BEAU – Rattle The Asylum Bars (Cherry Red BEAURTAB1)

Rattle The Asylum BarsReleased almost forty-nine years to the day since his first-ever John Peel recording sessions, approaching 72, his latest release and his tenth studio album, Rattle The Asylum Bars, finds Christopher John Trevor Midgley at his politically sharpest on a collection of thirteen songs that underline why he’s been referred to as England’s answer to Phil Ochs.

Armed with just his trusty 12-string Harmony guitar, the album’s topics range from Prohibition and lottery winners to Charlie Hebdo, opening with ‘Road To Valhalla’, a fierce strummed meditation on the ascent of mankind from its early origins that touches on both the idea of shared community through song and the tendency to shun outsiders for “fear of being displaced.”

With its circling fingerpicked chords and echoes of John Prine, ‘The Rose’ concerns a more specific subject, the death of young student Rachel Whitear in 2000 from a drugs overdose, but here told from the perspective of a medic attending yet another such incident of “the barbed wire wrapped around the rose.” Inspired by hearing the late Ian Paisley holding forth in the Houses of Parliament, not to mention the sanctimoniousness of the likes of Tony Blair and George Bush, ‘Moral Clarity’ sets a driving Bo Diddley riff to a playful but pointed swipe at those so blindly convinced of their own rectitude they refuse to countenance any other views.

Taking the pace down to a fairground folksy waltz, ‘People Like Me’ continues along much the same lines, referencing climate change, freedom of speech and such issues with a refrain about how the ‘right-thinking people’ (and the emphasis is on the political right, I suspect) are those who agree with you. Probably not one for Daily Mail subscribers.

The focus shifts to America for ‘The Angry Preacher’, a fingerpicked song about how the country’s noted philanthropists tend to be admired but rarely loved, based around a funeral and a wake and the cynical suspicion that such charity must hide some inner rot. We remain Stateside, slipping back several decades almost a century for ‘Bugs Moran’, another urgently delivered bluesy melody line and a delivery evocative of Jake Thackray that returns to the time of Prohibition for a narrative about the titular mobster, a rival to Al Capone who, having decided to sleep in (though the song has him watching from a coffee house), escaped being shot in the infamous St Valentine’s Day massacre.

It’s back to politics for the stately circular melody of ‘The Apathy Party’, a title that pretty much makes any comment on its lyrical content redundant, and from here to ‘The Hedgerows of England’, a shanty-like Swiftian commentary on how the unexpected acquisition of wealth via the lottery can shift political allegiance, the song couched in a member of the Establishment offering some advice on “oppressing the masses for profit and sport” to a new Country Member arrivee to the ranks.

One of the longer tracks, ‘The Hawk’ is another waltzer, an allegorical message to impetuous youth to fly responsibly on how not to embark on things you cannot conclude in the tale of a young bird learning to spread its wings, getting into difficulties and reminded that “take-off is optional, and landing is not.”

By way of departure from the other numbers, ‘The Ghost Train’ is a straightforward storysong about an old puppeteer and a bride and the forces of evil being abroad, set on All Hallows Eve. It’s back then to more serious concerns for the fingerpicked near seven-minute ‘The Only Soldier To Turn Up For The War’, a meditation on the possible reasons behind the Islamic radicalisation in prison of a young and troubled teenage Muslim girl, the victim of a dysfunctional family, drugs and abuse, turned into a suicide bomber. A song that seeks for explanations rather than simple condemnations, it’s a powerful, thought-provoking piece of work.

So too, in a different way is ‘Klara’, which, as historians may know, was the name of Adolf Hitler’s mother, the song referring to the premonition she’d had prior to his birth of the horrors he would bring and the claims that shed wanted to terminate the pregnancy. As such, the song extends beyond historical record to address the whole Pro-Life/Pro-Choice debate and the division been moral absolutists and polemicists regarding balancing he life of one against the lives of the many.

Inspired by both the tragedy and the heroic defiance of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, it ends with the title track, a rhythmically choppy number set to a tune that echoes Tim Hardin’s ‘Black Sheep Boy’, about the right to freedom of the press to poke fun at sacred cows and how “we cannot in the world exempt Anything from out contempt. To do would betray…this liberty we value most.”

Beau may not have the contemporary cachet of a Billy Bragg or a Frank Turner, but his voice for change and awareness is as strong as any of them.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www.beausrecordings.blogspot.co.uk

Beau doesn’t do anything so conventional as releasing a video to go with his new album but here’s a song you probably won’t have heard – ‘The Peacemaker’:

BEAU –When Butterflies Scream (Cherry Red BEAUWBS1)

When Butterflies ScreamWhat with the likes of Steve Pledger and Will Varley the last couple of years have seen quite a resurgence in the protest song album on the UK’s contemporary folk/Americana circuit, but some have been doing this for years. I’ve written about Trevor Midgley aka Beau on these pages before and it’s good to report that his latest album, When Butterflies Scream, ably keeps up the standard. Sounding more than ever like Jake Thackray in his vocal delivery, it is, as ever, a no frills musical affair, predominantly just him and acoustic guitar, that allows the comments and commentary to take front of stage.

It opens with ‘Who Pays The Ferryman?’ not, you’ll be relieved to hear, a Chris De Burgh cover but, set to a slow mazurka rhythm etched out on accordion (one of the most elaborate instrumentations on the album) and drawing on Greek mythology and the figure of Charon who ferried the dead across the River Styx if they had the coin to pay, his take on the refugee crisis and the traffickers who exploit it. It’s a theme to which he returns on the closing seven-minute lyrically harrowing ‘The Immigrant’ with its recounting of mass executions, genocide rapes and those consigned to risk their lives in taking flight to see, those who survive being herded into camps while the politicians debate their fate (“We’re not in the business of profit and loss!” “Sort out the doctors and leave out the dross!”).

If that’s about effect, then ‘Kill The Idea’ looks at cause and how military attempts to eradicate an idea in the name of freedom more often causes it to drift “into different shapes that were harder to shift.”

The album’s title comes from a disturbing image in ‘Gerrymander Street Blockade’, a story of murky political goings on and cover ups, followed by the waltzing ‘The Song of the Pox Doctor’s Clerk’, a surely cynical suggestion that some of the Honours List gongs are handed out to, a she puts it, those who know where the bodies are buried (“It would be remiss for me here to disclose all names and addresses, but yes, there were those with reasons to quaver and even to quail; My peerage, it seemed, had been lost in the mail!”).

Government politics resurface with ‘The Mandarin’, an observation on those who ensure ministers are all singing from the same hymn sheet in the service of doctrinal mandates (“Alas we can’t claim to be wholly immune from bribery, sleaze and the inopportune. So, best we desist from our scheduled schemes, toppling dictators from dishonest regimes”).

One of the most pointedly barbed numbers is ‘The Promise’, a timely reminder of how badly the country and the MoD in particular, often treats those injured in the service of their country once they return home as it tells of how a hero survivor of his unit suffers from PSTD and ends up a down and out committing suicide by walking into the sea because “somehow, the Military Covenant’s promise had simply gone out through the door; And all that remained was a shirt on his back and the ribbons he steadfastly wore.

Elsewhere he turns his eye on the use of armed military drones with ‘The Fire’, calling on Newton’s law that for every action there’s an equal opposite action and, basically, if something can go wrong it will (“Missiles pack a punch, and this one didn’t mess around – The fireball arriving above the speed of sound. In the end, they called it an “unfortunate event”; chances of it happening? Around fifteen percent”).

Taking an aspiring Stravinsky as an example, ‘Ben & Jerry’s Coca-Cola Tarantella’ is about selling out your soul (or ideals) to the devil, or in this case the commercial imperative while both ‘The Nightmare’ and ‘It’s Only Just Begun’ both sound an apocalyptic note, the former a talking blues response to the election of Donald Trump and the latter, with references to Nero, Genghis Khan, the bombing of Dresden, the Falklands conflict, Bhopal and the morning after 10/11, a tale of the Devil fuelling man’s proclivity for death and mass destruction.

The remaining number, ‘Smilin’ Billy Lye’, is less obvious, ostensibly the story of a dirt track rider who, envious of Motorcycle Show stunt champion Crash Donovan (the name a nod to the 1936 Highway Patrol movie) takes up his Tunnel of Fire challenge with enigmatic results, but there’s a cautionary string in its tale.

It’s sadly unlikely that this is going to attract the sort of attention and acclaim accorded the current crop of folk’s socio-political commentators or find an audience much beyond Midgley’s fanbase, but those who do seek it out will be well rewarded.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website:   http://beausrecordings.blogspot.co.uk/

There are no videos from the album available yet but here’s the opening track, ‘Who Pays The Ferryman’ in glorious living sound.

BEAU – An Original Thought (Cherry Red BEAUAOT1)

Beau - An Original ThoughtHaving gone totally off the radar after the release of his 1971 album, 12-string maestro Trevor Midgley finally resurfaced on Cherry Red in 2011 with a series of remasterings or re-recordings. The following year he released his first collection of new material in 41 years and now seems to be doing so on an annual basis. Once again, this third gathering of new songs, released to coincide with his 70th birthday, is a download only release and, again, marries a mix of social and political commentary.

I’ve noted before a similarity with the likes of Jackson C Frank, Phil Ochs, Dylan, Harvey Andrews and Country Joe McDonald, but I should also add here Jake Thakray, most notably so (both in swallowed vocal delivery and content) on the title track opener, a satirical comment on the dumbing down of the nation as a man is found not guilty of ever having an original though in his life.

Patriotism and the way it can be manipulated forms the thrust of the fingerpicked ‘The Patriot’ (“They tell me how liberty comes at a price; That no price is ever too high. When devils are driving the wind to the sails.”) while the briskly strummed ‘The Promised Land’ turns its attention to the influence of focus groups on forming political policy that often reflects their own interests. By way of change of focus, over a circling guitar pattern, ‘Longhope’ pays tribute to the eight man volunteer crew of the Longhope lifeboat who lost their lives in the 1969 disaster during an attempted rescue.

It’s back then to barbed commentary, adopting a sprightly, almost salvationist hymnal style tune for ‘The Thinking Of God’ about those who, from Pastors to Imams take it upon themselves to interpret the divine will of their choice, while ‘A Peace That’s Bad’ is a Country Joe-like strummed reminder that a ‘Peace that’s seen to be unjust fuels conflict and distrust’. Elsewhere, ‘Skeletons Dance’, with its music hall whirlygig melody, addresses political hypocrisy and its tabloid press exposure, ‘Little By Little’ casts an eye on the way increasing surveillance is gradually eroding our freedoms and the gypsy waltzing tragedy of ‘Something Of A Loner’ sounds an all too familiar note about the fate of those we see as social misfits (“Oh, it must be ten years. He was here when we came. He lived in the flats. No, I don’t know his name. He always wore medals. We thought he was weird. And the kids, well, whenever they saw him they jeered.”)

It’s not all so pessimistic. ‘The Trotter Sisters’ is an amusingly wry bluesy tale of the showbiz comeback of sibling contortionists, so famous Madonna plays backup and the ragtime-styled ‘Everything’s Possible’ is a celebration of human ingenuity that namechecks Gutenberg, Alexander Graham Bell, Alexander Fleming and Tim Berners-Lee, along with the inventors of the wheel and the compass. The optimism and resilience of the human spirit gets a personal note too in the circling melody of ‘Mary Huddleston’, the poignant story of his own great aunt who sailed from Liverpool on a way one trip to carve a new life in the Cape, braving all adversity to raise a farm and family.

Fittingly then, he closes on an upbeat note with the energetically strummed ‘Hope’, a reminder that, despite all the connivances of the body politic and of those of power and privilege that “hope will be the last to die.” Not original thoughts perhaps, but perceptive and well honed nonetheless.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://www.trevormidgley.com/

‘Longhope’ – probably an unofficial video:

A message from Beau

Beau - An Original Thought

The big news is that today, (9th May)  Cherry Red are celebrating my 70th birthday with a brand new Beau album, An Original Thought.

Written in just fourteen days (my most intense writing phase ever, even going back to my twenties!), An Original Thought contains songs about patriotism, invention, modern-day surveillance, showbiz comebacks and a lifeboat disaster. And that’s just for starters!

The album cover features my trusty 1967 Harmony twelve-string, photographed in 2014 by Rocker Rosehip.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://www.trevormidgley.com/

‘The Patriot’ – official video:

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Dust on the Nettles: A Journey Through the British Underground Folk Scene 1967-72 (Grapefruit/Cherry Red CRSEGBOX030)

Dust on the NettlesIt was a time not only of music’s charting big names but also exploration by the Incredible String Band, Dr. Strangely Strange, developing folk rock (Pentangle; Fairport Convention; Steeleye Span), folk boomers pushing boundaries (Mick Softley; John Renbourn to whom the box is dedicated with Clive Palmer), and also a vibrant scene of counterculture comics, Alice in Wonderland on the Beeb in experimental form, revived novels by Hermann Hesse, Aldous Huxley, Tolkien, Krishna Consciousness, New Age, and Jesus Movements (one of which is here). David Wells’ myth-dispelling notes tells us that acid-folk was applied in the late ’60s, not retrospectively, as a quieter parallel to acid-rock. Martin Carthy called it “pagan” at the time.

Here, from 1967-72, are not only the famous, plus those of cult status, but also the obscure pressed in a few dozen copies to avoid VAT, unreleased demos, rare singles and soundtrack samples (Magnet, aka Hocket or Lodestone, for The Wicker Man; a very early Vashti Bunyan from Swinging London). It is a cornucopia, an extensive botanical garden of species and one-off hybrids, but why the absence of Dr. Strangely Strange, Forest, Third Ear Band, Blondel, Sweeney’s Men, Strawbs, Dulcimer, Dawnwind, ‘Mac’ Macleod…Why ‘British underground’ without leading Irish or Welsh for what was a cosmopolitan scene? Were Pentangle, Steeleye Span and Joan Armatrading ever underground pray tell? The title seems a bit like a punt into the wrong neighbours’ garden, the link to the sub-title eludes me, but such points are as titchy as a gnat’s boil regarding the overall musical delight. Nowadays box-sets are as much due to label ownership as personal taste or accuracy, hence contents as elastic as an elastic band used to be.

Time’s passing highlights other cultural changes. We now reside in an age of euphemism, a short-cut hybrid language where meaning is shared—but not questioned—and accuracy not a primary concern. Musicians don’t co-operate together they collaborate, as if with an enemy, they are “stars”, “icons”, “royalty”, “heroes”…ad nauseum, and called by pet names as if friends (they have bodyguards against you; evidence suggests they can’t be so “great” because unable to write their own autobiographies—didn’t they go to school?). An undressed woman is called “a lady” or “nubile” (which means of marriageable age, from nuptial) does that mean the photographer is automatically a gentleman? People don’t have children anymore they have “kids” (even falsely translated) which are baby goats and in the 19th century meant gloves. Among the media’s awful replication of Pentagonese (a tool of propaganda) people are now “on the ground”—where else? It means, simply, there. A video goes “viral”: a virus is surely more negative than “popular”. A question is, ridiculously, responded to with ‘you know’ or every second word with ‘like’ (which it isn’t). Many of those on Dust… weren’t underground in the understanding of that time. They were simply not widely known, except perhaps locally due to gigs and debuts.

This has further resonance and relevance because a lot of reviewers mock the lyrics of that period, but that’s like blaming the desert for having sand. It was 1967-1972. Words had reason and sincerity more or less, not unquestioning currency. (Just compare the writing then and now for proof; is it why there are no longer any truly great, i.e. time transcending, writers?) Now musicians aren’t surprised they can make an album without meeting anybody else, simply (literally) by sending digital codes, or people paying to see clones (“tributes”): even the idea would have been unthinkable in 1970. It was not just a time of incredible musical innovation in many genres unseen in previous decades but of fellowship. They ‘worked off each other’. Now everybody thinks (?) technology is communication, quantity not quality (e.g. downloads), hence the decay of linguistic meaning. The music, however, still speaks to us today, and hopefully not as mere nostalgia or ‘weirdness’ seen in current terminology but as elements of connected evolution.

Dust On The Nettles’ 34-page booklet is helpfully more ordered than usual, based on each CD’s running order. There is a healthy smattering from one of the first independent labels, Dandelion: Beau, Bridget St. John (both still active), Principal Edwards, Country Son, The Occasional Word (their two albums of humour and music were landmarks and pass the test of time; ‘The Evil Venus Tree’ imbues a nursery lullaby with menace via duelling acoustic guitars and echo voice), and Kevin Coyne (why ‘Sand All Yellow’ again, from their previous great box Love, Poetry And Revolution?). Even Peel’s chum Bolan is here for Tyrannosaurus Rex’s ‘Highways (Misty Mist)’. Oh, and rare singles on Pye, B&C, Pegasus, Trafalgar, the studio famous for the Thunderbirds theme along with unreleased acetates like an early one by ISB.

The first CD launches with The Pentangle’s enduring advice ‘Let No Man Steal Your Thyme’, a merging of the instrument variety of ISB and traditional vocal of Span with Jansch/Renbourn guitars, from their debut Transatlantic LP which only just eluded the Top 20. Appropriately taking the name from an Arthurian legend, their many line-ups formed the bed-strata of great folk-rock ensembles and solo careers. In tune with the time, their singer Jacqui McShee ran a folk club at the Red Lion in Sutton, where the Rolling Stones first met together. From the famous to the legendary are the female-fronted acid-folk bands Spirogyra (from their acoustic debut with Dave Mattacks guesting on drums), Trees (their much covered title-track with harpsichord and double female poetic lyrics), Wight of that isle, and always-uplifting Dando Shaft (a short track from their second album) who don’t deserve to be sent to Coventry from where they formed; they have a very original sound with no fillers. In the same fold now, Oberon, due to their self-released 99-copy album from Radley College’s music room where the masters forgot to lock the percussion cupboard in time here. Also a gem for archivists from the unreleased second album by Paper Bubble, who after their Deram debut backed the kindred-sounding Strawbs in the studio as well as touring together.

Gary Farr sheds his leather, founding The T-Bones that took over a Marquee residency of The Yardbirds, for tweed on a previously unreleased demo of lovely chiming 12-string. His first of three solo albums was backed by Mighty Baby and Blossom Toes, but after a short-lived project with ex-Uriah Heep and failing singles he left the business, like Mick Softley, Marc Brierley and the sitar-musing art student Mark Fry, who returns (again) from his acclaimed album in Italy. The great Clive Palmer ebbs into sugary overdose (‘Stories Of Jesus’), with Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Incredible String Band the lone representatives from 1967. Synanthesia’s sole ’69 LP is featured, sounding from inside a hive or fairy cave, Steve Peregrine Took’s Shagrat in an ultra-rare shelved bit of psych without the electric fuzz (allegedly about a croupier or else the Mandrax drug) while Mary-Ann updates ‘Black Girl’ in 60s style with chirping flute, percussion, and banshee vocal in the misty distance. Comus, the six-piece from Kent, confide that ‘Winter Is A Coloured Bird’ in an eerie example from their pre-LP maxi-single on Dawn Records.

There is no Mr Fox (whose debut was a Melody Maker album of the year) but its Bob & Carole Pegg’s traditional pilgrim-on-the-road-style song of Sydney Carter, who probably contributes hand-clapping here for a cull from their tribute album on Galliard rather than Transatlantic. A beautiful surprise is Chrissie Quayle’s tribute to West Cornwall, on the inaugural album of Sentinel Records—which amazingly has its own fan blog today. (Their use of field recordings includes splashing waves and gulls here, while the label’s later Warm Gold on CD2 pays agricultural homage to North Cornwall with an old ballad ‘Searching For Lambs’.) Chrissie, 17 year-old niece of the actor Anthony, was billed as the, erm, local mermaid by her father, who should have known better but such are the treacherous pools of love. She featured in Clive Palmer’s local The Temple Creatures that alas didn’t record, but also Daylight’s lone RCA LP which achieved radio notice in New Zealand. Their absence here is a pity. Daylight also featured Steve Hayton – guitarist of Daddy Longlegs and harmonica on a Mick Softley B-side – who sadly passed away recently according to their former manager.

The second CD has Steeleye Span from their debut with the fractious Woods on an electric, multi-titled ‘All Things Are Quite Silent’; Joan Armatrading’s sitar-swirling overlooked Cube debut on a track too short for a single, plus unreleased demos by Tyrannosaurus Rex who recorded for the same label (and as usual soon run out of steam here), Fairport Convention, and Incredible String Band’s ‘First Girl I Loved’. The legendary plus obscure all nestle comfortably in the same flower-bed—as one-off recordings often do, in spite of carping reviewers pretending otherwise. Take Gerald Moore’s (‘To Be A) Pilgrim’, as he does from schooldays, later a hardy perennial of pub-rock with G.T.Moore and The Reggae Guitars. Folk-rock that puts you back into those balmy but shadowy far days when whimsical play was de rigueur, even if unreleased at the time.

Slack-stringed bass opens Tony, Caro & John, a trio whose experimental self-financed LP features a vocal uncannily like Mike Heron. Unreleased was Tuesday, here with traditional style lyrics from the west countrymen though they have a collectable single for a very different reason; they later made an album as Casino and the vocalist wrote songs for Cliff Richard. Benjamin Delaney Lion was actually a duo, their Satori (1969) included Donovan and ISB covers (here they cite “be glad for the song has no ending”) pressed in seventy copies by the Brum studio Hollick & Taylor. The five-piece Hunt Lunt & Cunningham’s Pye 7” has a punchy female vocal but no hook. Moonkyte reappear from their rare splendid album on Mother Records and Sunbeam CD, a hypnotic harmonium, sitar and bells dirge that’s a snort in period parlance, more COB than ISB, for whom Peel wrote glowingly on the Bradforders’ sleeve notes but a prophet he wasn’t. A not-their-best from Trader Horne’s (named after Peel’s nanny) eponymous platter on Dawn included ex-Fairport’s Judy Dyble. On the same label was the bucolic Heron, here “in the garden smoking Lebanese beneath the privet hedge” as they did in field (actually two-field) recordings in Berkshire, with bird-song as subtle as the guitar-based harmonies.

The Cambridge duo Melton Constable’s unreleased strum-and-finger-picking with dulcimer describes a local street, while Duncan Browne, with almost flamenco or harp picking and slowed, syllabic lyrics is featured from his Immediate debut LP (five years before his Top 30 hit ‘Journey’). It contained, we’re told, “autumnal vignettes of the grey, closed-on-Wednesday melancholia underpinning suburbia”. Like Kevin Coyne’s ‘Sand All Yellow’ in his own inimitable way. A more traditional cautionary tale, by the moonlit mill, is an unreleased beauty by the Essex quartet Dry Heart, the ballad’s melody just holding back from rock. The Moths with ‘Halfdan’s Daughter’ is a deliciously melodic, rich singing five-piece who recorded at their university and issued only a dozen test pressings. Frozen Tear, who often supported big names in their native west country, issued a local-label 99 copies 7” with Free’s ‘The Hunter’ on the other side of this track that Peel played a couple of times. The echo vocal sounds early 1960s (they did support The Move, The Herd etc) and a bit Forest-like too. Academy Records may be soon releasing an anthology of their career.

More well-known examples on this disc feature Shelagh McDonald, whose private life was as blighted as Sandy Denny’s with whom she is often compared in style too. The title track of her second album merges astrology and astronomy for Stargazer (B&C, 1971) with piano, strings and monastic male choir rejoining the mist at the end. An unissued three-minute demo (February 1969) of Fairport Convention’s ‘Fotheringay’ heralds their turning from West Coast America to nearer home about Mary Queen of Scots, appropriately regarding its title with Sandy Denny’s dulcetry. Another nugget is Parchment, from their rare Light Up The Fire (Pye, 1972), lilting female-sang lyrics of yearning and front-mixed percussion that should be as well-known as the comparable Comus. At least from this track, for in spite of the (subtle) sitar they were a Liverpool-based leading Jesus Movement band, so this is an Easter hymn though one wouldn’t know without being told in the liner notes. It was, allegedly, a minor hit single for the hirsute trio.

The third CD completes the 63-track anthology. Nice piano/acoustic strumming demo by Bill Fay from 1969 with Peter Eden (who produced Donovan’s first session and Mick Softley’s debut in 1965), much-lauded now he doesn’t do much for me. Enduring pleasures include Mick Softley’s swirling ‘Eagle’ from Sunrise with sitar, tablas and unique voice, and Beau’s ‘Silence Returns’ featuring the storming high-point acid guitar from Tractor’s Jim Milne complementing the richness of still-current Trevor Midgley’s 12-string and evocative voice. From the same roster was Country Son’s ‘The Colour Is Blue’, one of the great Dandelion sampler tracks, an earworm of the highest breed (Were their later incarnations as Blue and in Ireland as Foxy ever recorded?); no LP from that duo of Paul Savage and John Hewitt is one of the major regrets about that label. C.O.B’s sitar/guitar classic ‘Music Of The Spheres’, produced by Ralph McTell, vies with Marc Brierley’s debut title track, ‘Welcome To The Citadel’ (CBS, 1969) with subtle horns, both of which stay in the memory long after listening.

Roots are returned to on Anne Briggs’ ‘Standing On The Shore’, a mesmerising Sweeney’s Men song. Important for her close links to Jansch, Renbourn and the fiery Ewan MacColl and wild as Denny, the latter wrote a tribute to her with Fotheringay’s ‘Pond And The Stream’. Like Mick Softley and Kevin Coyne, she didn’t like recording though appeared on an anthology as early as 1963. There was almost a hex regarding CBS singer-songwriters of that time: she, like Softley and Marc Brierley, left the music scene afterwards. Fresh Maggots reappear with dulcimer, bells and strings (absent of the searing fuzz guitar on most of the album) for the flower power ballad of delight ‘Rosemary Hill’. The husband and wife duo Sun Also Rises released one album, which wasn’t helped for being just the second from the small but great Village Thing label although it had a great review in Sounds.

Another group getting YouTube hits is the female harmonies and haunting Marie Celeste, who DIY-released And Then Perhaps in the late spring of ’71 out of Wolverhampton. They also ran their own folk club up the road in Brewood. The female swinger duo Chimera actually did an unreleased album with two members of Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac’s later guitarist Bob Weston. Their audition at Apple was liked by two bland-and-smug-is-an-art-form Beatles but blocked by George Harrison. ‘Elegy To A Dead King’, circa 1968, has a very original Chinese-like melody. A B&C picture-sleeve single by Mother Nature (‘Orange Days And Purple Nights’) is the only American-sounding track in the box, as was their follow-up single on Kingdom. Despite being produced by David Hitchcock (Mellow Candle, Fuchsia, Genesis etc) the “blissfully stoned” approach, like the title, was more a paean to what had been by late 1971; according to biteitdeep blog the featured 45 had Radio One airplay by Anne Nightingale and Saville. A compilation of them has recently appeared on Wooden Hill, and earlier under the band name Steepy Rojo.

Most crate-diggers will know Fuchsia, named after Mervyn Peake’s Groan princess, on doomed Pegasus. It has the rather unGormenghast “One day I went to school, the next day I got lost” but then again…A female string ensemble adds a touch of baroque (guitarist Tony Durant apparently reformed the band recently in Australia [he did and they released an album – Editor]). Even more will know Agincourt’s Fly Away, a 13-track self-released two-figure album in 1970, because Record Collector magazine has re-issued it. The dreamy band was a duo with guesting female vocalist and drummer, and one was later with the more proggy Ithaca and the BBC Radiophonic boffins.

Everyone Involved was a collective that printed on the label “Don’t pay for this record, it is free”; the story goes that a member buried a number of them later in the Amazon forest! Either/Or (Arcturus, 1972) presumably nodding to Kierkegaard, shows their campus origins but the pagan witch-wood offering with violin catches attention. One of them was previously in Wild Country, which had two Thunderclap Newman members and a 14-year old vocalist who was later a Miss United Kingdom finalist and cut three Pye singles. Their ‘Silent Village’ here was the inaugural single release by the little-known Trafalgar label two years earlier in London, for a band based in a commune in Liphook Hampshire. A stately, upbeat slice of fey loveliness, a sort of Pentangle spliced with Third Ear Band via Bridget St. John’s lyrics. Tapestry of Delights wrongly titled this band.

Joyful village scenes surface with Music Box’s ‘The Happy King’ (Songs Of Sunshine, Westwood, 1972); could have been a hit perhaps a few years earlier with its powerful vocals and confident, even strident sound. A bit like Dando Shaft, they plied the same Coventry folk circuit. Previously mentioned Wight, who issued a pair of France-only singles as a trio, renamed themselves (as a duo) Shide & Acorn for a 99-issue from the more local Solent label less than a year later: Under The Tree, in an enchanting hand-drawn forest scene cover. There is also a memorable ‘Scarborough Fair’ by Folkal Point, issued on the less than true-to-their-name Midas label in ’72 who should have turned such as this to gold. It blows away the too-polished S&G (lifted from Martin Carthy who taught it to Simon in ’65, resulting in some acrimony), in spite of being by a quartet of teenagers from Bristol. It is a return to the Middle English origins of the ballad, the male-response vocal absent here. Five hundred copies were pressed but fate dealt a blow when half were destroyed in a flood. Their finely-named Cherie Musialik’s spell-binding renditions, along with the band’s guitars ‘n’ banjo, have added to the album’s collectability today.

