I used to write this one off as being trivial compared to many of his great songs but I’ve been playing it again recently and am enjoying it greatly.
What a voice. She sends chills through me. Another tragic lady. That version of Strange Fruit is chilling.
Today I’ll immerse myself in Billie.
A song written for Jackson C Frank
A friend – Roger Stenning – introduced me to Ken Nordine back in 1967. I was knocked out. His voice was so cool. He called it Word Jazz. There were a couple of albums – Word Jazz and Son of Word Jazz.
In 1968 I got hold of an album called Colours. That was brilliant. My friends and I would have our jazz woodbines and listen to Ken. Delightful.
Today I’m delving back.
Roy Harper albums – my own ratings
Before I start to indulge myself in assessing the merits of Roy’s output, which I fully recognise is a potential disaster from the very beginning (and would probably change day to day – or following another listening); I first need to clarify a few points.
These are my very own subjective judgements. I fully realise that everybody else has their own preferences, all equally valid.
I’m sure your own ratings are based on a number of factors – your personal preferences for genres of songs, the time when you first discovered Roy, relating periods in your life to sentiments in the songs, the musicality of a piece – and a host of other reasons.
With me, the songs that really matter are the ones that delve into social matters. I love poetry and the ideas. I love the epic songs (not to say that I do not rate the others as well).
The other point to note is that I do not believe there has been a bad album. I just like some more than others.
I just thought it would be fun to have a go and might stimulate everyone else to disagree. It might also get some of you delving into your collection for a replay. It did with me.
So let the fun begin:
|Sophisticated Beggar||8||A great album. Has a nice feel to it. Stand out tracks – Legend, Forever and China Girl.|
|Come out fighting Ghenghis Smith||9||As an eighteen year old in the midst of A-Levels I really related to this. The poetry and philosophy. Circle was great.|
|Folkjokeopus||9||Should have been a ten but for me the production let it down. McGoohan’s Blues, She’s the One and One for Al(l) are amazing.|
|Flat Baroque and Berserk||10||Fantastic album – I Hate the Whiteman and Another Day, Tom Tiddlers Ground and East of the Sun.|
|Stormcock||10||I’d give this one 11. Four superb masterpieces. Me and My Woman is incredible.|
|Lifemask||10||Has to be a 10 just for the brilliance of The Lord’s Prayer. But there is also All Ireland, Highway Blues and South Africa. – Brilliant|
|Valentine||8||Had some highlights such as Male Chauvinist Pig Blues, Commune. I’ll See You Again and Twelve Hours of Sunset but lacked a real epic song.|
|Flashes from the archives||9||I love Flashes – I was there at the gigs and it captures that for me. I wish he would do an up to date version of Kangaroo Blues.|
|HQ||10||A superb album – one of his best – The Game, The Spirit Lives, Hallucinating Light and Cricketer – sublime.|
|Bullinamingvase||10||One of those Days in England – another epic – plus These last Days, Naked Flame and Cherishing the Lonesome – Perfecto.|
|Unknown Soldier||9||Short and Sweet, The Fly Catcher and the Unknown Soldier – a great album|
|Born in Captivity||8||Love these acoustic versions of Work of Heart, Drawn to the Flames and No Woman is Safe|
|In between every line||9||I love this album – great live versions that capture the moment – I like the continuity too.|
|Whatever Happened to Jugula||8||Hangman, Elizabeth, Frozen Moment and Twentieth Century Man were great – but it did not quite work for me. I think I was expecting something more.|
|Work of Heart||8||Work of Heart almost makes it as a masterpiece but is not as strong for me as The Lord’s Prayer or Me and My Woman. Then you have Drawn to the Flames and I still care.|
|Descendants of Smith (Garden of Uranium)||9||Garden of Uranium, Desert Island, Pinches of Salt and Still Life – but lacks a real walloping song.|
|Loony on the Bus||8||Love that riff in Loony On The Bus. Then there’s Ten Years Ago, The Flycatcher and Sail Away.|
|Once||8||Once and Black Cloud of Islam make this for me.|
|Burn the World||9||A brilliant single – and we are burning the world.|
|Born in Captivity 2 (Unhinged)||9||Great Live album (missing Short and Sweet off the tape??)|
|Death or Glory||8||The Fourth World, The Tallest Tree, Miles Remains, On Summer’s Day – all great but lacking an epic.|
|Commercial Breaks||8||Interesting version of Ten Years Ago, Too Many Movies, The Fly Catcher and Sail Away.|
|Live at Les Cousins||9||A doorway into the Roy of 1969 – a little tentative but superb. A piece of history.|
|Heavy Crazy||10||Atmospheric live album with some great versions of old favourites.|
|BBC Tapes – 1-6||9-10||Fabulous insight into Roy live in the studio from the 60s through to 78.|
|Poems, Speeches, Thoughts and Doodles||8||Roy the poet – loved these.|
|Dream Society||8||These Fifty Years, Broken Wing, Songs of Love and Drugs for everybody|
|Green Man||8||The Green Man is superb – then the Monster.|
|Royal Festival Hall||8||A great live album and memento of a superb evening.|
|Today is Yesterday||8||A compilation of outtakes from the first album and some singles and rarities. Interesting to me.|
|Beyond the Door||8||Good live material|
|Man and Myth||8||This won a lot of awards and is a great album – Time is Temporary, the Enemy and Cloud Cuckooland|
|Live at the Metropolis||9||A superb live album. More controlled.|
|Songs of Love and Loss||9||A collection of love songs.|
|East of the Sun||9||A great compilation of love songs|
|Counter Culture||9||Another great compilation|
|From Occident to Orient||7||A rip-off compilation (Can’t fault the music)|
|Hats off||7||A rip-off compilation|
The only ones dropping below an 8 are the two rip-off compilations that Roy had nothing to do with.
What an incredible catalogue of brilliance.
I wonder how you’d rate them?
I took a liking to Jake Bugg. He came on the scene with a burst of raw creativity. So I went to see him live and was greatly impressed. I’m going to be interested to see what he does once the dust has settled..
Today I’ll remind myself of those first two albums.
Hendrix played the Woburn Abbey Festival. We had to be there.
We camped in a field which the farmer had, rather maliciously, sprayed with liquid manure. The smell infested our tent forever. It had to be thrown away.
Geno Washington was the act who had the unenviable slot before Hendrix came on, but the tension of anticipation was too great. Everyone wanted Hendrix, poor Geno had no chance. No matter how good he was he wasn’t Jimi. The crowd booed and threw everything they could get their hands on at the stage. They wanted him off. There was electricity in the air. Everyone was baying for Jimi. Eventually, Geno gave up and left. The roadies began setting the stage up.
Everything was ready. The stage was empty but it held such promise that all our attention was focussed on it. There was a pregnant pause that seemed to go on and on as we impatiently waited. Everybody was up on their feet, calling out, clapping, chanting, trying to contain the nuclear energy of expectation. This is what we had all been waiting for.
Then Jimi, Noel and Mitch came out on to the stage. The whole arena erupted and surged forward taking me off my feet.
The band plugged in and began to play. The speakers were crap. The sound was distorted. The speakers were just too small to deal with a big outdoor space; they couldn’t handle the volume. It didn’t matter. We could hear it and we could see them. The bass formed a wall of noise. Hendrix’s guitar soared and whined through it all. The drums pounded and the vocals punched over the top. The sound quality might not have been first-rate but it was good enough!
The crowd surged forward to get even nearer, I was in the crush near the front. We all wanted to watch Jimi as he performed his magic. He was so much larger than life in a big black broad-brimmed hat with a coloured sash around it, a floppy bright flowery psychedelic shirt, green loons with a scarf tied around the leg. He held that guitar like a weapon and unleashed it on us. The excitement was palpable – hysterical. The band were multicoloured giants storming around the stage. Noel stood still, studiously playing, while Mitch pounded away and Jimi stole the attention. You could not take your eyes off him. Hendrix was magnificent. The band blazed. Who cared about the sound quality? This was a wall of excitement the like of which an outside concert had never witnessed. We were bouncing up and down, caught up in the overwhelming group mania, living every note, every growl and wave of the hand.
He stroked, caressed and wrenched at his white Stratocaster, pulling out every trick. He played it between his legs, upside down and behind his head. The sound roared and the fanged beast he had produced and set free, devoured us.
Afterwards, in the press, they said that this was one of the jaded performances. If that was below par then bloody hell. It was the most exciting gig I’ve ever been too. Any more excitement and it would have been heart attack time. He was stupendous.
I only managed to see Jimi perform three times in a small club – I think Klooks Kleek, where he was mind-blowingly brilliant, at Woburn, where he was fabulous, and at his farewell concert at the Albert Hall which was nowhere near as exciting.
I’m glad I was alive to see such jaded dreams. I so wish Jimi was alive to have given us more of that magic. I’ll never experience anything like it.
These really are my back pages now. So great to see people like George Harrison, Neil Young, Tom Petty and Robbie Robinson playing with Bob on this great Dylan song.
It feels like the whole era is eroding daily as it drops into a misunderstood history.
Family were another of those bands that I used to often see on the underground circuit. The thing that made them very different was Roger Chapman’s warbling vocals. They were superb live, but I don’t think they ever captured the brilliance of their stage act on vinyl.
I remember Roger smashing a bottle against the wall at the climax of a gig at the Mecca in Ilford. I believe that resulted in a ban from all Meccas around the country.
I saw them at a Christmas gig where they played a lot of old Rock ‘n’ Roll and really got the audience going!
They were superb.
So today I will have another listen to some of my favourites.
Mimi Farina was Joan Baez’s sister. Richard was quite a character – a complete rebel. He’d gone off to Cuba to fight for the revolution. He first married Carolyn Hester then divorced her and married the seventeen year old Mimi.
Richard was a hard living man. He played Appalachian dulcimer and wrote songs. He also wrote a novel – Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me – which is quite good. Mimi and Richard played together in Greenwich Village, were signed to Vanguard and released three albums (one posthumously). They were good friends with the emerging Dylan and had the potential to be massive.
Unfortunately Richard was killed in a motorbike accident just days after the release of his book. So much potential. Mimi and Richard created such a unique sound. I loved them.
So today I will play Richard and Mimi and think about what might have been