So I haven’t been on here for a while (ages). Busy. I’m back, though! Here’s a recent discovery that is simply refusing to leave the speakers: HQ by Roy Harper (1975):
You’ll really understand Roy Harper if you’re British. He seems to encapsulate something unexplainable about the country; his own little slither-slice of the intangible aura of England. In the most famous track on HQ, When an ‘Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease’, he captures a village cricket match as the sun sets and the brass band fades, his voice full of painfully bittersweet nostalgia for times passed. The legendary John Peel asked for this song to played in the event of his death.
HQ kicks off with a 13-minute rocker, ‘The Game’, which features Dave Gilmour, John Paul Jones and Bill Bruford. Angry rock turns to pastoral grandeur, which is then swiftly followed by ‘The Spirit Lives’, a track in which Harper takes on his ‘only true enemy’: religion. It’s refreshing to hear some angry atheism in a rock world of blues-preach (note the blasphemous tongue-in-cheek ‘walking on water’ cover art by Hipgnosis). Then follows the heavy Referendum where Roy flamboyantly displays his chops in the field of folk-metal. HQ then takes a breather for the second side for some olde quaint singer-songwritery that achieves the lush, spacey hypnotism that I consider the hallmark of good folk music.
While Stormcock remains the most quietly raved about album in our music press, HQ is an overlooked delight of folk-hard-rock-prog and wacky English prose; hard beats and soft Keats with a little Guthrie mundane mysticism.
I really need to get back into the swing of writing, so forgive the feeble length of this post. Here’s the lovely nugget Forget Me Not from said album. Enjoy:
4th in a series of posts in which I go through the finest albums of the 1980s. This time: Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden from 1988…
Spirit of Eden is a record so difficult to write about, that I almost didn’t include it. It’s one of those complete anomalies of rock music; an ambient, floating, psychedelic, incense-laden, baroque, at times overwhelmingly intense and other times borderline narcoleptic. It recalls the challenging prog-ambient epics of the 60s and 70s: Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, or possibly even moments on The Grateful Dead’s Live/Dead album in its deep thoughts and mesmeric undertones.
”It was very, very psychedelic. We had candles and oil wheels, strobes going, sometimes just total darkness in the studio. You’d get totally disorientated, no daylight, no time frame.” says Phill Brown, the engineer of the album. It was recorded by chance, the music being made spur-of-the-moment, pure experimentation in reaction to the moody environment described by Jones.
This tells us that the numbingly beautiful atmospheric journey of Spirit of Eden is not simply manufactured just for the listener; the band is being taken along those unpredictable streams just as you are, and are just as hypnotised by their own music as you are. Whereas playing extended live jams can often produce a sense of being so completely involved in the music that you reach a sort of divine Buddhist-like unawareness, I can think of no studio albums of which this can be said other than Spirit of Eden. “There is no way that I could ever play again a lot of the stuff I played on this album because I just wouldn’t know how to” vocalist Mark Hollis said.
10 Rainbows out of 10
One of those true one-offs.
All music is owned by Universal Music group and Talk Talk and its members
Here are 3 songs that I have recently discovered. One of them is American, and the other two are Québécois. As I always say; make of that what you will. Youtube links are highlighted as ‘here’.
1. Kate and Anna McGarrigle: Dancer With Bruised Knees (1977)
These two sisters’ voices were among the finest in folk and traditional pop. The music is wonderfully accessible, but with a certain sharp humor and edge that could only come from two people who really could not care less about image and success. Their second album, Dancer with Bruised Knees, was released in 1977 to lesser critical acclaim than their self-titled debut, but was championed by Robert Christgau, who later ranked it among the greatest albums of the decade. This track, the opening title, blends a certain traditional swing with a glorious studio lightness.
You can listen to the song here on Youtube. But please, go and buy the bloody album.
2. Buffalo Springfield: Rock and Roll Woman (1967)
Culled from their second album (the best one), this joy of a song is a light, jumping little piece of folk pop contributed by Steven Stills. Buffalo Springfield both benefitted and were handicapped by having two true geniuses as songwriters. Their dual presence makes this album a slightly jarring synthesis, but with moments like this, who cares. One of the most overlooked bands of the sixties, which somewhat adds to their mystery.
Listen to the song here on Youtube, and buy the album.
3. Harmonium: Dixie (1975)
This French-Canadian folk-prog band (bear with me) were never popular, as the start of my sentence probably already indicates. Still, they made beautiful music, which met its peak with ‘Si on avait besoin d’une cinquième saison’, their second album of pastoral Québécois beauty. This joyous Dixieland tribute will have you bouncing around the room.
Did I mention you should buy the album?
”Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. It’s a stupid thing to want to do.”
I am, then, dangerously stupid.
Album reviews and general thoughts on music of older days are found on this site. My album guide is Here.
‘If music be the food of love, get fat.’
– William Shakespeare