A clearer example of the box-set’s ethos (like Shagrat) is epitomised by Simon Finn, with ‘Patrice’ from his great-cover Pass The Distance via Mushroom Records. More famous in the field for Magic Carpet, the label (and studio) opposite Camden’s Roundhouse were true counter-culture in squat-like premises above a shop. Some of their releases had to be withdrawn due to disputes over the artwork. The Surrey-born singer, 20 when this LP was released backed by a multi-instrumentalist and percussionist, debuted for a quid at Al Stewart’s Folk at the Marquee residency in 1967. His career has been rejuvenated this century with Current 93, Thurston Moore, and the excellent Copenhagen-based duo of weird and wonderful sound, Blood On A Feather. His second album, Magic Moments, has been released on his own label from Canada where he emigrated to.

For this reviewer the measure of a choice compilation of this genre remains the stunningly beautiful Strange Folk, issued by Albion Records in 2006. But its span was wider in terms of period. No anthems or ego-posing here, no tricks or hype. If you are content that The Byrds didn’t play on ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ or only the singer for Love Affair, most of the Beach Boys not on Pet Sounds, Monkees not on their first albums or the Sweet on their first five hits, then the graft, skill and hopes (and honesty) here just might be a revelation for you.

The big folk names are not the Venus Flytraps of this inspired anthology, nor really the legends good as they are: the bouquet permeates the obscure. No weeds, thorns or nettles here, unless you think of home-brew or natural soup. Everyone, of course, will have their own blooms, and there are some really rare ones here. This is a meadow, round the back of the hill we might have gazed at during different seasons wondering what was on the other side but only now stumbled upon. The view can be sometimes breathtaking, spell-binding too: when not, it is never less than atmospheric. No smoke and mirrors, nourishing as good country fare in this age of false-label contents. You just might be smiling all the way home at the value for money.

Brian R Banks

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BEAU – Shoeless in the Desert (Cherry Red BEAUSITD1)

BeauCDThe second album of new material from Trevor Midgley since he resurfaced last year with Fly The Bluebird and the subsequent reissue of his 1971 Creation album, this too is a download only release and again features just Beau (who, should I need to remind you, launched John Peel’s Dandelion label; back in 1969) and his 12-string acoustic guitar. As with all his work, it’s very much troubadour folk, rooted in the same 70s soil as the early works of Roy Harper, Dylan, Harvey Andrews (whom his voice sometimes recalls) and Country Joe McDonald, his songs offering political observation and commentary as well as more personal concerns.

Immigration and the response to it is the theme of the powerful album opener ‘Storm in The Eye of God’ while, on a vaguely connected note, ‘America For Sale’ (which has a definite air of Jake Thackray) addresses the notion of both selling your heritage and consumer capitalism and ‘The Oyster & The Pearl’ (from whence comes the album title) is a fable about unequal relationships, exploitation, who does the heavy lifting and who gets the rewards.

Religion looms large too, ‘Guardians of Their Own Truth’ speaking of the deep-rooted self-interest of those who preach it, album closer ‘The Atheist Hymn’ is about the right not to believe while, taking a more storytelling bent, ‘The Deacon’s Revenge’ is a good old Gothic yarn.

Elsewhere, subjects embrace faltering relationships (‘Theatre Song’), the instinct to move on (‘Behind The Eye of the Mind’), the nature and purpose of dreams (a delicate fingerpicked ‘This Is Your Dream’), taking credit for just being lucky (the folk-country strum Uncle Joe) and, based on the theme from Sibelius’ ‘Finlandia’, ‘The Tree Of Life’ is a meditation on the frightening image of kids with guns and a hope for a brighter tomorrow. ‘Don’t Let Them Take You Away’ is even an ode to duodenal ulcers, hypertension and heart attacks, and a reminder to slow down and take it easy. Some forty-six years after his debut, although he’s never dropped out of making music, Beau remains very much a cult figure and it’s highly unlikely things are going to much change. Even so, it’s really about time you got his sand between your toes.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://www.trevormidgley.com/

It’s almost impossible to find current videos of Beau but here’s his 1969 recording, ‘1917 Revolution’: