalfbricking” was released in July of 1969, several weeks after the fatal accident on the M1 that killed drummer Martin Lamble and Jeannie Franklin (“Genie the Tailor”, who designed clothes for west-coast pop and rock elites), Richard Thompson’s recent girlfriend. The event questioned the band’s resiliency, and was followed by an amazing period of recovery that gave birth to Liege and Lief. Franklin was immortalized a month later when Jack Bruce dedicated his debut solo album Songs for a Tailor to her, and Elton John’s Tiny Dancer is likely about her as well with the telling lyrics “Blue Jean Baby, L. A. lady/Seamstress for the band”.

Unhalfbricking climbed to a respectable #12 in the UK album chart, its name penned by Sandy Denny who came up with the made-up word in a game of Ghost the band was playing while traveling in their beat up van to shows. Uncharacteristic for its time, the front cover features a single photograph with no indication of the band or album name. Two people, Sandy Denny’s parents, are standing in front of their house on Arthur Road, Wimbledon. In the background we can see the band lounging in the front yard. Clever positioning of the band members’ heads, one per rectangle in the fence. 

Fairport Convention 1969

Even more uncool is the back cover with a picture of the band engaged in the domestic task of having a meal. The whole package smells of looking back at days of yore, keeping a distance from current trends. A&M Records, who distributed the band’s albums in the US, found the album cover’s concept abnormal and instead decided in a curious creative burst that the average American consumer’s palate might appreciate a photo of three dancing circus elephants with a girl dancing (balancing?) on top. Underestimating the American record buyer’s tolerance for the unknown, the band and album titles were slapped on the US album cover.

The band was going through a Bob Dylan phase at the time, resulting with three covers of his songs on the album. Dylan’s version of Million Dollar Bash, later to appear on the Basement Tapes album but at that point not yet released, The song came to the band through producer Joe Boyd’s song publishing company which had access to Dylan’s new recorded materials. The great mandolin accompaniment is courtesy of Dave Swarbrick, who made a number of excellent recordings with Martin Carthy between 1965 and 1968, and was called by Joe Boyd to guest on a number of songs on “Unhalfbricking”.

Another Dylan cover was for a relatively unknown song, If You Gotta Go, Go Now. Dylan had recorded it in 1965 for his Bringing It All Back Home album but decided not to include it in the album, instead releasing it as a single in the Netherlands in 1967. Manfred Mann covered the song soon after Dylan recorded it in 1965. Fairport Convention gave it an interesting twist by singing it in French, translated to Si Tu Dois Partir.

Fairport Convention was playing a gig at the Middle Earth and thought it would be amusing to do Dylan’s song in French Cajun style, so the band called for volunteers from the audience to help with the translation. Richard Thompson: “About three people turned up, so it was really written by committee, and consequently ended up not very Cajun, French or Dylan.” The studio version is a better attempt at the Cajun style, featuring Dave Swarbrick on fiddle, Richard Thompson on accordion and Trevor Lucas, who later formed Fotheringay with Denny, on triangle. The band was quite inventive when it came to producing interesting sounds in the studio. Joe Boyd, in his book White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s recalls: “Martin created the Cajun washboard sound for ‘Si Tu Dois Partir’ by stacking some plastic Eames chairs and running his drumsticks along them. The percussion break was supposed to feature an empty milk bottle lying on the topmost chair, but when the time came it fell and smashed on the floor. I signalled frantically to keep playing. The crash of broken glass was absolutely in time and worked perfectly, a good omen for the session.” The song was released as a single, reaching the UK singles chart, and got the band its first appearance at Top of the Pops on August 14th, 1969.

The B-side on the single Si Tu Dois Partir went unnoticed at the time but over the years became one of Richard Thompson’s favourite performance songs. It is also my favourite tune on the album, achingly sang by Sandy Denny. It is one of the first in Thompson’s career-long strike of beautiful melancholic songs, the album opener “Genesis Hall”. Thompson on the topic of the song: “Genesis Hall was the name of a building in London that was occupied by squatters. The police went in and were far too brutal in evicting the people. My father was a policeman at the time, and although he was not involved in this operation, I could see the situation from both the squatters’ and police’s points of view. This was conflicting for me, and I tried to express that.”
The August 1969 issue of the underground newspaper International Times mentions an incident that took place in the Drury Lane Bell Hotel involving police and squatters. It happened in March of that year, when Fairport Convention was in the process of recording “Unhalfbricking”:

Thompson covers the song from time to time on his live shows, giving it a fantastic acoustic version. A great example is from the first episode of the BBC Songwriter’s Circle series from 2010.
Several reasons why this song moves me: The lyrics, again so mature for a 20 year old who has not written too many songs up to that point. The sad yet somewhat detached mood in which Sandy Denny sings them. The part where the whole band is soaring with her when they sing “Oh, oh, helpless and slow”. The dual guitar work by Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol. Martin Lamble’s drumming, sadly not discussed too often, demonstrating his ability to play very interesting patterns behind the melody as if he was playing a melodic instrument. Only a month after the band finished recording the album Lamble died in that car crash. The band went through a rough period of mourning and healing and came out on the other end with the album that defines British folk rock. 

The third of the Dylan cover’s is Percy’s Song, recorded by Dylan in 1963 for his third album The Times They Are a-Changin‘. The song did not make it into the album and was released some twenty years later on the Biograph collection. The song lyrics are a futile plea to a judge to reconsider a harsh sentence given to a driver in a fatal car accident. Sandy Denny sings a beautiful harmony with Ian Matthews who had left the group after their previous album, and her interpretation is the best I know for this lesser known Dylan tune. Guitar player Simon Nicol said this of Denny’s vocal on the song: “It needs a voice like Sandy’s to get the shades of emotion across, from moodiness to compassion to outright fury. There’s not many singers can do that.”

One song on Unhalfbricking points to the direction the band would take on their next album. A Sailor’s Life is a traditional song brought to the band by Sandy Denny. The song, indexed as Roud 237 in the English Folk Dance and Song Society, was previously covered by Judy Collins on her album A Maid of Constant Sorrow in 1961 and by Martin Carthy on his second album from 1966.

Fairport Convention’s version is a milestone in British folk rock, maybe the first time a serious rock interpretation was given to an old ballad. Sheila Chandra, who was inspired by Sandy Denny’s delivery of the song and later covered it herself, found similarities to Indian music in Fairport Convention’s version: “The track is actually a microcosm of 2,000 years of Indian music – it goes from Vedic chanting on two or three notes right through to full improvisations on a fixed note scale. All in one take. The band have realized that all folk music is based upon a drone, and shares a common root. For instance, the way the violin comes in with an insistent repeat of the drone note is reminiscent of the Indian wind instrument the Shenai, and its distant relative the shawm in Irish music. It all connects.” That violin is played by Dave Swarbrick, his finest contribution to this album.

John Wood, who was the principal sound engineer in the studio, recalls the recording of the song: “Richard and Sandy came in and said ‘we really think we can only do this once’. They already got Dave Swarbrick in to play on it. We put Sandy in a vocal booth (she had an awful cold that day too) and everybody else in a big semicircle. When you want to cut that sort of track, its not easy for people to work if its all sectioned off, so it was very open and that was it, one take, done. No overdubs.” Dave Swarbrick was given no specific instructions as to what to play on the song other than to just come in when the singing stops. He had fond memories from the session as well: “Sandy had a great band to soar over and a great bunch of musicians who were sympathetic. Richard and Sandy worked closely together. Richard was awesome, of course. That should be his middle name. But the band was cohesive and so special, the chemistry worked and the line-up was sensational.”

I have two favourite songs on this album, and one of them is Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” Denny wrote the song early in her career with the original title The Ballad Of Time. She was not yet 20 years of age when she wrote the mature lyrics about the passage of time. She sang it during her short stint with the Strawbs in 1967. Judy Collins gave the song an interpretation in 1968 on her album of the same name and as a B-side on her single Both Sides Now.
The song became one of Denny’s most enduring and beloved songs, and in 2007 it was voted by BBC Radio 2 listeners as their favourite folk rock track of all time. It was the last song to be recorded for Unhalfbricking, and the last drummer Martin Lamble would ever record with the band.

The album was recorded in the early months of 1969 at Sound Techniques and Olympic Studios in London. Sound Techniques was a go-to studio for many great psychedelic, rock and folk British acts of the time, including Nick Drake (Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter), Incredible String Band (The 5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion), Jethro Tull (This Was), John Martyn (Solid Air), Pentangle (Cruel Sister), Pink Floyd (Arnold Layne), Steeleye Span (Parcel Of Rogues) and Fairport alumni Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny. John Wood assembled a roster of first-class musicians who acted as the house band for a great variety of recording sessions. Not surprisingly, many of them were associated with Fairport Convention, including Dave Mattacks and Gerry Conway on drums, Danny Thompson, Dave Pegg and Pat Donaldson on bass, Richard Thompson, Jerry Donahue and Simon Nicol on guitars.

Unhalfbricking back

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This incarnation of Fairport Convention comprising lead vocalist Sandy Denny and newcomers Dave Swarbrick and Dave Mattacks, together with founder members Richard Thompson on lead guitar and some vocals, Simon Nicol on rhythm guitar and Ashley Hutchings on electric bass, rehearsed and put together the album “Liege & Lief” over the summer of 1969 at a house in Farley Chamberlayne, near Braishfield, Winchester, launching its material with a sold-out concert in London’s Royal Festival Hall on 24th September that year. Liege & Lief  was the fourth album by the English folk rock band . It is often credited, though the claim is sometimes disputed, as the first major “British folk rock” album, It is the third album the group released in the UK during 1969, all of which prominently featured Sandy Denny as lead female vocalist (Denny did not appear on the group’s 1968 debut album). 

Gone were the covers of songs by Bob Dylan and others, replaced by electrified versions of traditional English folksongs (“Reynardine”, “Matty Groves”, “The Deserter”, “Tam Lin”), new compositions by band members but with a “traditional” feel (“Come All Ye”, “Farewell, Farewell”, “Crazy Man Michael”), and the first of a long line of instrumental medleys of folk dance tunes driven by Dave Swarbrick’s violin playing. The virtuoso fiddle and mandolin player Swarbrick, was a little older than the rest of the band, had already been in a successful duo with guitarist Martin Carthy. After his appearance on Unhalfbricking, he joined Fairport full-time. Much of the traditional material had been found by Hutchings in Cecil Sharp’s collection, maintained by the English Folk Dance and Song Society, although Swarbrick has elsewhere claimed credit as the source of the traditional material used.

Also rehearsed and/or recorded, but omitted from the final album, were versions of The Byrds’ “Ballad of Easy Rider”, the traditional ballad “Sir Patrick Spens” with Sandy Denny on lead vocals, and “The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood”, a Richard Fariña lyric he had set to a traditional Irish melody, the last two of which were to appear in different arrangements on later albums by Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny, respectively.

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Liege & Lief is composed of two Middle English words: liege meaning loyal and lief meaning ready. The cover, a gatefold in grey and purple, featured cameo images of the band along with track listing and credits. On the inside of the original gatefold cover, a set of illustrated vignettes told the story of ten different aspects of English traditional music and folklore, including notes on customs such as pace-eggers and the Padstow hobby-horse, as well as collectors such as Francis James Child (of “Child Ballads” fame) and Cecil Sharp.

The band toured the UK for several months, also visiting Denmark, performing the Liege & Lief material before recording it in the studio (also including a performance recorded for BBC radio’s Top Gear). However, in November 1969, even before the album was released on 2nd December, both Hutchings and Denny quit the band: Hutchings to further pursue traditional music in a new band Steeleye Span, and Denny to form her new venture Fotheringay, with more emphasis on her own original compositions.

 “Liege and Lief” won the award for Most influential Folk Album of all time.

In 2007 a double album “Liege and Lief Deluxe Edition” was released; the second album consisted mainly of BBC radio live performances and two stylistically uncharacteristic outtakes, the great American songbooks standards “The Lady Is a Tramp” and “Fly Me to the Moon”.

The Band:
Sandy Denny – vocals
Dave Swarbrick – fiddle, viola
Richard Thompson – electric & acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Simon Nicol – electric, 6-string & 12-string acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Ashley Hutchings – bass guitar, backing vocals
Dave Mattacks – drums, percussion

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