Released in 2009, Edge Of The Dark was a collection of recordings made between 1972 and 1995 when he’d essentially publically retired from the music scene. That’s now being digitally reissued so, to complement it, he’s foraged through the archives for a ‘lost years’ sequel.
For latecomers, Beau, or Trevor Midgley as the credits have it, was one of the first signings to John Peel’s Dandelion label for whom he made two albums in 1969 and 1971 as a sort of troubadour 12-string guitar folk cocktail of Ochs, Roy Harper, John Martyn and Donovan before dropping off the radar until he resurfaced in 2012 for an ongoing series of mostly satirical social commentary albums generally featuring just him and his guitar.
The tracks here, however, a mixture of demos and alternative versions, are often heavily electric and often, not always successfully, experimental, although there are more characteristic acoustic numbers too. It opens with the original 1981 electric and somewhat psychedelically disorienting, part spoken version of ‘Rooks & Ravens’, a song inspired by the experiences of John McCain as a PoW in North Vietnam that would eventually appear on 2014’s ‘Fly The Bluebird’. Likewise, from 1982 ‘Speedbird’ was the jittery electric forerunner of ‘Fly The Bluebird’ itself.
Elsewhere, other early electric incarnations include 1981’s rippling synth backed anti-war protest ‘Here They Come’ which would resurface in acoustic form as ‘So Far Away’ on ‘Fly The Bluebird’, his now distinctive vocal style already in evidence. Three more such would also appear in acoustic arrangements on the same album, the colonialist critique of ‘Singapore’ and the shuffling ‘The Hum Of The Cable’ with its themes of ethnic cleansing and fascist repression with the electric guitar restrained and more of a fingerpicked approach, and, recorded in 1978, the more neurotic pulse of ‘Castle Song’ with its take on the walls raised by the haves when confronted by the have-nots.
Later forming part of the song cycle ‘Shoeless In The Desert’, his second after he resurfaced, the 1983 version of ‘Storm in The Eye Of God’ is a very different and harder reading with the use of vocoder and squelchy synths, while the 1985 demo of the medical saga ‘Don’t Let Then Take You Away’ was actually much closer to the version on that same album. There’s three further electric originals, 1988’s brilliant political narrative ‘The Rabbi At The Gates Of Prague’ (his equivalent of The Strawbs ‘The Battle’), 1979’s ‘Behind The Eye Of The Mind’, one of his most infectious uptempo numbers with its rattling train rhythm, twangy guitar and early Paxton meets Belafonte flavours though, to be honest, there’s not a huge difference to the overall sound on either, and, a band take on ‘The Wine Was Sweeter Then’ which, by way of convoluted chronology was a 1981 rework of the Country Joe McDonald-like track that was recorded for 1975’s ‘Twelve Strings To The Beau’ but not released until 2013, this a band version with an hypnotic brooding electronics John Foxx pulse.
Another band recording is 1984’s ‘The Part We Have To Play’ (later found solo on 2011’s ‘The Way It Was’) which, with a theatre company backdrop and inspired by the life and times of President Reagan, has a very late 60s pastoral folk feel with what sounds like either flute or recorder.
Two very early recordings, dating from 1971 and taken from acetates, ‘The Simplest Of Things’, a number that goes from wanting the simple things in life to wanting the stars, and ‘The Hilltop’, about soaking the sights and sounds of an early morning, were audition demos for Elektra, which owned Dandelion, and as such, stripped back acoustic folk blues. Then, to round up, going through them in running order, from 1980 with electronic backing and echoey vocals, ‘Joseph & Amanda’ is his Christmas song about a couple of kids, 1983’s Ray Davies-like ‘Waverly Junction’ is a political satire set against the industrial unrest under Harold Wilson, the keyboards-based ‘Poisoned Epitaph’ from 1985 is based around an incident during the Troubles, the echoingly spooked ‘So Far Down’ (the most recent, from 1990) was inspired by a 1990 tragedy at Beachy Head when a young female cyclist went over the cliff, 1981’s ‘All I Ever Wanted’, a brief song of being led on and dumped with a shimmer of cascading notes and, finally, with what sounds like a mellotron or theremin, 1982’s fingerpicked musician’s intimations of mortality ‘Poor Old Thing’ that again calls his Paxton and Ochs (and possibly Harvey Andrews) influences to mind.
Though very much one for the completists, Deep In The Dark: Unreleased Rarities 1971-1991 is also well worth exploring by anyone interested in a songwriter’s process while many of the tracks have an appeal and timelessness that could well hook in new and curious ears too.
Artist’s website: www.trevormidgley.com/Beau
‘The Smoke Of Eden’ – most obscure Beau video we could find: