During the Hot Vultures reunion tour Ian A. Anderson opined that there wouldn’t be any more reissues from his back catalogue. Then everything went wrong and straits became dire. Ian released a few carefully selected items on his own imprint which proved popular and now in steps Cherry Red to do what one man alone cannot. Please Re-Adjust Your Time repackages Ian’s first four albums with bonus tracks – sixty five in all – in facsimile sleeves with a detailed booklet in a neat box.
I’m still not sure that Stereo Death Breakdown was good title; it doesn’t seem to fit with Ian’s later, more serious persona but it was of its time and a successful debut billed as Ian Anderson’s Country Blues Band and featuring Bob Rowe, Chris Turner, Bob Hall, Ron Needes and Brian Claxton. The title track is an instrumental written by Anderson, Turner and Rowe so the title is as good as any. There’s evidence of a good time being had by all during the recording and of a sense of humour – ‘(My Babe She Ain’t Nothing But A Doggone) Crazy Fool Mumble’ is a title that’s hard to forget – and, with hindsight, ‘Short Haired Woman Blues’ raises a wry smile.
The bonus tracks are gathered from more or less contemporaneous EPs and compilations featuring Al Jones, Elliott Jackson and Mike Cooper which will fill in lots of gaps in collections. Readers with long memories will recall that Ian is pictured on the cover of the 1968 Island sampler You Can All Join In although he doesn’t feature on the record. The other Ian Anderson was having none of it and the result was a name change which has lasted for more than fifty years.
Royal York Crescent was where Ian lived in Bristol and is therefore the birthplace of Village Thing Records, the label on which the album was originally released. It kicks off with ‘That’s No Way To Get Along’ by country blues guitarist Robert Wilkins and although it rocks along really nicely it smooths out the raw edges of the material on Stereo Death Breakdown. ‘Please Re-Adjust Your Time’ is the first of Ian’s “psych-folk” songs. I’m sure it wasn’t called that back then, or even thought of that way, but we do like to label things and people as Ian points out in one of his finest songs, ‘Shining Grey’. He got out of the system quickly enough.
There are two purely instrumental tracks here: ‘Goblets & Elms’ and ‘The Worm’ and ‘Hero’ is a stand-out song, although ‘Mr Cornelius’ is definitely a bit weird. The bonus tracks include ‘Get Back Into Town’, recorded live just down the road from here in 1969. There was a lot of angst between these two records – the whole story is told in the booklet – but what came out of that was a really good album.
A Vulture Is Not A Bird You Can Trust, originally released in 1971, moves further away from the raw blues while retaining the country label. Ian Hunt joins on guitar. I’m guessing he supplies the lead part on the opening ‘One More Chance’ and the Rockfield house band included Pick Withers on drums. Keith Warmington powers through ‘Black Uncle Remus’ on harmonica; it’s taken from Loudon Wainwright III’s debut album and there are also covers of Buddy Holly and Bob Dylan (a really good take on ‘One Too Many Mornings’). ‘Edges’ is an intriguing song as is the apocalyptic ‘The Survivor’ set in 1979 but echoing the paranoia of the times.
The four bonus tracks included here were recorded in 1969 and were intended for Ian’s “lost” second album – ‘Book Of Changes’ is the best of them, a really good song – and it’s clear that Ian was looking for a change of direction.
Finally we come to Singer Sleeps On As Blaze Rages, another slightly bizarre title. This was a pivotal album as it was the first to feature Maggie Holland who played guitar on ‘Pretty Peggyo’ and engineered some tracks. Ian’s next album would be Carrion On prominently featuring Maggie and billed as Hot Vultures.
Singer Sleeps On… reunites Ian with Mike Cooper and also introduces Bill Boazman. Stylistically it’s a mixture of everything that’s gone before so ‘Hey Space Pilot’ isn’t actually a hippy ramble but a fairly straightforward blues and ‘Marie Celeste On Down’ is back in the psych-folk mold, for want of a better term. Dave Peabody wrote ‘Spider John’, Cooper wrote ‘Paper And Smoke’ and The Glimmer Twins provided ‘Paint It, Black’. Ian has to take full responsibility for ‘Shirley Temple Meets Hawkwind’, another space-pop epic. The bonus tracks are four songs recorded as demos by Hot Vultures, none of which made it to their first album, three of which are previously unreleased.
So there you have Please Re-Adjust Your Time, the early history of Ian A. Anderson. I’ve listened to more of his music in the last few years than I ever did when he was at his performing height and I now have a large selection of his recordings, although there would appear to be at least one album that remains buried and will probably never see the light of day. There are some excellent tracks in this box and one or two that probably wouldn’t make a Best Of collection but show me an artist of whom that isn’t true. I hope that the next project will be a re-package of the three Hot Vultures albums so I can complete the catalogue at a reasonable cost.
Artist’s website: www.iananderson.com
‘(My Babe She Ain’t Nothing But A Doggone) Crazy Fool Mumble’ – a recent live performance: