Shirley & Dolly Collins – The Harvest Years (2008) (Anthems In Eden / Love, Death & The Lady)

Shirley & Dolly Collins
The Harvest Years
2008 EMI (UK) 50999 2 28404 2 4

 

A brand new documentary, The Ballad of Shirley Collins, directed by Rob Curry and Tim Pliester – was just released to rave reviews in the UK.  Since I sadly don’t live there yet, I can’t see it and am not sure when I will have the chance.  Meanwhile I am getting my hands on Curry & Pliester’s other film about Morris dancers, “Way of the Morris”, which led rather naturally to their current project. But I’m excited that this Collins biopic exists, and just feel like posting something in connection with her to celebrate the fact that she is being celebrated.  Besides all of the above reasons, I need to post something autumnal on the blog. Searching for “autumnal funk / soul / jazz” in my digital meta-data brings up precious little.  In Brazil the season only exists in theory and no evocative music springs to mind there either at the moment.  I had once attempted a sub-blog called ‘Flabbergasted Folk’ but abandoned it because of the finite nature of time and space. However I have opened up the ‘genre niche’ nature of this blog a little and decided I can post about anything I want, and you all can either dig it or skip it.

This collection of the great duo of Shirley & Dolly Collins is one that I was ready to feature last year to help incentive people to listen to seek out Shirley’s new album Lodestar (released November 2016), but for some reason did not.  Perhaps because I think “Anthems In Eden” is not the best place to start for people unfamiliar with her sizeable body of work.  It is atypical, and very innovative when you realize what they’ve done. Both records featured in this two-disc set are worthy of separate write-ups, but there are a number of music journalists who have already had the pleasure and done a pretty good job at the time that Harvest reissued this almost a decade ago.  I’m taking an unusual step of keeping my mouth shut and letting them present the material in the space below after the break.   As a bonus, I have featured the two pages of text that Shirley contributed to a box set of Harvest artists called Harvest Festival.  This box consists of 5 CDs, with really inconsistent sound quality and bad mastering – the best thing about it is the 120 page book.  Also, Shirley was featured in the great series “Mastertapes” on the BBC in January where she revisited “Love, Death & The Lady” and talked about it at length.  You can listen to it here.  I’ll track down my own vinyl copy of that LP someday, as I did with Anthems In Eden, and on that note I have to point out that the CD collection omits the one contribution from Incredible String Band’s Robin Williamson to “Anthems” – God Dog.  I’m assuming it has something to do with publishing or label conflicts, since it could not have been left off “due to time constraints” (that old refrain from CD reissues of the 90’s) on a set that includes bonus material that wasn’t even on the original records.

All Hallow’s Eve / Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and since adjectives like ‘haunting,’ ‘melancholic’, ‘plaintive’, and ‘evocative’ get trotted out anytime a receptive person attempts to describe the stirring experience of listening to Collins’ recordings, I can also consider this a “seasonal” post.  I might have another surprise on the 31st if I can finish it by then.

DISC ONE

A Song-Story
1-1  A Beginning  2:03
1-2  A Meeting – Searching For Lambs  2:43
1-3  A Courtship – The Wedding Song  4:04
1-4  A Denying – The Blacksmith  3:57
1-5  A Forsaking – Our Captain Cried  2:51
1-6  A Dream – Lowlands  2:35
1-7  A Leave-taking – Pleasant And Delightful  5:14
1-8  An Awakening – Whitsun Dance  2:52
1-9  New Beginning – The Staines Morris  1:47
1-10  Rambleaway  4:23
1-11  Ca’ The Yowes  3:27
1-12  God Dog  3:25
1-13  Bonny Cuckoo  1:55
1-14  Nellie The Milkmaid  2:42
1-15  Gathering Rushes In The Month Of May  3:30
1-16  The Gower Wassail  2:52
1-17  The Sailor From Dover  3:20
1-18  Young John  6:24
1-19  Short Jacket And White Trousers  2:59
1-20  The Bold Fisherman  4:39

——————————

DISC TWO

2-1  Death And The Lady  4:10
2-2  Glenlogie  3:47
2-3  The Oxford Girl  1:59
2-4  Are You Looking To Leave Me  2:53
2-5  The Outlandish Knight  5:05
2-6  Go From My Window  2:36
2-7  Young Girl Cut Down In Her Prime  3:42
2-8  Geordie  4:58
2-9  Salisbury Plain  2:41
2-10  Fair Maid Of Islington  2:16
2-11  Six Dukes  2:28
2-12  Polly On The Shore  3:11
2-13  Plains Of Waterloo  8:03
2-14  Fare Thee Well My Dearest Dear  3:27
2-15  C’est La Fin / Pour Mon Cuer  2:16
2-16  Bonny Kate  3:25
2-17  Adieu To All Judges And Juries  3:10
2-18  Edi Beo Thu Hevene Quene  3:42
2-19  Black Joker / Black, White, Yellow And Green  3:23
2-20  The Gallant Hussar  3:17
2-21  Hopping Down In Kent 2:47

from The Guardian
review by Robin Denselow

Thursday 31 July 2008 19.05 EDT
Jazz review: Shirley and Dolly Collins, The Harvest Years
5 / 5 stars

 

Shirley Collins was a 1960s folk revolutionary. After pioneering a folk-jazz-global fusion style with Davy Graham, she experimented in matching folk songs with early music instruments, with help from her sister Dolly, who played the portable flute organ and was an inventive arranger. Championed by John Peel, they were signed to EMI’s then-fashionable “underground” label Harvest to record some of the finest albums of the 60s and 70s folk revival. They are all here on this double set, which starts with the remarkable Anthems in Eden suite from 1969, in which Shirley’s cool, no-nonsense vocal style was matched against cornett, sackbut, harpsichord, recorder and a male chorus to revive songs such as The Blacksmith or Searching for Lambs, now folk standards. Then there’s the bleaker Love, Death and the Lady from 1970, more songs from Amaranth in 1976, and a rousing reminder of her work with the Albion Dance Band on Hopping Down in Kent. Shirley and Dolly helped transform the English folk scene, and their songs remain powerful and fresh.

 


 

Shirley & Dolly Collins The Harvest Years

Uncut August 6, 2008

Read more athttp://www.uncut.co.uk/reviews/album/shirley-dolly-collins-the-harvest-years#vQQCHhIwYxVggYGj.99

It is 1969. The summer of loves lease has expired, but British rock is ripening into its rich and succulent autumn. Fairport Convention are hoeing into the folk tradition on Liege And Lief; Nick Drake is completing Five Leaves Left. Enter Harvest Records, set up by EMI to reap the fruits of this bumper crop, a variegated basket that includes Pink Floyd, Third Ear Band, Kevin Ayers, Deep Purple, Forest, Michael Chapman and the folk singing sisters from Sussex, Shirley and Dolly Collins.

 

Still only 33, by 1969 Shirley Collins had accompanied Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger from Cecil Sharp House to Young Socialist conventions in Moscow; spent a years epic field recording trip in the USA as folklorist Alan Lomaxs romantic and secretarial partner; and cut Folk Roots, New Routes with the high priest of the Soho folk guitar cult, Davey Graham.

 

In 1968 she teamed up with elder sister Dolly to record The Power Of The True Love Knot, a zeitgeist-friendly folksong concoction produced by Joe Boyd and featuring The Incredible String Band. Dolly studied composition under modernist Alan Bush; by the late 60s she was living in a double decker bus in a field near Hastings, mastering the art of the flute organ, a portable keyboard dating from the 17th century. Mindful of a folk scene that had swelled from 30 nationwide clubs to over 400 in a mere five years, Harvest commissioned the sisters to record Anthems In Eden, a suite of folk tunes already premiered on John Peels Radio 1 show.

 

While their hippy contemporaries imagined a hemp-smoke paradise in the Hundred Acre Wood, wrapped up in Tolkien, Celtic lore and Lewis Carroll, Shirley Collins was channelling Englands ancestral spirits in song. Anthems In Eden and Love, Death And The Lady (1970), the twin pillars of this double CD set, are built up via a curatorial selection from the motherlode of English traditional song. Side one of Anthems retitles songs like Searching For Lambs, The Blacksmith and Our Captain Cried as A Meeting, A Denying and A Forsaking to weave a patchwork Song-Story in which the agricultural calendar of pre-war working class life is interrupted by the Great War and converted into an unnatural cycle of birth, parting and loss. The underlying message: the Fall from Eden was an empowerment, from the innocence of a deferent underclass that would blithely allow itself to be concripted to fight its masters wars, to the knowledge of a classless modern society. We wont get fooled again.

 

The records peculiar antique grain is supplied by the young firebrand who did so much to kickstart the Early Music movement, David Munrow. In a stroke of genius, Collins and husband/producer Austin John Marshall invited Munrows Early Music Consort of London to the sessions, featuring future stars of the authentic instruments movement such as Christopher Hogwood, Adam and Roderick Skeaping and Oliver Brookes, who arrived laden with crumhorns, sackbuts, rebecs, viols and harpsichord. They repeated the trick on 1970s exceptional Love, Death And The Lady. It may begin with the time-honoured folk lines As I walked out one morn in May, but Collins hardly sounds full of the joys of spring.

 

In fact, though Marshall was again producer, their marriage was on the rocks and the albums maudlin mood is clouded with doomed love, betrayal and suicide. The arrangements Dollys spiralling piano chords on Are You Going To Leave Me, Peter Woods mewling accordion on the devastating Go From My Window, or the military tattoos on Salisbury Plain courtesy of Pentangle drummer Terry Cox are like nothing previously heard in British folk, but suspend the songs in a strangely ageless sonic timezone somewhere between Elizabethan consort music and Rubber Soul.

 

Anthems In Eden played a decisive role in Shirley Collinss future. Fairport Convention founder Ashley Hutchings heard the album at the end of 1969, right after quitting the band after the release of Liege And Lief. It reduced him to a fit of body-wracking sobs, and within less than a year, he had sought out and married its creator, sweeping away most of the dead leaves lingering after Love, Death And The Lady. No Roses, recorded in 1971 by the couples newly formed Albion Country Band, brilliantly grafted Fairport-style electric pastoralia onto Collinss murderous balladry. That record was not part of the Harvest story, but this set does include Amaranth, the extra six tracks the group laid down for the 1976 edition of Anthems In Eden, plus another couple of merry tunes unreleased from the same period. Her marriage did not survive long after this high summer, and she only made one further album before effacing herself from public performance. But Harvests vintage crop of progressive folk survives as the pinnacle of her achievements.

 

ROB YOUNG

 

UNCUT Q&A: Shirley Collins
Uncut: How do you think your music chimed with Harvests hippy audience?
Shirley Collins: Dolly (Who died in 1995) and I were so far removed from popular music thats its quite miraculous that it all happened. I was never a hippy couldnt stand all that vague twee floatiness or the smell of patchouli! My England was Daniel Defoe, Robert Herrick, Hogarth, John Clare, Blake, with a touch of Henry Fielding for larks! My songs, coming from a long and genuine tradition, carried with them a truthful, clear vision of the past, of real lives, and I felt that, because of my background, I was a conduit between then and now.

 

What was your working relationship like with your husband as producer?

Austin John Marshall was a clever, inventive, maddening man. Yes, our marriage was breaking down at the time we were recording Love, Death And The Lady. But John had a clear vision for both albums, and the drive to see it through. And Im glad he persuaded me to add Terry Coxs percussion to The Plains Of Waterloo it still gives me goosebumps!

What did the idea of Eden mean to you in 1969?

Being a child throughout World War Two, surviving it, feeling optimistic, loving the English countryside and feeling proud and glad to be English I suppose England was my Eden. And yet I dont feel I saw it through rose-tinted spectacles. Growing up in a working class family made me aware of the hardships that people endured and overcame. I felt a great connection to those rural labouring classes whod sung the songs before me. I was fascinated by the past, so I was always aware of the dark heart of English history.

INTERVIEW: ROB YOUNG

Read more at http://www.uncut.co.uk/reviews/album/shirley-dolly-collins-the-harvest-years#vQQCHhIwYxVggYGj.99

 


password: vibes

John Fahey – Christmas With John Fahey Volume 2 (1975)

 photo 01_zps3a6575da.jpg

John Fahey
Christmas With John Fahey, Volume II
Released 1975



 1. Oh Holy Night
 2. Christmas Medley: Oh Tannenbaum, Angels We Have Heard On High, Jingle Bells
 3.  Russian Christmas Overture
4. White Christmas
5. Carol Of The Bells
6. Christmas Fantasy (Parts One & Two)


Tracks 1,2,3 and 5 are in duet with Richard Ruskin.
;
Recorded at United/Western Recording, Los Angeles
Mastered at Fidelatone by Bruce Leek
Artwork by Stephanie Pyren


CD pressing 1986, Takoma Records
thanks to Rab Hines for the rip

Well this medicine may be too late to cure the auditory disease known as Christmas Music Earworms, considering that many of you have been subjected to the stuff for well on two months now.  But better late than never.

This is a holiday record by that most unlikely Santa Claus, guitarist John Fahey.  He had released an earlier (and far superior) Christmas album called The New Possiblity, hence this one being dubbed a “Volume 2.”  It is not your average Xmas record and probably won’t fit on a playlist with Johnny Mathis.  Just stare at the album cover for a while and you will swear that somebody spiked your eggnog with something a bit stronger than rum.

While the New Possibility was a revelation for me, this record is a little bit of something that Fahey rarely was: predictable.  And I say a LITTLE BIT because it’s not an entirely fair criticism.   Maybe he just had so much fun making the first one that he was compelled to make a second, or maybe there was commercial incentive involved.  The album is consistently pleasant, but there just aren’t many surprises until you get to the second side.  “Oh Holy Night” is pretty but kind of tame, and the Christmas medley is actually kind of bad.  Things get much, much better with the Russian Christmas Overture.  White Christmas has the kind of halting slippages that make you think they might be mistakes but then we all know Fahey was a genius and MEANT it to sound that way, right?   This is the only track on the first side that is not a guitar duet with Richard Ruskin (who also had three records put out on Fahey’s Takoma label).  Maybe that is at the core of my misgivings – Ruskin is an excellent guitarist, but so much of what charms me about Fahey are his idiosyncrasies coupled with his mastery of the instrument, and  when playing with other musicians those idiosyncrasies are by necessity kept in check.  “Carol of the Bell” is quite gorgeous, however.

The second side of the original album is one long, meandering acoustic guitar experiment called “Christmas Fantasy” – the kind of Fahey you had begun to desperately miss after five fairly straight arrangements.   Playing all on his lonesome, he can manipulate time and space and bring me to that same cocoon-like, familiar place as his most cryptic and dense material, and make me feel welcome with Yuletide cheer.  It sounds mostly improvised although knowing Fahey it is probably more planned-out than it sounds.  As fun as it is, it almost feels like over-compensating for the straight readings of the material on the first side.  A bit self-indulgent, maybe, although I don’t mind it when Fahey indulged himself.

From the very first notes of “Joy To The World” on The New Possibility, you knew you just signed on to a singular experience.  Possibly bordering on the transcendent.  Traditional Christmas material approached with Fahey’s vast musical knowledge but none of the reverence usually accorded to it.  I don’t use the word “irreverence” because it’s not as if there was anything iconoclastic about the record – it was just refracted through Fahey’s interpretive lens, which was always kind of bent. The “Volume II” album, on the other hand, comes across mostly as just straight-up Christmas music that happens to be played by John Fahey and a friend (except for the bonkers second half). 

Quinteto Violado – Berra Boi (1973)

 photo 01-front_2_zps1cede843.png

 photo 02-back_zpse306a6e2.png

QUINTETO VIOLADO
Berra-Boi
1973 Philips 6349.072

A1         Vaquejada     5:13
A2         Duda No Frevo     2:20
A3         Três Três     1:54
A4         Ladainha     2:22
A5         Engenho Novo     3:39
A6         Minha Ciranda     2:42
A7         Pipoquinha     1:47
B1         Beira De Estrada     2:25
B2         Baião Do Quinjí     1:57
B3         Abraço Ao Hermeto     5:26
B4         Forró Do Dominguinhos     2:17
B5         De Uma Noite De Festa     3:15
B6         Cavalo Marinho     3:13

Sando – flauta
Marcelo – violão
Fernando – viola
Luciano – percussão
Toinho – contra-baixo


Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click Repair; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced (for 16-bit). Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

** There is an annoying dropout at 46 seconds into the track Engenho Novo.  This is actually on the LP and not do to any post-processing at my end.
I have always had mixed feelings about Quinteto Violado for reasons elaborated below, their music is enjoyable, and this is probably as good a record as any to wind up the Festa Junina cycle – they are the kind of group that would headline an outdoor stage tonight, which marks the feast days of both Saint Peter and Saint Paul. While Quintet Violado had common ground with a lot of post-bossa nova MPB, their records played like an aural encyclopedia of Nordestino folklore. In fact they were so encyclopedic that they were chosen by folklorist and shifty entrepreneur Marcus Perreira to be the “house band” for his Música Popular do Nordeste albums, which launched a larger series of records chronicling ‘folkloric’ music from other regions of Brazil. On this, their second album, Quinteto Violado traverse the musical countryside and give us songs embroidered with forró, frevo, vaqueijada, ciranda, bumba-meu-boi, flute ‘fife and drum’ band or pifano music, and chegança-de-marujos / fandango. They also offer an homage to Hermeto Pascoal on one tune where they stretch out and push their own limits in tribute to that avant-garde alchemist of the Northeast, followed by a version of “Forró do Dominghuinhos” that is pretty original, using Dominguinhos’ unforgettable melody line as a release from the tension they build up around it. Unlike their debut album, which was halfway comprised of compositions associated with Luiz Gonzaga, this record is largely of their own authorship, with one “traditional” theme from Pernambuco’s variant of bumba-meu-boi, cavalo marinho, being given a short rearrangement at the end.
Formed by a group of university music students in the early 1970s and getting their start playing at the famous ‘festivals of song,’ Quintet Violado early on centered their musical identity around an embrace of the traditional sounds and folk musics of their native Pernambuco.  There is a heavy dose of cultural appropriation happening, of privileged individuals drawing on the creative work of the povo sofrido.  But if “my problem” with the Quinteto stopped there then it would be a pretty shallow criticism, because cultural mediation takes place at all kinds of levels and with all kinds of nuances. To cite an example, the world of samba is rife not only with tales of exploitation but also of interesting and productive creative partnerships and business relations that cut across class and racial lines.  So, my misgivings have less to do with the fact that these are conservatory-trained musicians delving into folk music, than with other aspects that in many ways seem specific to the northeast and the historical moment when this group formed. Some of what I have to say in this blog post is even more applicable to the Orchestra Armorial that formed out of playwright and poet Ariano Suasunna’s work. The Quinteto Violado was never formally affiliated with Suasunna’s “movement” as far as I know but they were at least lauded by him as the decade wore on, as the kind of ‘popular music’ that young people ought to like. The elements of the Quintet that I find problematic are also present in even more exaggerated form in the Armorial project; I will surely have to do a blog post for an Armorial album now, not because I particularly want to but because I have opened that proverbial can of worms.
Getting back to this record, let’s take a statement from Roberto Menescal who wrote the blurb on the back cover of the LP:

“I believe that Brazilian musicians, including the entire young generation, are coming around to looking within, searching for their own roots and origins, in a path more personal and true where they can walk with security, originality, and inventiveness, and not just building on what has been done outside our country.”

This kind of sentiment is rich in irony coming from someone so central to bossa nova, a music that was excoriated by traditionalists for being unduly influenced by North American jazz. But neither Menescal or the Quinteto Violado were making claims of traditionalism here. Although there are no electric instruments whatsoever on this record, the upright string bass of the band’s leader Toinho is completely foreign to the folkloric music they draw upon, and you can hear the ‘jazzista’ influence both in the solos the members take and in the close intervals used in some of the chord voicings. So  they were not trying to excavate a lost folklore music like the followers of Cecil Sharpe in Britain (many of whom I am a big fan of, incidentally), but wanted to draw on these elements and create new compositions, even when there was a strong element of emulation. Perhaps they were more like Inti-Illimani or certain others involved in the nueva canción who drew on indigenous music. And just like those artists were not necessarily indigenous, the members of Quinteto Violado did not come from the same social background as the people who originally made and continued to make the “folkloric” types of music they used as their palette. This is not in and of itself a problematic thing, except that these “roots” are celebrated as belonging to everyone – this is “our” culture, ‘o povo nordestino.’ Regional and colloquial references are employed in great density to built up an air of authenticity, to the point of really laying it on thick sometimes: in the song “Ladainha”, they manage to reference the ceramic folk-artist Vitalino from the city of Caruarú, alongside the bandit-heroes Lampião and Maria Bonita, and the deified (and mildly heretical) Padre Cícero from the town of Juazeiro, all in the same verse.
Although they might appreciate the cultural references, the intended audience for the music the Quinteto Violado made was not sharecroppers in the sertão, or cane cutters or wagon drivers like the family described in the song “Engenho Novo” here.  Beginning with this album they had moved from performing at the festivals to giving their own somewhat elaborate concerts, which that like all MPB of the era involved stage designers and art directors.  I would be interested to know what some of the regional folk musicians (whose styles were being appropriated) actually thought of the Quinteto’s music at the time, if they ever encountered it at all.  “The people” who provide the inspiration and raw material for this kind of music are left out of its production, consumption, and critical appraisal; in the end, music like this can become yet another way to write people out of their own history.
The Quinteto’s musicianship is indisputable, and their intentions were sincere.  It’s not as if they set out to dispossess a people of their musical traditions and make a ton of money on the backs of it.  The band never really got rich and famous playing this kind of music, but they have made a healthy career for themselves, and maintain a level of visibility that is largely unachievable by those folk musicians of more humble backgrounds.  This is not simply due to the relevant but also too-obvious fact that privilege and connections in the music business often count more than raw talent.  In aesthetic terms, the trained musicianship and refined, conservatory sensibilities of the Quinteto allowed them to recast these rural folk music forms into a form that is more palatable for Brazil’s educated middle class, honing down the rough edges.  The music is not decontextualized so much as recontextualized, stripped of elements that might offend the sensibility of a more erudite public. The frequently bawdy or raunchy language or double-entendre, the occasionally sexist or even racist jokes, and even the elements of social critique that might hint at an awareness of class struggle or exploitation: all are purged from this sanitized representation of cultura popular. To ask and to answer what purpose such representations serve in the long run would be to launch into a discussion verging on the academic, and dragging in outside references that don’t comfortably fit into this blog as I conceive of it. Besides – you will just have to wait and buy my book, if and when it is ever completed and/or published, when you can have footnotes and references to your heart’s content.
Of course, don’t let this write-up put you off from listening to and enjoying this record. It is well-conceived and well-played music, with an energy and enthusiasm that is palpable. There are gorgeous textures produced by the interplay between the acoustic guitar and Brazilian viola (not the bowed but the fretted instrument in the guitar family). There are plenty of reasons to appreciate this record on its own merits without taking any of the above into consideration. And for many Brazilians of the time, encountering Quinteto Violado was probably the first time they had heard of many of these music genres. Just like the first time I ever heard of the Banda de Pifanos de Caruarú was by way of their glorious opening of Gilberto Gil’s Expresso 2222 album, where I also heard my first Jackson do Pandeiro composition. The fact that most people are not compelled to dig deeper into the roots of their favorite contemporary artists does not cause me any great existential pain. The problem lies more with a particular way of celebrating “tradition” and fixing it in time and space in a way that fits a certain agenda, one that may be odds with the communities that originally cultivated it. All too frequently the people and institutions who herald these celebrations make claims that “the old ways” need to be revived and promoted or they will be lost to the ages, but instead of watering the “roots” and allowing them to flourish, they are watering them down and offering up a diluted simulacrum.

 photo 03-label_zps7aba97c1.pngflac button

24bit

Richie Havens – Stonehenge (1970)

 photo 01_3_zps0c8c5d5b.png
 photo 03-13_zpsa52fedc4.png

Richie Havens
STONEHENGE
Released 1970, Stormy Forest

    Open Your Eyes     2:48
Minstrel     3:28
It Could Be The First Day     2:15
Ring Around The Moon     2:05
Baby Blue     4:50
There’s A Hole In The Future     1:59
I Started A Joke     2:51
Prayer     2:54
Tiny Little Blues     1:57
Shouldn’t All The World Be Dancing     7:58

    Richie Havens – guitar, autoharp, sitar, koto, vocals
Warren Bernhardt – organ
Daniel Ben Zebulon – drums, conga
Monte Dunn – guitar
Donny Gerrard – bass
Ken Lauber – piano
Bill Lavorgna – drums
Eric Oxendine – bass
Bill Shepherd Singers – string arrangements
Paul “Dino” Williams – guitar

“To all the temples built by man of stone and other transient material: I wish to live to see them all crumble into truth and piles of light!
    And to the temple where divinity resides, even with all your newcomers: How quiet!
    To divinity: (the socio-physio-spiritus-harmonious-concludus) It is a pleasure to know you!


     And least and last, to the body, the substance, the hull, the distinguished main portion, the vessel of molecular pilots and passengers, and its power receiving, transmitting, perceiving, transcending equipment: The truth temple, I’ve seen your face, the earth and its inhabitants, a magnanimous collection.  Concentrate on your heartbeats, regulate your breathing even so that flowers may live.
 – Richard P. Havens “

On Monday
April 22, Richie Havens passed away.  I
saw Richie play a few times in small clubs and was lucky enough to have talked with him briefly one such occasion.  He was always approachable and interested in
talking to his fans after a performance.
Here was this man who was a living legend of his generation, with an
instantly recognizable style and always-evocative musical presence, and he
seemed genuinely just grateful that people came to hear him sing.  In a way it seemed this fact was all that
mattered – that people were still listening.
   Note that I did not say “grateful that people still came to hear him sing” because
this had nothing to do with his age – he was well into his 60s the last time I saw him perform – or out
of some pop-singer’s vanity to feel relevant.
It mattered that people were still listening because he still believed
in the urgency of his message as much as he did when he started out.  His message
and his music had not changed much in a half century of recording and
performing, and he put them both across to us in a voice that never
wavered.  He had a wise voice, ageless
and now quite literally eternal.  You can listen to his singing on “Mixed Bag” (1967) and follow it with “Wishing Well” (2002) and be forgiven for thinking they were recorded around the same time.
     He will forever be associated with the opening scenes of the Woodstock film that captured him improvising the tune “Freedom” at the end of a nearly three-hour set, killing time for the rock bands to get their gear to the stage.  And he continued to represent the best utopian qualities of that historic moment soon to be overshadowed by the excesses of the era.  As most of his contemporaries succumbed to various combinations of self-destruction, greed, madness or mediocrity, he continued waging peace for the rest of his career.  He became the most refreshing of anachronisms.  A person who believed – really believed – that music could change the world one person at a time.  A figure who seemed incapable of cynicism in his music or his life.  Hell, he could even make promotional work for the cotton industry sound noble.
You can’t go wrong with any of Richie’s first ten or so albums, and Stonehenge is lodged right in between two of my favorites – the double album “1983” and “Alarm Clock.”  The latter LP was his highest charting success, largely on the heals of an inspired version of ‘Hear Comes The Sun.’  While Richie was a fantastic songwriter he sort of became known for his covers of other peoples’ hits and giving them his personal stamp.  Usually songs associated with sixties counterculture folk/rock icons like Donovan, The Beatles, and Dylan.  Here he tackles “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue,” a song so good it is probably impossible to do a bad version of it, and the Bee Gee’s “I Started A Joke,” which also happens to be one of my favorite tunes (as I mentioned when blogging about Ronnie Von’s Portuguese adaptation of it over here).  The album opens with a tune by gospel artist Leon Lumkins, “Open Our Eyes,” also recorded by Funkadelic and which would  become the title track of an Earth, Wind and Fire album a few years later.  Havens version is better than both and more moving, as well as truer to the original.  It’s a lovely prayer to begin a recording.
    I won’t give a song-by-song account because if you have never sat down and listened to it then you should just enjoy your own subjective impressions.  “Minstrel From Gaul” is a recognized classic and a song he never stopped playing live.  He shifts from the tender “It Could Be The First Day” to the angular “Ring Around The Moon” seamlessly.  The song “Prayer” brings us back to gospel territory and reminds us of Richie’s roots singing in vocal groups and doo-wop.  It’s a Havens composition and the last one on the album to feature real vocals; it also seems that Richie may have overdubbed all the harmonies himself, if the album jacket credits are trustworthy. The instrumentation throughout the LP is changed up constantly, presenting new textures, and the arrangements are all excellent.  Also, unlike his first couple of LPs – and I mention this only because I was just listening to them yesterday and today – this one was recorded and mixed really well, which helps things a lot.  The record kind of tapers off a little towards the end with the rather disposable instrumental “Tiny Little Blues” (dobro fans will be pleased by an unexpected appearance from David Bromberg) followed immediately by an eight-minute freakout jam (lyricless but with some spoken word) that closes the proceedings.  It is tempting to think they needed to fill ten more minutes and had no more songs left, but Havens often managed to insert something experimental or vaguely improvisatory into his early records.  And this intense finale, “Shouldn’t All The World Be Dancing” is shot through with Havens ecological, spiritual, and anti-war sentiments.  It is a surprisingly dissonant way to close a record, perhaps the musical rendering of his call in the liner notes to see “all the temples built by man… crumble into truth and piles of light.”  Richie Havens didn’t live to see that vision come to fruition here on Spaceship Earth.  But he did leave us a huge body of work through his searching.
Listen to a little piece of it today.
Also: MORE AUTOHARP!
I could post a YouTube clip to something off this album but why not share the original recording of that Lumkins tune:

 photo richiemoog_zpsf8a4c962.jpg

Terry Callier – Occasional Rain (1972)

Photobucket
Terry Callier
Occasional Rain
Cadet Records, 1972
This reissue, 2008 Verve (B0011107)

 1. Segue No. 1 – Go Ahead On
2. Ordinary Joe
3. Golden Circle
4. Segue No. 5 – Go Head On
5. Trance On Sedgewick Street
6. Do You Finally Need A Friend
7. Segue No. 4 – Go Head On
8. Sweet Edie. D
9. Occasional Rain
10. Segue No. 2 – Go Head On
11. Blues For Marcus
12. Lean On Me
13. Last Segue – Go Head On

    Bass – Sydney Simms
Contralto Vocals – Shirley Wahls
Drums – Robert Crowder
Engineer – Gary Starr
Guitar – Terry Callier
Harpsichord, Organ, Producer – Charles Stepney
Piano – Leonard Pirani
Soprano Vocals – Kitty Haywood, Minnie Riperton

Recorded at: Ter-Mar Recording Studios, Chicago, Illinois.

Photobucket

This Sunday past I heard from a friend that Terry Callier had passed away at his home in Chicago.  I don’t know why or how when some performer’s leave us, they leave behind a bigger sense of loss than others.  Maybe it’s because with Terry there was always the feeling that he still had a lot more to say, and maybe the assumption that he would just keep on saying it at his own leisurely pace.  The news is too sudden for me to digest fully.

Whenever a person hears a Terry Callier record, they ask themselves how it is that they had never heard him before that moment.  Of course there are plenty of artists who never got their due during their lifetime, but it is hard to fathom how Terry’s early records could have been eclipsed by so much pedestrian music of lesser quality at the time.  At least his story had happier ending, with his work finding recognition many years later and drawing him out of musical retirement to make a handful of satisfying records.  Not to diminish his second flowering, but his albums on the Cadet label will always be the ones many of us cherish the most.  There just hasn’t been anything quite like them before or since.

Although I have tended to favor “What Color Is Love”, probably because ‘Dancing Girl’ was the first of his songs I ever heard, the album Occasional Rain (which preceded it, but only slightly) is really every bit it’s equal, and set the tone for the rest of his career.  How could any artist put out two records of this astounding caliber in the same year?  This one has almost a concept-record feel to it due to the songs being strung together by acoustic guitar/vocal segments of folk blues (“Go Head On”) that recall Terry’s coffee-house days (captured on the album “The New Folk Sound…”)  His voice still has the heavy vibrato, a common enough trait among folk singers of the 60s, but the similarilty pretty much begins and ends there.   The Cadet recordings show the flowering of Callier’s participation in Jerry Butler’s songwriting workshop in Chicago.   The song “Do You Finally Need A Friend” actually debuted the previous year on the fantastic “Jerry Butler Sings Assorted Songs With The Aid of Assorted Friends and Relatives” (Mercury ST-61320) on which he also appears uncredited along with Curtis Mayfield.   Butler also has a writing credit on  “What Color Is Love” and workshop members Larry Wade and Charles Jones contribute to that album as well as this one.

Looking at those album credits I got to thinking that we should just be grateful we had Terry Callier walking amongst us mere mortals for as long as we did.  Jumping out off the page were two names of his colleagues who left us far, far too young. Keyboardist, producer and arranger Charles Stepney, who would later work with Earth Wind & Fire on their most interesting records and was also a  founding member of The Rotary Connection, died in his 30’s from a heart attack.  And then there is fellow Rotary alumnus Minnie Riperton, who I had never really noticed in the credits until Sunday, and who sings beautifully as always in Stepney’s choral arrangements.  She died in her 30’s from breast cancer.  Another Rotary Connection member, Shirley Wahls, also sings on the record.  Phil Upchurch, one of Cadet’s ubiquitous session players, is absent from this session but would play on Terry’s two following efforts with great results.

Stepney deserves massive amounts of credit for the power of this album and Terry’s other Cadet recordings.  And he has received that credit, especially from Terry himself.  If you need convincing, you can check out earlier versions of some of these songs on the collection “First Light.”  Those versions are impressive because they show the intensity of Callier’s songwriting and highlight (by virtue of his absence) just how much Stepney helped him realize his musical vision.  “Occasional Rain” is the most ‘produced’ of his three Cadet albums, but that isn’t a negative in this case because these are artists on the same wavelength.   (Contrast this with the desultory rerecordings of some of these songs on the Electra release “Turn You To Love.”) The psychedelic baroque-pop of Ordinary Joe probably has Stepney’s “producer’s stamp” most clearly on it, opening the record with strong stylistic overtones of Rotary Connection and mixed as if it could be a huge hit.   But this was no ordinary song, and too extraordinary and unclassifiable for mass consumption even in an era of relative experimentation in popular music.  Groovy harpsichord and some churchy organ; that infectiously catchy melody – how could this song NOT be huge in a fair world?  Maybe it was the brilliant lyrics and vocal delivery that swings from soul, to scat singing, to a blues shout.  It was just too real for the radio.  As a lyricist-poet Callier had a special talent for oscillating between earthy grit, tender nuance, and cosmic musings, sometimes all in the same song.  The intimacy of “Golden Circle,” the darker burned-out realism of “Trance On Sedgewick Avenue” – Terry could make ordinary moments into something transcendent, then turn around and translate the abstract and spiritual into familiar, achingly human terms in the next tune.    And it is no hyperbole to call him a genuine poet.  You could try just reading the words to “Occasional Rain” to a room full of people and hear their cadence, see how they work as compositions even separated from the music:

There was rain today
And crystal blue was hidden by a cloudy gray
A sudden shower come to chase the sun away
Occasional rain
Damn the weatherman
He seems to work against me any way he can
And he’s been dealing tear-drops since the world began
And occasional pain

And blue you, don’t believe I’m talking to you

The light is shining through you- still you will not see
Blue you- think I’m trying to undo you
When I only want to seek the Truth
And speak true

I can’t tell you when

But someday soon we’ll see the sun re-born again
And there’ll be light without as well as light within
And occasional rain 

Fucking brilliant, isn’t it?

The record closes with the majestic “Lean On Me” that is arranged like a series of crescendos leading to one massive climax.  It is kind of ironic that this record was released the same year as Bill Wither’s massive hit of the same title and of similar sentiments.

Speaking of which, the irony did not escape me of listening to this record over and over while the entire northeastern seaboard of the US was being drenched by a hurricane.  It also struck me how listening to Terry Callier is like being sheltered from the storms of the world.  His work had a certain warmth in common with other writers from the frigidly cold metropolis of Chicago, placed at the crossroads of Memphis and Detroit, New York and L.A., always a few steps removed the hype and the drama, and always carrying himself with grace.

mp3 icon

password: vibes