MAARTIN ALLCOCK – OX15 (Talking Elephant TECD460)

OX15OX15 was the late Maartin Allcock’s second solo album, originally released in 1999 and now reissued with a sparkling new remix. OX15 is also an Oxfordshire postcode area in the middle of what was called the folk-rock belt and encompassing such cultural landmarks as Barford St Michael, Bloxham, Hook Norton and Broughton Castle. Sadly, Banbury and Nether Bagwash lie outside its sphere of influence. Maart was a versatile musician, bass player when recruited by Fairport Convention (although that wasn’t going to last) and on joining Jethro Tull he learned all the keyboard parts in very quick time. In such company, however, his own writing didn’t really get much of a look-in.

OX15 wasn’t conceived as an album. It’s a collection of music and songs from times past but Maart gives us details of the genesis of all the tracks. It’s somewhat ironic that the first sound we hear is Chris Leslie’s fiddle opening ‘Daichovo Chara’ – solo before Maart and the band kick in. The rest of the band is Troy Donockley, Simon Mayor and Gerry Conway – Maartin had some mighty friends as we shall hear. The next track is ‘Whenever We See In The Dark’ which was the first song that Maart wrote and, despite the presence of Ian Anderson’s flute and Conway’s best efforts, that doesn’t come as a surprise. It’s a perfectly workmanlike piece but somehow lacks zip even with Maart’s guitar roaring through it.

‘Crash Polka’ is great fun coming, it is hinted, from experiments with a Roland keyboard packed with sound effects. ‘Watermarks’ was written for a game on the Sony Playstation – that’s something I didn’t know that Maart did – and this is a new version of a lovely little tune featuring Clive Bunker. Allan Taylor wrote ‘Chimes At Midnight’ and Maart gave it to his wife Gill to sing; an excellent idea. The idea to pair The Allman Brothers’ ‘Jessica’ with ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’ came from Maart’s former Bully Wee bandmate Fergus Feely and features violin-for-hire Chris Haigh alongside Chris Leslie. It’s a belter of a track with the piano played on MIDI guitar and you’d never know that unless you were told.

‘Untitled’ was written for a charity project and recorded in 1997 with Maart faking the sound of bells and Keiran Halpin penned ‘Simple’ and Maartin delivers a more convincing vocal performance as well as a fine guitar solo. ‘Bean A’Tí Ar Lár’ is a set of traditional Irish reels featuring a dream folk-rock line up of Leslie, Conway and Clive Bunker while Maart borrowed a traditional Macedonian tune for ‘Sand Dancer’.

‘A Dream’ was co-written with and sung by Najma Akhtar and is one of four demos they recorded together. Conway and Donockley are in support. Finally, ‘Elementary’ is another Playstation tune played on acoustic guitar and double bass with hand percussion by Conway. Given the diversity of the source material OX15 hangs together very well and I guess that the music herein was Maart’s first and best selection from his archive.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Sand Dancer’ – photo montage: