MEDICINE HEAD – New Bottles, Old Medicine (Cherry Red)

New Bottles Old MedicineI can’t remember the venue, but I won’t forget the first time I saw John Fiddler and Peter Hope-Evans play live, blowing me away with the power that just a bass drum, harmonica, Jews harp, guitar and vocals would create. Signed to John Peel’s Dandelion label, New Bottles, Old Medicine was their album debut, a low key mix of folk and blues that had, perhaps, the occasional hint of ISB but was essentially unique.

Opening with the languid early hours mood of the minimalist ‘When Night Falls’ and then proceeding into the familiar blues form of ‘Ooee Baby’, it included further low key numbers in ‘This Love Of Old’, ‘Oh My Heart To Peace’, ‘Be It As We Are’, the mournful eight-minute ‘Goin’ Home’ and the single ‘His Guiding Hand’ as well as further blues stompers in ‘Do It Now’, ‘Crazy Bout You Baby’ and ‘Walkin’ Blues’.

This new 50th anniversary reissue comes as a two disc set, several tracks of which are either previously unreleased or making the CD debut, kicking off with the original single versions of ‘His Guiding Hand’ and the slow waltzing folk hymnal ‘This Love Of Old’ and proceeds to add various demos, sessions and live tracks as well as the later singles ‘Coast To Coast (And Shore To Shore)/All For Tomorrow’ and their first hit ‘(And The) Pictures In The Sky’ (along with its B-side ‘Natural Sight’), the former also included as a 1971 BBC session and the latter as both the original home demo and 1975 live Marquee recording, plus a reworked bluesier version as ‘The Pig Stomp’ for Peel’s wife recorded for the 1971 John Peel Concert.

The second disc also features further live tracks with ‘To Train Time’ (1970) and from the 1975 show ‘Two Men Now’, ‘Oh My Heart To Peace’. ‘His Guiding Hand’, ‘Walkin’ Blues’ and ‘Home’s Odyssey’ with BBC sessions versions of that, ‘His Guiding Hand, ‘Fiddle Dee’, ‘Two Men Now’, ‘Coast To Coast’ and Top Gear recordings of ‘Sing With A Drum’ and ‘To Train Time’. Accompanied by an illuminating and informative essay by Brian Banks along with an assortment of photographs, New Bottles, Old Medicine is very welcome reminder of one of the UK music scene’s most original acts.

Mike Davies

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‘(And The) Pictures In The Sky’ – live on TV: