Subtitled A Crown Of Crows, Onwards! Vol. 2 packs another twenty-one tracks from Ian A’s fifty year career onto a single shiny disc. Many tracks appear on CD for the first time and unless you were around in Bristol in the late 60s you may not have heard some of them at all. The earliest is the title track from his 1968 solo album, Stereo Death Breakdown, and the most recent is from a 2020 recording – this is where the crows appear. As well as solo work we hear from Hot Vultures (with Maggie Holland), False Beards (with Ben Mandelson), The English Country Blues Band, Blue Blokes 3 and Orchestre Super Moth.
The set opens with Hot Vultures and ‘Another Normal Day’ written by Tucker Zimmerman – you’d call it Anglo-Americana, I suppose, and it’s a style that informed The English Country Blues and Maggie Holland’s solo work. It’s back in Hezekiah Jenkins’ ‘The Panic Is On’ from the ECBB as well as their ‘We’ve Got Hard Times Now’, another song from the first half of the 20th century.
Seven of the songs were written by Anderson and the most startling is ‘Shining Grey’. It’s fifty years old now and is Ian’s commentary on his education experience. As a contemporary I can say that it still resonates and the line about destroying creativity certainly holds true. ‘Silent Night No.2’ is another original and in a blind test you might be hard pressed to identify him and the same is true of ‘Internal Combustion Rag’. It’s a rarity, too, coming from a Hot Vultures radio session. There are a few liberties taken with traditional songs, too. If you think that Bob Dylan messed about with ‘Pretty Peggy-O’ wait till you hear where Ian takes it. The final track is a remix of Orchestre Super Moth’s ‘Sloe Benga’ – a dance-floor masterpiece. They didn’t record much and this is a real gem.
Although not sequenced chronologically, Onwards! Vol.2 tells its story well. It’s fun listening and delivers a few surprises if you’re not intimately acquainted with Ian’s work. It’s time to dig out a few old albums, I think.
Artist’s website: https://www.ianaanderson.com/
‘Black Crow Blues’ – live: