=  JUNE 2008  =

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Written by:

  Migrating Bird comp

Simon Lewis

Jeff Penczak




( 2XCD from Aztec records www.aztecmusic.net)


    Australian rock music seemed to live in its own bubble during the late sixties and early seventies, meaning that are a host of fine albums to be discovered still. Key to discovering them are Aztec Records who seem to be on a mission to bring these undiscovered classics to a wider audience with a series of wonderfully packaged albums, including "“Milesago”, a wonderful blend of progressive psych that is both varied and imaginative.


    Having had some success with their debut album “Part one” and the single “I’ll Be Gone” (included here, as a bonus track), the band were gigging hard as they prepared to record their second album, an ambitious double disc that would propel them to the top.


   Opening with “But That’s Alright”, a solid enough song but one that does nothing to prepare the listener for the cornucopia of sounds that fill the rest of the album. Track two “Love’s My Bag”, has a mellow guitar riff that is a counterpoint to some excellent organ work from Lee Neale, the band giving off a similar vibe to East Of Eden or The Greatest Show On Earth. This feel continues on the heavier “Your Friend and Mine”, some jazzy interludes adding contrast to the heavy passages, creating one of the albums early highlights, the exquisite guitar of main songwriter Michael Rudd, the icing on a particularly tasty cake.


     Introduced with a rising crescendo and some droned organ work, “What The World Needs (Is a New Pair Of Socks)”, carries a more serious message than its title may suggest. A lost psych-prog gem, the song is a perfect example of a band at its peak, a driving rhythm (courtesy of Ray Arnott -drums and Bill Putt –bass) providing the foil for some great musical interplay between organ and guitar.


     After the catchy pop interlude of “Virgin’s Tale”, the mood turns darker with the strange “A Fate Worse Than Death”, the story of Kidnap and proposed molestation set to a jaunty tune creating a very odd ambience. Finally, “Tell Me Why” ends the first album in a shower of harpsichord and acoustic guitar, the lyrics exploring those late-night stoned questions we have all asked.


    Of course, being Aztec there are bonus tracks a’plenty, the standout for disc one being a storming twenty minute live version of “Some Good Advice” recorded at the legendary Sunbury Festival, Somewhere I plan to go if they ever invent a time machine!


     Right, on to disc two, which opens with the four-part “The Sideways Saga”, the song containing relaxed country rock, deep space explorations on Wah-pedal Organ, and some excellent lyrics within its ten minute existence. In fact listening to it now, I feel the spirit of early Kevin Ayers can definitely be felt all over this record,  the mixture of melodic sense and strangeness being very close to that of Mr Ayers himself.


     After some very fine drifting flute “Trust Me” establishes itself as a mid-paced rocker, the heaviness again giving way to the flute this time joined by vocals that lead the song out. As if realising they were running out of room,, the last three tracks on the album (the whole of side 4, originally) are packed with imaginative well constructed song, never a moment wasted as the band pull out all the stops. On “Fly Without Wings”, an assured vocal performance and rock solid drumming is the basis for some wonderful playing the guitar dancing with the organ in timeless abandon. Next up, the melancholy beauty of the acoustic “Did Jesus Wear Makeup?” fills the room with a tangible sadness before the title track leads us out in magnificent style twisting and turning out of the speakers with progressive grandeur.


   Bonus tracks on disc two include the single version of “Trust Us”, its B-Side, a later track “Dalmas” (the theme to a film) and an advert for Camel cigarettes which will put a smile on your face.


  Also included in the package is a 24-page booklet detailing the history of the record and the band alter ego as dance band Indelible Murtceps, which is a fascinating read in itself. (Simon Lewis)



(CD from Honest Jon’s 278 Portobello Road, London W10 5TE England)

Welsh folk singer and music journalist, Charlotte Greig and her husband, John Williams have curated ‘Migrating Bird,’ a nineteen-track collection from UK and US artists that’s as eclectic as the Waterson compositions they’ve elected to reinterpret. [See accompanying interview with Greig – add link to interview.] From King Creosote’s glistening, electronic take on ‘Fine Horsemen’ and Nancy Elizabeth’s crackling, whispered ‘Cornfield,’ given a marvelous continental feel via her bouzouki/Indian harmonium backing, to the angelic, violin-backed vocals of Lavinia Blackwell on ‘So Strange Is Man,’ at once both soothing and hauntingly avant garde, and Michael Hurley’s world-weary, piano and accordion (courtesy Kornbred Greenbriar) accompaniment on ‘How Can I Leave,’ it’s clear these artists are truly enamoured with Waterson’s work and are not here merely to cash a check and jump on the folk revival bandwagon.

Danny & The Champions of The World’s lager-fueled pub-crawl through ‘Wilson’s Arms’ fondly recaptures the “pub folk” vibe of the Watersons’ ‘For Pence and Spicy Ale,’ right down to the a capella opening which swells to a front room singalong. Greig herself offers a minimalist interpretation of ‘Her White Gown.’ Accompanied only by her haunting harmonium, the track would not have been out of place on Nico’s ‘Marble Index.’ Other delights include Jeb Loy Nichols’ bouncy, straightforward country stroll through ‘Stumbling On,’ Irish guitarist, Adrian Crowley’s smooth-as-velvet-pudding offering of the sorrowful, ‘Never The Same,’ Richard James’ (the founder of Welsh folkies, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, not the Aphex Twin) whistfully evocative ‘Memories,’ and Sabbath Folk’s sparse, banjo-led rendition of ‘Dazed,’ which successfully recreates the more traditional vibe of Waterson’s early recordings. The set ends on the delirious high notes of the funky, headswirling, marching version of ‘To Make You Stay’ by one of my favorite contemporary folk bands, Scotland’s The Memory Band and the tentative-yet-always-exquisite vocals of Vashti Bunyan on the title track. Heartfelt and sentimental, but by no means maudlin interpretations of other Waterson favorites by the likes of Victoria Williams, Richard Youngs, and Alasdair Roberts round out one of the best tribute albums we’ve heard in years.

See our interview with Charlotte Greig here

(Jeff Penczak)