In 1968, Martin Stone, lead guitarist from cult mod band The Action, went to see The Flying Burrito Brothers at The Lyceum. “Tiny amplifiers grouped in the middle of a huge stage. Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman whining away. I thought, ‘I’ll never be Muddy Waters, but I bet I could whine like that if I really tried’“. In both the U.K. and the U.S.A., 1968 saw a move away from complex studio trickery-enhanced psychedelic rock to a simpler sound, often labelled “country”. The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers’ version of country was designed to appeal to a rock audience and Traffic’s idea of “getting it together in the country” appealed to a hippy ideal of simple living. Many of the leading rock bands of the time tapped into this zeitgeist. The Beatles simplified their sound on “The Beatles” and “Let It Be”. Bob Dylan recorded “John Wesley Harding” and “Nashville Skyline”. The Rolling Stones recorded “Beggars Banquet”.
The most significant release of the time was “Music From Big Pink” by The Band. Roger Waters claims that “Music From Big Pink” is, after “Sgt. Pepper”, the most influential record in the history of rock’n’roll. As soon as he heard the album, Eric Clapton left Cream and formed Blind Faith. After he heard it, George Harrison went to the USA and tried to join The Band. “Music From Big Pink” provided the template for the ubiquitous term “Americana”, a genre which could be applied to every artist on this fantastic compilation.
Disc 1: Teatime On The Trail
Track 1: Warming Up The Band by Heads Hands & Feet. Albert Lee, the guitar virtuoso was discovered by Russ Conway, the pianist who had a missing tip to one of his fingers and appeared regularly on TV in the Sixties. Albert Lee was in Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band and Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. Chas Hodges went on to fame as part of Chas’n’Dave and had the good sense to send his daughter to Netteswell School while I was teaching there. This is a marvellous first track, whetting my appetite for what is to come.
Track 2: Cajun Woman by Fairport Convention. This song marks the first time that Dave Swarbrick played with Fairport Convention. It appeared on the influential sampler, “Nice Enough To Eat” and although it’s not my favourite Fairport Convention track, it has a special Sixties charm.
Track 3: Home Is Where I Want To be by Mott The Hoople. This excellent song is taken from “Wildlife” in 1971, before David Bowie became involved.
Track 4: Devil’s Whisper by Mighty Baby. It was a quick transition from the cult mod band The Action to the “questing countercultural adventurers”, Mighty Baby. When they played on the same Bill as Richard And Linda Thompson at The Isle Of Wight Festival in 1970, members of Mighty Baby introduced the duo to Sufism.
Track 5 Desert Island Woman by Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers. Martin Stone formed Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers after Mighty Baby split up. This glorious track also features future Attractions drummer, Pete Thomas, future Rockpile bassist Paul Riley and was produced by Mike Nesmith, who only managed to work on two tracks with the band before the relationship between them broke down and he stormed off.
Track 6 Willowing Trees by Shape Of The Rain. When Melody Maker reviewed the only album by Shape Of The Rain, the review included “the vocals are healthy and sincere and the compositions have a Traffic-like calm and peace, doubtlessly from close involvement with countryside and nature.“
Track 7 Abbot Of The Vale by Tony Hazzard. “Ha! Ha! Said The Clown” was written by Tony Hazzard who also sung backing vocals to “Tumbleweed Connection”. His favourite beer was Greene King Abbot and when the brewery heard this song, they sent him several crates of the stuff. This song is a grower and I love it.
Track 8 Louisiana Man by The Hollies. When the crew of Apollo 12 journeyed to the moon, they played the original version of this song by Doug Kershaw. Graham Nash had left The Hollies by this time but he’s on this YouTube clip, recorded before the studio version. What an incredible song.
Track 9 Fading by Mason. Peter Mason started his career backing Dave Dee but when the latter stopped performing, Beaky and Tich joined forces with Mason to record a number of songs along with Judy Tzuke and vocalist/drummer Chas O’Brien.
Track 10 Sleep Song by Unicorn. After losing their record contract, Unicorn were playing at a wedding in 1973 when one of the guests decided to join them on stage. David Gilmour particularly liked “Sleep Song” about a trip to the dentist and employed bassist Pat Martin and drummer Pete Perryer to play on early recording sessions for Cathy Bush.
Track 11 Boy, You’ve Got The Sun In Your Eyes by Open Road. Donovan’s tenth album was called “Open Road” and when it was completed, John Carr and Mike Thomson formed a band of the same name and subsequently recorded two albums.
Track 12 Cousin Norman by The Marmalade. David Wells, in his sleevenotes to this box set, describes this dazzling song as “a hugely catchy slice of rural summer pop.”
Track 13 Clifftop by Richmond. Steve Hall left the band shortly after this recording to briefly join Starry Eyed And Laughing.
Track 14 Lady Came From The South by Starry Eyed And Laughing. What an amazing band they were and I remember seeing them at Royal Holloway College in early 1975. This is a terrific song.
Track 15 Oil Fumes And Sea Air by Stray. Having made three hard rock albums in the early 70s, Stray recorded a fourth album called “Mundazas”, a Spanish word which means to change or to move on. This song bears an uncanny resemblance to Brinsley Schwarz.
Track 16 Redman by Rare Bird. This great tale about the plight of the American Indians features subsequent Spinal Tap keyboardist, Dave Kafinetti.
Track 17 The Pie by The Sutherland Brothers Band. When I worked in I.T. for a year, one of our clients was Solomon Brothers who were later partly responsible for the financial crash of the late 2000s. I never really got on with my boss (surprise, surprise) but I was impressed when she continually referred to them as Solomon Brothers and Quiver. The Sutherland Brothers And Quiver had a Top Ten hit in 1976 with “Arms Of Mary”. This song was recorded four years earlier.
Track 18 Touch Her If You Can by Matthews Southern Comfort. Iain Matthews, having left Fairport Convention and formed Matthews Southern Comfort, had a big hit with Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”. This song is surprisingly previously unreleased considering its inherent loveliness and soaring harmonies.
Track 19 Empty Street, Empty Heart by Quicksand.
Track 20 Ooh La La by Faces. Rod Stewart claimed that he didn’t like the key of this song so the rest of the band changed the key. He then claimed that he didn’t like the words so Ronnie Wood sung the vocals instead. It’s a brilliant song, written by Denny Laine. In 1974, after Ronnie Wood had joined The Rolling Stones, Ronnie Laine sung vocals on an Old Grey Whistle Test performance.
Disc 2 Before The Goldrush
Track 1 Country Girl by Brinsley Schwarz. What can I possibly say about this magnificent song which means so much to me. It was possibly the first “country” song I truly loved. The composition, singing, playing and overall feel of this song transports me back 50 years. The setting on Dutch TV is bizarre.
Track 2 When I’m Dead And Gone by McGuinness Flint. Tom McGuinness had been bass player with Manfred Mann and Hughie Flint had been drummer with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. The splendid song was written by Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle and the latter sung lead vocals and played mandolin on this song.
Track 3 Forty Thousand Headmen by Traffic. This splendid song was the B side of the magnificent “No Name, No Face, No Number” single (when it was called “Roamin’ Thru’ The Gloamin’ With 40000 Headmen”), it appeared on Traffic’s eponymous, second album and I first heard it on “Nice Enough To Eat“, the seminal Island sampler.
Track 4 New Day Adventure by Bronco. “The comparison with CSN&Y is inevitable, but who cares when it sounds this good” was the comment in the Melody Maker review.
Track 5 Try Again by Tanquility. Lead singer and guitarist Terry Shaddick later wrote hits for Olivia Newton-John.
Track 6 Velvet Mountain by Cochise. Wikipedia claims that B.J. Cole “has come to be regarded as Britain’s pre-eminent pedal steel guitarist”. He was a member of Cochise throughout their three album career and later played on albums by Elton John, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roger Daltrey, Procol Harum, Kevin Ayers, Cat Stevens, The Moody Blues, The Stranglers, kd lang, Spiritualized, Richard Ashcroft, R.E.M….. the list goes on.
Track 7 A Souvenir Of London by Procol Harum. The souvenir in question is V.D. which my Mum always told me stood for Very Dirty. The song was banned by the BBC.
Track 8 Cinnamon Girl by The Deep Set. The Dublin group offer a CSN-style sanitised version of this fantastic Neil Young song.
Track 9 Day The World Ran Away by Stephen Jameson. In 2003, The Guardian previewed the Edinburgh Festival with “One part Alf Garnett, two parts Mel Brooks and three part like nothing else you have heard. Bernstein is a great new comic creation in the making” about Sol Bernstein whose real name is Stephen Jameson and was once considered to be the new Elton John.
Track 10 I’ll Just Take My Time by Byzantium. By 1992, Bruce Springsteen had disbanded The E Street Band and formed a new backing group called Byzantium which included Shane Fontayne who had been the lead guitarist in Byzantium (under his real name of Mick Barakan) which also included future Blockhead Chaz Jankel. This is another admirable song which deserved a wider appreciation.
Track 11 It’s A Way To Pass The Time by High Broom. I used to pass through the station of High Broom with Andy on my journey to school from Tunbridge Wells to Tonbridge. I never saw Brian Prebble who lived there, possibly because he was too busy singing this lovely song.
Track 12 Going To The Country by Holy Mackerel. This is a cover of the song that appeared on Steve Miller’s Number Five. Holy Mackerel included two former members of High Broom.
Track 13 Liquor Man by Montage. The three members of High Broom who weren’t in Holy Mackerel formed Montage who never released any songs.
Track 14 Jesus Is Just Alright by Shelagh McDonald. The Byrds included this song on “Ballad Of Easy Rider”. It was written by Arthur Reid Reynolds and first recorded by The Art Reynolds Singers in 1966. It was later a hit for The Doobie Brothers. Shelagh McDonald recorded three albums but after a bad LSD trip she vanished in 1971. For over 40 years she lived a nomadic life in the highlands of Scotland, eventually living in tents. When her albums were re released in 2005, an article in the Scottish Daily Mail described her disappearance. When she saw this article, she turned up at the offices of the paper and explained her situation. A few years later, she started singing and recording again.
Track 15 We Both Need To Know by Granny’s Intentions. Gary Moore, the Norther Irish guitarist who played in Thin Lizzy and Skid Row, guested on this Byrds-influenced track by a Dublin band who had re-located to London.
Track 16 Bye And Bye by Heron. Having recorded their first album in a field in Berkshire, Heron later recorded their follow up (double) album in a field in Devon. “Bye And Bye” was an immensely likeable single but, like everything else they recorded, it failed to make an impression.
Track 17 Country Dan And City Lil by Timebox. John Halsey, drummer with The Rutles said that “Ollie Halsall may not be the best guitarist in the world but he was certainly among the top two.” His first group was Timebox who had a Top 40 hit with a cover of The Four Seasons’ “Beggin'” in 1968. Timebox later evolved into Patto and, after their demise, Ollie Halsall played with Jon Hiseman, Kevin Ayers and, later, The Rutles. This jolly song sounds like the sort of song Paul McCartney could have forced The Beatles to perfect over several hundred hours.
Track 18 And A Button by The Searchers. While The Searchers wanted to progress, their record companies were keen for them to repeat the sound of their early Sixties’ hits. This is a valiant attempt to try a new sound and has some good guitar by Mike Pender.
Track 19 Take Me To The Pilot by The Orange Bicycle. Elton John’s second, eponymous, album was originally intended as a vehicle for him to demo songs for other acts to record. Wilson Malone later went on to arrange the controversial strings for The verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony”. Kevin Currie joined Supertramp. John Bachini went on to devise TV programmes and, in 2004, received a large out of court settlement from ITV after he claimed that his show, “Millionaire” had been copied to form “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”
Track 20 The Jailer by Natural Gas. This superb rock song was, like all the recordings from this London based quintet, unreleased until 2019. Changing their name to Maggot didn’t improve things for them either.
Track 21 So Nice by Curtiss Maldoon. The first album by Dave Curtis (sometimes known as Dave Curtiss) and Clive Skinner (sometimes known as Clive Maldoon) included this gentle song and another song called “Sepheryn”. Clive Maldoon’s neice, Christine Leach, recorded a version of “Sepheryn” in 1996 and she happened to be working with William Orbit at the time. He liked her version and re-worked it. He was working with MAdonna and when she heard it, she added some lyrics of her own to form “Ray Of Light” which has songwriting credits of Madonna, William Orbit, Clive Maldoon, Dave Curtiss and Christine Leach, presumably making each of them a bob or two.
Track 22 Million Times Before by Jawbone. The Band’s second, eponymous, album was even better than “Music From Big Pink” and this British band (not to be confused with an American punk band of the same name) named themselves after the fourth track on Side Two of that album. This song owes much more to The Byrds than The Band but is nonetheless remarkable.
Disc 3 Urban Cowboys
Track 1 Open The Door by Carolanne Pegg. A strange song called “The Sapphire” appeared on “Summer Is Icumen In“. This is much more accessible. It’s a cover of a Judy collins song and features a fabulous guitar solo from Albert Lee, of heads Hands And Feet.
Track 2 Country Comfort by Rod Stewart. In his great sleevenotes to this compilation, David wells argues that “Tumbleweed Connection” by Elton John is “the definitive early Seventies example of the british take on the new Americana sound”. Rod Stweart didn’t realise that the song had been written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin; instead he learned it from a singer called Harry Reynolds (sometimes called Jack Reynolds) in a band called Silver Metre. “That’s why I sing the wrong words,” he said. Silver Metre were an interesting band and included Pete Sears on bass and keyboards; he had been in Trader Horne, played on many Rod Stewart albums and went on to be an integral member of Jefferson Starship. Rod Stewart’s version is exceptional.
Track 3 Home For Frozen Roses by Northwind.
Track 4 Nice by Bridget St. John. With John Peel’s support, Bridget St. John signed to his Dandelion label and recorded three albums. An AllMusic review described her music as perfect for “for wandering through meadows on overcast days.”
Track 5 Country Road by The Pretty Things. Although my view of The Pretty Things is predicated on their mid Sixties look and a sound that placed them next to Them as a hard rocking R’n’B group, they developed many styles including this CSN styled ballad featuring “the best unsung guitarist ever”, Pete Tolson, (according to lead vocalist Phil May).
Track 6 Home Grown by Andy Roberts, who along with Adrian Henri and Roger McGough, performed poetry set to music in The Cavern and other Liverpool venues in 1967, calling themselves The Liverpool Scene. Andy Roberts played on Scaffold hits and this is the title track from his first solo album. He later went on to play with Iain Matthews in Plainsong for 37 years.
Track 7 Sheriff Myras Lincoln by Edwards Hand. George Martin thought that Edwards Hand were an “exceptional” band and he produced their second and third albums. “Sheriff Myras Lincoln” is a superb song about police corruption and racism. Edwards Hand consisted of Rod Edwards and Roger Hand who were formerly known as The Piccadilly Line. They were augmented in Edwards Hand by James Litherland (lead singer with Colosseum, father of James Blake) on electric guitar, Clem Cattini (who had been in The Tornados) on drums and John Wetton (later to play with King Crimson and Asia) on bass. This is from their second album, “Stranded”. For their third album, they were joined by Harry Reynolds (sometimes called Jack Reynolds) from Silver Metre, David Dowd on lead guitar and Les Brown Jr. on drums.
Track 8 Circle Round The Sun by Marian Segal. On this unreleased track, Marian Segal was backed by Harry Reynolds, David Dowd and Les Brown Jr.
Track 9 Pretty Haired Girl by The Parlour Band
Track 10 Hello Buddy by The Tremeloes. Another band that tried, unsuccessfully, to reinvent themselves. The Pretty Things, Marmalade, the Searchers and The Tremeloes: all of these recorded wonderful songs that didn’t reach a wider audience. This is a great country-tinged pop song that reached Number 32 in the UK Charts. Brilliant haircuts too – it won’t be long before I wouldn’t look out of place in an early 70s pop band if barbers stay closed.
Track 11 Tallawaya by Greasy Bear. C.P. Lee wrote a great book called “About The Night” about the infamous shout of “Judas” at Bob Dylan’s concert at The Free Trade Hall in Manchester in 1966. He became a lecturer in film studies at The University of Salford but in his youth, he was a member of Greasy Bear, who took their name from two Jefferson Airplane songs, “Greasy Heart” and “Bear Melt”.
Track 12 My Name Is Jesus Smith by Man. In “A Shropshire Lad” by Half Man Half Biscuit, some of the lyrics are “What say we go the Isle of Man, Man Man Man” at which point they sing “Welsh rockers”. It always makes me laugh, anyway. David Wells describes their history as a “metamorphosis of earnest mid-Sixties harmony pop act The Bystanders into intrepid psychedelic adventurers, countercultural standard-bearers and all round crazed hairies, Man”. Welsh rockers.
Track 13 Metropolis by Keith Christmas. His first album, “Stimulus”, was recorded in one sixteen hour session, backed by Mighty Baby. He played at the Beckenham (“Memory Of A”) Free Festival and picked guitar on three early David Bowie songs including “An Occasional Dream”.
Track 14 Country Heir by Deep Feeling
Track 15 Johnson Boy by Prelude. A cover of “After The Goldrush” by Prelude got to Number 21 in the UK Charts in 1974. Their own material was thoughtful and well written as evidenced by this powerful anti-war song.
Track 16 Cottage Made For Two by Paul Brett’s Sage. Paul Brett played lead guitar with The Strawbs, Arthur Brown, The Overlanders, Roy Harper, Al Stewart and Lonnie Donegan.
Track 17 See How They Run by Dave Cousins & Dave Lambert. This recording, by two members of The Strawbs was not originally issued.
Track 18 Clear Blue Sky by Mother Nature. Steve Norchi went on to play in Brewers Droop. When fellow member Mark Knopfler asked him to join his new band, he turned him down, preferring to play with Home Grown.
Track 19 Dancing Flower by Idle Race. Their third album, “Time Is” was recorded after Jeff Lynne had left to join The Move.
Track 20 Wheel Of Fortune by The Illusions.
Track 21 My Little One by Gordon, Ellis & Steel
Track 22 I’ll Fly Away by Plainsong. Andy Roberts and Andy Roberts recorded this acapella version of Albert E. Brumley’s gospel classic which lasts for less than a minute.
I’ve enjoyed this box set but Disc 3 has rather faded away with an unremarkable set of songs. However, there are some amazing tracks here.