JOAN BAEZ – The Complete Gold Castle Masters (Proper PROPCD141)

Joan BaezWithout a label and not having not made a studio album since 1979’s Honest Lullaby, in 1987 Joan Baez got back into the ring, signing with Danny Goldberg’s new Gold Castle with whom, over the next two years, she would release three albums (along with the Brothers In Arms compilation) before inking with Virgin.

These are now gathered together in this 3CD set, along with various bonus cuts, the first up being her ‘comeback’, ‘Recently’, the title track concerning the break up of her marriage to David Harris, the track ‘James and the Gang’ being about the kid who, with Baez away on frequent tours, led their then teenage son Gabe to drop out of school and get mixed up with drink and drugs. They’re the only two Baez originals here, the other tracks including her brooding interpretations of Mark Knopfler’s ‘Brothers In Arms’ and, backed by just a stormclouds drone, U2’s ‘MLK’, Jimmy Webb’s ‘The Moon Is Harsh Mistress’, Peter Gabriel’s ‘Biko’, a gospel infused version of Moman and Penn classic ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’ and, sung in the original Zulu, Johnny Clegg’s ‘Asimbonanga’, for which she earned a Grammy nomination. The album was rounded out with a live recording of the traditional ‘Let Us Break Bread Together/Oh Freedom’, the reissue now adding the previously unreleased ‘Lebanon’ from early Steely Dan member David Palmer, recorded during the same sessions.

Her second studio set, Speaking Of Dreams, followed in 1989 and followed the same mix of material, opening with the politically charged ‘China’, inspired by the Tiananmen Square protests, followed by the reggae rhythms of the equally political ‘Warriors of the Sun’. The piano ballad title track was the only other self-penned number while the traditional quota was filled by an harp backed ‘Carrickfergus’ and, produced by and featuring Paul Simon, his South African inspired ‘Rambler Gambler/Whispering Bells’ interpolation.

A second duet teams her with Jackson Browne for Greg Copeland’s slow waltzing protest number ‘El Salvador’, with the original album completed by David Massengill’s folksy ‘Fairfax County’, a percussive third person rework of ‘Hand To Mouth’, the B-side of George Michael’s solo debut, and, backed by the Gypsy Kings, ‘A Mi Manera’, Paul Anka’s ‘My Way’ sung in Spanish (initially omitted by added to subsequent releases).

The reissue adds the two numbers left off the album (and featured on the 1991 compilation), her cover of Billy Joel’s ‘Goodnight Saigon’ and the full seven minute version of ‘Warriors of the Sun’ which segued into Tracy Chapman’s ‘She’s Got A Ticket’.

The third CD, released in 1988, is the live recording Diamonds and Rust in the Bullring (her first official live release in the US) , recorded in Bilbao, Spain, with five of the 12 songs sung in Spanish (‘El Preso Numero Nueve’ revisiting her 1960 debut while ‘Ellas Danzan Solas is Sting’s ‘They Dance Alone’) and one (‘Txoria Txori’) in Basque. The English language numbers include gospel staples ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ and, with Mavis Staples, ‘Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around’ alongside Cohen’s ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’, Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry’, ‘Let It Be’ (a gospel reading surely influenced by Billy Preston’s version) and, of course the definitive version of classic title track itself.

For a variety of reasons, the albums never found their audience at the time, the label declaring bankruptcy in 1992, but three decades after they were recorded, and following Baez’s recent 75th birthday celebrations, they’re due to some serious long overdue attention.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the JOAN BAEZ – The Complete Gold Castle Masters link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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.

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Artist’s website: www.joanbaez.com

‘Diamonds And Rust’ live. (Not the version on this album.)

THEA GILMORE – Ghosts & Graffiti (FullFill Records FCCD 165)

THEA GILMORE Ghosts&GraffitiA mixed bag, jam packed with 20 tracks from the talented Miss Thea Gilmore. Some older tracks and some brand new tracks to encounter. The songs are often woven around intelligent, inventive and sometimes just plain strange lyrics; as in the case of “Razor Valentine”.

Not all the tracks hit the mark in my opinion, but there is such a rich selection that a small wobble here and there is no big deal. There are an array of guest artists on the album, such as Joan Baez, King Creosote and The Waterboys, adding variety and counterbalance to the songs. From upbeat rocking style to mournful ballad (and even, dare I say it, folk) [yes, you dare – Editor], this album covers the ground in style.

It’s incredible to think that some of the tracks on this album stretch back some 17 years and yet still come over as relevant. Age has not dated them.

Stand out tracks, for me? The opener ‘Copper’, ‘Start as We Mean to Go On’, ‘Coming Back to You’ ‘Razor Valentine’, ‘Sol Invictus’ and ‘Wrong with You’. Plenty of other goodies in the bag, but these are the tracks that pressed my buttons on the first play.

So if you acquire this CD you are getting a potted history of Thea Gilmore’s musical work, with the added bonus of new tracks. Plus a glossy booklet which has an introduction by the author Neil Gaiman, who became a fan of Thea Gilmore in the early years.

So, a thumbs up for Ghosts & Graffiti. Well worth the money in your pocket or adding to your birthday list.

Ron D Bowes

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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: www.theagilmore.net

‘Coming Back To You’ – the official video:

Thea Gilmore announces new single, ‘Love Came Looking For Me’

Thea Gilmore Regardless

Critically acclaimed songwriter Thea Gilmore has now released her new studio album Regardless, to celebrate its release folking is giving you a chance to take a listen to the single ‘Love Came Looking For Me’.

If the name’s familiar, it may be thanks to the many plaudits the press have directed Gilmore’s way, or the endorsement of fans including Bruce Springsteen and Joan Baez, or perhaps even her posthumous Sandy Denny collaborative track ‘London’, which dominated last year’s BBC London Olympics coverage, climbing into the upper reaches of the iTunes singles chart.

Gilmore is nothing if not prolific – Regardless is her 14th album in as many years – but this latest album grew out of an enforced hiatus.  In 2011 she gave birth to her second son, and had to take several months out from music– a potentially frustrating state of affairs for a musician with a fierce work ethic. The break, however, allowed her a distance to look at her own work with fresh eyes.

 ‘When you write as much as I do, it would be easy to get stuck in a rut and end up putting out the same album. This helped me relearn what I do.’ Thea continues ” I once had a conversation with a friend about a female artist who had had kids… he thought the album she released subsequently sounded as if she thought she was the only woman ever to go through the birth experience.  I never wanted Regardless to come across like that. For me, these are songs about being the custodian of somebody, but also about the process of letting go’.

The expression of unconditional love is something Gilmore pulls off on Regardless by shooting her lyrics through with a sense of human fallibility, and an eye ever mindful of the dark side. At times it’s as if her own emotions unnerve her (“this path is so well trodden but it still feels so unreal”) and elsewhere she muses movingly on the changing cycles of the human heart (“I find it best to be prepared for tricks of the light, and the shadows things throw if you hold them too tight. Time is a train and it’s lost to the bend.”)

Gilmore and long standing musical partner/producer Nigel Stonier have journeyed into new territories this time around, with Regardless featuring more lush string sections than scruffy acoustic guitars and harmonicas. 9 months were spent in 5 different studios, hooking up with collaborators Seadna Mac Phail (Elbow)  Danish producers The Suppliers (Ron Sexsmith, Martha Wainwright) and string arranger Pete Whitfield (Plan B). There is a widescreen finish present, and the painstaking process has clearly been worthwhile, resulting in an album that feels like an evolution of Gilmore’s songwriting talents – bigger and glossier, but with the wit and honesty that sets her work apart.

“Don’t look now, the view just changed…” Thea asserts on lead single “Love Came Looking For Me”. For Gilmore and her growing body of fans, the view has surely never been better.

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Thea Gilmore – Regardless link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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.

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THEA GILMORE – Don’t Stop Singing

THEA GILMORE - Don’t Stop SingingThe prolific and ever-talented Thea Gilmore has announced details of a unique new collaborative album, ‘Don’t Stop Singing’Released on November 7 via Island Records & Mighty Village, the record brings together Gilmore’s songwriting and arrangements with previously un-scored lyrics penned by folk legend Sandy Denny. The seeds for this extraordinary project were planted, albeit somewhat inadvertently, twelve years ago, when a Denny biographer unearthed a collection of unscored lyric manuscripts amongst Denny’s personal effects (held in Australia by the Fairport Convention singer’s widower, Trevor Lucas). These ‘lost’ manuscripts continued to lie essentially dormant until late 2007, when Denny’s home label – Island Records – and the custodians of her estate began combing through her correspondence, as part of a BBC project. In doing so, they found the lyrics to twenty brand new and never-heard-before songs. Denny’s estate, willing them to reach a public audience, set about the unenviable task of trying to find the right artist to flesh out these words with music.

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. 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.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a name which frequently came up in discussions was that of Thea Gilmore. Beyond the frequent and favourable comparisons that have been made between the crystalline vocals of Gilmore and her predecessor, there seemed to be a strong resonance of Denny’s legacy in Thea’s work. Bizarrely, it was as an intern at Fairport Convention’s Oxfordshire studios that a young Gilmore’s burgeoning career began. Here has followed a vehemently independent and prolific output, which has thus far seen Thea release ten critically-acclaimed studio albums in as many years (she is barely 30), and acquire fans such as Bruce Springsteen and Joan Baez. Gilmore, though understandably daunted by the task of agreeing to make an album that was in some senses already written, agreed to take up the challenge.

‘Don’t Stop Singing’ is no mere exercise in hero-worship on Gilmore’s part. Thea has crafted an elegant, emotional score to accompany Denny’s unfinished songs, which effortlessly reflects the content of Sandy’s words, and shines new light on both artists involved. This is perhaps best demonstrated on the gorgeous, string-led opener, ‘Glistening Bay’, where the wistful wish to return to a far-off city acquires an emotional new resonance. And though this is a fundamentally tender record, it is not without colour: see the upbeat folk-pop of ‘London’, which features the accordion playing of John Kirkpatrick (a contributor on original Denny recordings).

Whilst the record certainly has Thea’s stamp on it, there is no mistaking the talent and unflinchingly personal narrative of Denny. This is a collection sewn together in equal parts by Denny’s awe of the natural world, the experiences of her marriage to Lucas and her well-documented personal battles. ‘Pain in My Heart’, for instance, details a conflict of love and fidelity, and even references occasions of stage fright. One of the album’s most poignant moments, ‘Long Time Gone’, portrays an artist ill at ease with travel, separation, and herself: “I’m in such a terrible state, and my city’s just like me / I can’t afford to live in this place / And I can’t afford to leave.”

And yet despite Denny’s lyrical demons, the title track of ‘Don’t Stop Singing’ proves to be prophetic: this is a record that points to the enduring value of artistry, made – in extraordinary circumstances – by two extreme talents. Says Thea-

“I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t know at least one Sandy Denny song. Growing up the 80s, in an impossibly rural corner of Oxfordshire, she was one of the voices who filtered through from my father’s record collection, and ‘Late November’, ‘Fotheringay’ and ‘Next Time Around’ were as embedded in my psyche as surely as the delights of Bros and New Kids On The Block were thrilling my alleged peers…

As I moved further away from my beginnings and as the world moved further away from 1978, Sandy began to assume the proportions of a reference point, a fountainhead even, for any girl who wanted to sing and write and who didn’t wish they’d been born American.

Who knows how she would have developed these fragments, poems, words without tunes, had she lived longer? I was pleased to be asked, by those who survived her and those who continue to curate her work, to develop them, pleased when the words began to carry me somewhere and to suggest places that they and I could go together, and pleased when musicians who knew her and worked with her gave me encouragement, urged me to make this record.

Would Sandy have liked to see these songs being finished by me and released to the world? I hope so, but I will never know and neither will you. I see some of her contemporaries receiving posthumous garlands, being lauded by new generations of listeners, and I wish the same on Sandy’s beautiful timeless music. If you are reading this and don’t own a Sandy Denny album, consider yourself urged to go buy one.

And hey, in the end, who cares where the time goes, the music stays.”

Artist Web Link: http://www.theagilmore.net/