MIND DE-CODER 103
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“Folk music is the map of singing”
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS 1. ADAGIO (LOVELY ON THE WATER)
The sublime Lovely On The Water from Vaughan William's pastoral composition SIX STUDIES IN ENGLISH FOLK SONG, written in 1926, and performed here by the Nash Ensemble, one of England's finest chamber music groups, in 2001. Vaughan Williams wrote that his aim in setting the songs was for them to be “treated with love.” ‘Nuff said.
THE A.LORDS FREOHYLL
ARROWWOOD GOBLIN MARKET
Spooky goings-on of a psychedelically eldritch nature from Chelsea Robb, who releases beautiful albums of atmospheric pagan charm under the name Arrowwood. Goblin Market is taken from a her third album BEAUTIFUL GRAVE, released 2013. Robb only uses acoustic instruments to complement her vocals – the reed organ, flute, various string instruments and even a hurdy gurdy add rich layers to her hauntingly alluring songs. It’s really quite lovely.
ORDER OF THE 12 EYE OF A LENS
BELBURY POLY THE GREEN GRASS GROWS
MELLOW CANDLE SHEEP SEASON
THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF MAY THE HIGHEST TREE
THE MEMORY BAND VOICES
This is just one of those pieces of music that I love unconditionally. The chiming electro-acoustic refrain from the first half of the track is a thing of rare beauty that the band fail to spoil by yelling SOUP! all over it. This is taken from Tunng’s third album, released in 2007, called GOOD ARROWS, on which they lose much of the awkward (but fairly entertaining) electronica, and become, instead, a delightful, experimental, pastoral pop group whose influences include Icelandic prog rock, choral music and film sountracks.
TRADER HORNE MORNING WAY
SHELAGH MCDONALD STARGAZER
Shelagh McDonald's story has a touch of the mythic about it. Following the release of her second album, STARGAZER, in 1971, Shelagh McDonald, all set to be the next Sandy Denny, mysteriously disappears for 34 years, only to resurface in 2005 after reading a Scottish Daily Mail story about her musical legacy and unsolved disappearance. It seems her very first acid trip was a life-changing nightmare that lasted for over a month leaving her a scared, paranoid, fragile and mostly broken, emotional wreck - she retreated to Scotland where she slowly mended herself, only to discover she could no longer sing. She married a local bookseller and began a nomadic existence, often living in tents in the Scottish Highlands, never to record again. If that's not the stuff of legend then I don't know what is. In fact, In 2013 she made a low-key return to public performances and released a new album, PARNASSUS REVISITED, that was distributed at gigs - I understand that there might even be a new album on the way - so the legend continues.
THE ADVISORY CIRCLE AND THE CUKOO COMES
ARIANNE CHURCHMAN MIDSUMMER LEY LINE HOTLINE
ESPERS DEAD QUEEN
This is one of
the most exquisitely beautiful songs I've ever heard. Words fail me whenever I
hear it so I'll just say that it sounds like a medieval castle revealing itself
through the early morning mist, and can found on the album ESPERS 2, released
in 2006. This was, in fact, the band's third album, and continues their love of
spooky, acoustic folk peppered with flute, cello and even weirder sounds held
together with vocalist Meg Baird's voice, which is baroque and amazing. I love
this song - it always leaves me feeling spellbound for absolute moments
whenever I hear it.
This is one of the most exquisitely beautiful songs I've ever heard. Words fail me whenever I hear it so I'll just say that it sounds like a medieval castle revealing itself through the early morning mist, and can found on the album ESPERS 2, released in 2006. This was, in fact, the band's third album, and continues their love of spooky, acoustic folk peppered with flute, cello and even weirder sounds held together with vocalist Meg Baird's voice, which is baroque and amazing. I love this song - it always leaves me feeling spellbound for absolute moments whenever I hear it.
LINDA PERHACS CHIMACUM RAIN
Which leads us
to the ethereal loveliness of Linda Perhacs with the almost unbearbly lovely, Chimacum
Rain, taken from the exquisitely otherworldly album PARALLELOGRAMS,
released in 1970 - an album that shimmers with an eerie beauty.
Which leads us to the ethereal loveliness of Linda Perhacs with the almost unbearbly lovely, Chimacum Rain, taken from the exquisitely otherworldly album PARALLELOGRAMS, released in 1970 - an album that shimmers with an eerie beauty.
MAGNET GENTLY JOHNNY
Magnet was a band put together for the purpose of recording songs composed by New York songwriter Paul Giovanni for the soundtrack to the cult film The Wicker Man. Quite why the producers chose a native of New York for the gig I don’t know, but it was an inspired choice - his haunting music provides the perfect accompaniment for this dark fairytale. The soundtrack itself has it’s own mythology, and the sublime Gently Johnny, adapted from a poem by Robert Burns, wasn’t even included in the version of the film that was released in the cinemas in 1973, but was restored to the soundtrack in 2002, using cues from the tape held by the film’s associate music director, Gary Carpenter, mixed with recordings from the semi-legendary Trunk Records release (more of which later).
SPIROGYRA OLD BOOT WINE
Haunting and eerie, Old Boot Wine provides a hypnotic soundtrack to a vivid dream. The whimsically English Spirogyra were a band which produced patchouli-scented flower folk combined with a bit a bit jarring social commentary, and featured Barbara Gaskin on vocals (she later went on to record It's My Party with a pre-Eurythmics Dave Stewart in 1981, trivia fans). This track is taken from the band’s final album, the luscious BELLS, BOOTS AND SHAMBLES, released in 1973. By all accounts it sold poorly, the world having possibly moved on from flowery psychedelic folk by then, but is, of course, these days considered a lost classic of the acid-folk scene.
SPROATLY SMITH SPRING STRATHSPEY
Sproatly Smith bring a lysergic ambiance to the esquisitely lovely Spring Strathspey, a pagan celebration of the sabbat, the changing of the seasons and the abandonment of the senses, originally recorded by the Celtic bard Gwydion Pendderwen on his album SONGS OF THE OLD RELIGION which he released in 1972. Sproatly Smith bathe the track in shimmering synths whilst the fragile vocals float and dance as if spellbound. Taken from their 2010 release PIXIELED, you might think that this is the sound of wood-nymphs singing.
WOODY GREEN THE WOODS
MAGNET CORN RIGS
Paul Giovanni was tasked with creating a sound which hinted at England's pre-Christian roots to accompany the pagan imagery of The Wicker Man. Once again turning to a poem by Robert Burns for inspiration, Corn Rigs deftly combines animist imagery with heathen sex magic, and, let's face it, besotted love. By far one of the loveliest songs ever recorded, and available on THE WICKER MAN soundtrack.
BROADCAST AND THE FOCUS GROUP INTRO - MAGNETIC TALES
Lasting no more than 38 seconds, Intro - Magnetic Tales provides a taste of the sonic palette laid out before you in the collaborative feast that is BROADCAST AND THE FOCUS GROUP INVESTIGATE WITCH CULTS OF THE RADIO AGE, released in 2009. On it, Broadcast’s off-kilter, other-worldly pastoralism (which reached its apotheosis on their MOTHER IS THE MILKY NIGHT, which I've dipped into throughout the show) is filtered through The Focus Group's Julian House's own brand of temporal displacement to produce something that’s both spectral and disorientating.
ANNE BRIGGS BLACKWATERSIDE
An absolutely gorgeous interpretation of the folk ballad Down By Blackwaterside; a tale of lost love and broken promises, recorded by the brilliant and enigmatic Anne Briggs in 1971 for her album ANNE BRIGGS, though it can also be found on either of her compilation albums CLASSIC ANNE BRIGGS and A COLLECTION. Anne's singing is hypnotic, and despite the sadness of the lyric itself - a suitor breaks his promise of marriage - this remains one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. Bert Jansch, her lover at the time, provides the guitar accompaniment based upon an earlier instrumental version that Briggs taught to him herself, having learnt it from that great collector of British folk A.L. Lloyd, and appeared on his 1965 album JACK ORION, which, and everyone knows this, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it, Jimmy Page ripped off for Led Zep’s Black Mountainside.
THE PENTANGLE ONCE I HAD A SWEETHEART
I’ve no doubt that Jacqui McShee could sing the wording on the back of a cornflakes box and still make make my heart a-quiver, but this take on the traditional folk-melody Once I Had A Sweetheart (possibly some 300 years old) is simply sublime - John Renbourne’s sitar solo is scintillating, and Jacquie McShee’s vocals just soar, despite the song’s melancholy. Taken from The Pentangle’s 1969 release BASKET OF LIGHT, this is the band at their pinnacle, blending traditional folk with jazz and eastern elements to pioneering effect.
THE MEMORY BAND WHERE THE RIVER MEETS THE SEA
The second track from The Memory Band on this evening’s show, included because this particular track - all brass, strings and vocal samples which build anthemically and sweep images across the mental vision before fading to birdsong and running water - fits the nature of the show too perfectly to ignore. Where The River Meets The Sea is the closing track on their 2013 release ON THE CHALK (OUR NAVIGATION OF THE LINE OF THE DOWNS), a psycho-geographical exploration of The Harrow Way, the western section of an ancient walkway, which is explored in sound, speech and song.
TICKAWINDA ROSEMARY LANE
This is a particularly ravishing cover of the folk traditional Rosemary Lane by late 70’s folk band Tickawinda, house band for the Rose and Crown folk club and winners of the North West heats of the 'Search for The Stars of the '80's' competition held at the Poynton Folk Centre in a performance described as 'Tickawonderful' in the Manchester Evening News. Sounds unpromising, I know, but their only album, ROSEMARY LANE, released in 1979, despite being neither psychedelic or progressive, is packed full of wonderful tunes, mostly covers by the likes of Pentangle and Steely Dan, that are simply outstanding in their delivery; absolutely gorgeous. The album was limited to 300 copies and for years was considered the holy grail of folk collections. The nice thing is, when it finally got a CD release in 2001 and people got to hear it for the first time, instead of hear about it, nobody was disappointed.
WOODY GREEN MAGIC CHAIR
MAGNET WILLOW’S SONG
More mellifluous loveliness from Paul Giovanni and Magnet - This is the version of Willow’s Song taken from the semi-legendary Trunk Records issue of the WICKER MAN SOUNDTRACK released in 1998. Until then there had been no official release of the music from this most cult-ish of films, the original tapes thought lost, but a four year search by Jonny Trunk produced a copy of the original music and effects tape which was duly released and that’s why you can hear strange noises in the background - which are essentially Britt Ekland’s body double slapping her arse in a come-hither sort of fashion. Sung by Rachel Vearney, about whom nothing appears to be known, this is perhaps my favourite version of Willow’s Song, its alluring sweetness often leaving me dumbstruck, although over the years I’ve collected over 20 other versions of what remains one of the most gorgeous and sensual songs ever committed to vinyl, or in this case, celluloid. This is a different version from the one which appears on the official soundtrack which accompanied the 2013 director’s cut of the film - that version featured vocals by Leslie Mackie who had a small part in the film as a slightly unhinged schoolgirl called Daisy - this version, however, is the first version I ever heard and holds a special place in my heart.
VASHTI BUNYAN WINTER IS BLUE (ACETATE DEMO)