Thursday, 21 August 2014

"Living Game" by MICK GREENWOOD (2001 Voiceprint CD Reissue - Denis Blackham Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...





This review is part of my Series "SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters 1970s Rock And Pop" Download Book available to buy on Amazon to either your PC or Mac (it will download the Kindle software to read the book for free to your toolbar). Click on the link below to go my Author's Page for this and other related publications:

                       http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00LQKMC6I

Mick Greenwood's debut album "Living Game" was released in the UK in September 1971 on MCA Records MDKS 8003 (November 1971 in the USA on Decca DL 75318) and was the 1st of his 3 albums in the early Seventies. The other two are "...To Friends" from 1972 on MCA MKPS 2026 (MCA-307 in the USA, released in 1973) and "Midnight Dreamer" from 1974 on Warner Brothers K 56059 (No USA Release).

June 2001 saw all three reissued on CD (straightforward transfers in all cases) by the Voiceprint Label here in the UK with "Living Game" dubbed as Part One of 'The Mick Greenwood Teenage Trilogy' - the other two albums being Part Two & Three.

"Living Game" is Voiceprint VP222CD (Barcode 604388305629) - "To Friends" is Voiceprint VP223CD (Barcode 604388305728) and "Midnight Dreamer" is Voiceprint VP224CD (Barcode 604388305827). There is also a box set containing all three CDs - 'The Mick Greenwood Teenage Trilogy' on Voiceprint VPBOX99CD.

Born in the UK but raised in the States from the age of 12 - Greenwood returned to London in 1970 in his early 20s to make music. He knew members of the FAIRPORT CONVENTION offshoot Folk Rock group FOTHERINGAY so when he went to make "Living Game" he was able to call on three of them - and along with keyboardist/producer Tony Cox - made up the band that feature on the album:

1. Taxi
2. Friend Of Mine
3. Living Game
4. My Life
5. To The Sea
6. After The First World War [Side 2]
7. To The Farside
8. Truth Seeker
9. Situation Number Four
10. Keep Coming Back
11. Sight

MICK GREENWOOD - Vocals & Acoustic Guitar
JERRY DONAHUE - Electric Guitar
PAT DONALDSON - Bass Guitar
GERRY CONWAY - Drums, Percussion
TONY COX - Piano & Harmonium
(Tony Cox and Martin Cook produced the album with all songs written by Mick Greenwood)

Jazz session man and multi-instrumentalist LYNN DOBSON adds flute to "Taxi", tenor sax to "Keep Coming Back" and plays sitar on "Sight".  CHRISTINE QUAILE adds lovely backing vocals to both "Situation Number Four" and "My Life". DAVE PEGG of FAIRPORT CONVENTION plays bass on "Situation Number Four" and "Sight".  Later to appear with ASSAGAI on Vertigo and SPEAR on Virgin, South African avant-garde jazzman DUDU PUKWANA adds alto sax to "Keep Coming Back".

The artwork has been altered slightly; the original front cover of the gatefold LP had the name and title of the album in script writing centered in the top window - Mick Greenwood Living Game - now it's been shortened to Living Game with his name removed - don't know why! The full-face photo that graced the rear of the gatefold sleeve is reproduced under the see-through tray and the same typo style used on the inner gatefold is also used to reproduce the lyrics and band credits in the booklet - nice touches on both counts.

MCA/Decca released no less than three hard-to-find 7" singles in the USA and UK to promote the album but none did any chart business:
1. "Living Game" b/w "To The Sea" was on Decca 32922 in the USA and MCA MKS 5074 in the UK (November 1971)
2. "Friend Of Mine" b/w "Situation Number Four" was on MCA MKS 5082 in the UK (February 1972)
 3. "After The First World War" b/w "Nobody Knows Me" on Decca 32962 in the USA and MCA MKS 5092 in the UK (May 1972)

As you can see from the album track list provided by Amazon, "Nobody Knows Me" is a non-album B-side, but unfortunately it's not featured as a bonus track on the CD - a shame that.

But the big revelation is the superb sound quality. DENIS BLACKHAM (of Skye Mastering in Scotland) has digitally remastered the first generation tapes and he's achieved a beautiful job - warm, clean and full - far clearer than the cackles coming off my battered old vinyl copy.

If you were to describe the music, it would be a cross between Matthews Southern Comfort and Elton John circa "Madman Across The Water".  It isn't a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination and the hammy hippy-lifestyle lyrics on some of the songs irritated me then and may make many cringe now - but there's also a lot to love on here and isn't as dated as I feared it might be. The flute driven rock of the opener "Taxi" is excellent, the plaintive "Friend Of Mine" very Clifford T Ward, while the opening piano chords of "Living Game" are "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" three years before it was recorded.  For me "My Life" is gorgeous and will be gracing a 70's Fest CD-R somewhere near you soon. It's a truly lovely song and to hear the clarity of Pat Donaldson's bass playing on this excellent remaster is a genuine blast.

Then two lost classics appear, the strange yet funky "To The Farside" and the lovely string-driven ballad "Truth Seeker" - gems awaiting rediscovery for sure. The funky five-piece brass section on "Keep Coming Back" is superb and may even appeal to soul boys who like the funky side of rock, while Lynn Dobson's sitar combined with Ned Balen's Tablas on "Sight" will have you running for the joss sticks on Sunday morning. It ends the album on a lovely trippy up-note. Pretty impressive stuff really - 45 years on and it still sounds good.

To sum up, this is a four-star folk/rock album given a five star remaster and is well worth your checking out. If you wanted to get a lay of the land and hear snippets of the music, iTunes has 25 second-blasts of each track (the other two albums aren't on there yet). Recommended to those looking to explore an underrated and forgotten songsmith from the Seventies.

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