ALAN PROSSER & AL CLARKE – Living In Clover (Rafting Dog Records RD055)

Living In CloverAlan Prosser and Al Clarke have a Canterbury connection: Alan with Oysterband (who took their name from a connection with Whitstable in case you’re confused) and Al who has worked with members of Caravan and Soft Machine over the years. A discussion about the “Canterbury sound”, which was a thing back in the seventies, led to a new bunch of songs and Living In Clover.

Al sings and plays harmonicas and Alan does everything else including making the tea, it seems. That everything encompasses bass, drums, fiddle and programmed brass and strings and with all these tools, and the talent to use them, Alan and Al can make a big sound. The opening track, ‘Dream On’, takes us straight back in time. Alan creates a whole orchestra plus drums and harmony vocals and Al blows a mighty harp. The song itself is about finding a better place to live and ‘Hold Back Time/Time Machine’ follows similar themes and uses a similar sound palette but then drifts into acoustic territory leading into ‘I’ll See You In The Morning’ which feels like a song of reassurance to a child.

‘High Rise’ is an instrumental backing to the title track which consists of an elderly resident of a flat in Battersea extolling the virtues of her home which contrasts with most opinions of the time. That links to a short instrumental, ‘Jack’s Tune’, which has an easy blues feel but sounds very “London”, if you know what I mean. ‘King O’ The Casbah’ and ‘Lazy Boy’ come across as musical portraits of characters that the chaps have met on their travels and I’m still picturing the Great Wen. ‘Save Me’ is a blues-tinged soft-rocker and is a song for everybody who believes that they don’t belong in the world.

Having not heard Al Clarke before, Living In Clover wasn’t quite what I was expecting but, of course, Alan was able to bring the big band sound of Oysterband to a smaller project with great success. There’s a lot of variety here and some fine songs.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: http://www.oysterband.co.uk/