Sunday, 31 July 2016

"Welcome Here Kind Stranger" by PAUL BRADY (1994 Mulligan CD Reissue) - A Review by Mark Barry...





"...Filled My Heart With Longing For..."

With a near fifty-year musical career behind him - Northern Ireland's Paul Brady is better known in 2016 as a singer-songwriter than a rabble-rousing Folky (Tina Turner, Santana and Dave Edmunds have covered his Rock tunes).

But back in the day (September 1978 to be exact) - he was bestowed the mighty honour of 'Folk Album Of The Year' by the influential British music newspaper Melody Maker - and they were more than on the money. I was living in Dublin when Mulligan Records released LUN 024 on LP and Cassette and it was a very big deal indeed.

Brady had already clocked up an entire densely-packed decade of Folk credentials – a whopping seven albums with The Johnstons in the UK on Transatlantic Records between 1968 and 1971 – four more LP credits in Ireland with fiddle players Tommy Peoples, Andy McGann, Paddy Reynolds and John Vesey - and just before "Welcome..." hit the streets - a fondly-remembered shared first solo LP in 1976 with Ireland's ANDY IRVINE - not surprisingly called "Paul Brady And Andy Irvine" (Mulligan Records LUN 008). As well as stints in and out of Ireland's premier Folk export PLANXTY - Strabane's finest had been a very busy boy indeed.

So people in Ireland particularly had been waiting for the guts of a decade to see his name right up there on its own - and "Welcome Here Kind Stranger" didn't disappoint. Playing multiple Acoustic Guitars, Tin-Whistles, Bouzoukis, Mandolins, Harmonium and everything else bar the kitchen sink – the record was Engineered by the vastly experienced BRIAN MASTERSON and co-produced by PAUL BRADY and The Bothy Band’s DONAL LUNNY. It was always going to be classy and I can remember how beautifully produced this LP felt – accomplished and sophisticated – yet still brimming with heart and forgotten Folk songs like the truly beautiful “Lakes Of Pontchartrain” - a song so potent it could convince Rasputin or Simon Cowell to finally leave those poor women alone (well maybe). Let's get to the postcards from the past...

UK released June 1994 - "Welcome Here Kind Stranger" by PAUL BRADY on Mulligan LUNCD 024 (Barcode 501636430188) is a straightforward reissue CD transfer of the 9-track 1978 Mulligan Records LP (LUN 024) and plays out as follows (43:35 minutes):

1. Don't Come Again
2. I Am A Youth That's Inclined To Ramble
3. Jackson And Jane
4. The Lake Of Pontchartrain
5. The Creel [Side 2]
6. Out The Door And Over The Wall
7. Young Edmund In The Lowlands Low
8. The Boy On The Hilltop/Johnny Goin' To Ceilidh
9. Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Welcome Here Kind Stranger" - released in Ireland and in the UK on Mulligan Records LUN 024 and in the USA on Green Linnet SIF 3015. Recorded at Lombard Studios in Dublin, April and May 1978.

PLAYERS:
PAUL BRADY - Lead Vocals, Acoustic and 12-String Guitars, Tin-Whistles, Mandolins, Bouzouki and Harmonium
(Acapella Vocals alone on "Young Edmund In The Lowlands Low")
TOMMY PEOPLES - Fiddle on "Don't Come Again", "Jackson And Jane", "The Creel" and Fiddle/Mandolin on "The Boy On The Hilltop..."
ANDY IRVINE - Hurdy Gurdy (Arranged and Played) on "I Am A Youth That's Inclined To Ramble" and "Jackson And Jane"
Mandolin and Harmonicas (Arranged and Played) on "Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore"
DONAL LUNNY - Bass Bouzouki (Arranged and Played) on "Out The Door And Over The Wall"
NOEL HILL - Concertina on "Don't Come Again" and "Jackson And Jane"

Those who bought and maybe still have the rare Irish or England vinyl pressing of "Welcome Here Kind Stranger" will know that it's 'postcard' artwork single sleeve came with a gatefold insert lavished with photographs on his long Folk history as well as the lyrics, players and a short history of each song (historical context). Luckily the guts of that album-sized gatefold insert has been reproduced in the 8-page inlay. As for mastering - typical of all Mulligan CD reissues that I've ever bought - there are zero reissue credits let alone who mastered what and where and from what. But like "The Bothy Band" (their self-titled March 1976 debut LP on Polydor – reissued on Mulligan later - hence the Mulligan CD) – the audio is fabulous on some tracks (clean and clear) – but only o.k. on others. The Acapella "Young Edmund..." sounds better than "The Lakes Of Pontchartrain" even if it clicks and pops in places - while the wild and fast instrumental "Out The Door And Over The Hill" is wonderfully in your face and for all the right reasons.

Suggested to Brady by Derry singer and songsmith Eddie Butcher - Brady takes his cue for his version of "Don't Come Again" from their 1975 version (Butcher recorded it with his wife Gracie). It's pure Irish Folk storytelling - 2 Mandolins doing battle with 2 Tin Whistles and a Guitar as our poor hero initially gets no joy from his 'bonnie wee lass' - but after time she hints he 'might come again'. That's gets left behind by one of the album's three ballad masterpieces - "I Am A Youth That's Inclined To Ramble". I used to hitch down to Lisdoonvarna and Spiddle's Folk Festivals in the summers of '78, '79 and '80. I can still feel those steel guitar strings rattling out over the PA and the fields - the crowd being swayed and taken away in the afternoon sunshine by the beautiful melody - a ramblin' tale of Jamie going to Amer-e-kay with one eye on fame and fortune while his true heart pines for the fair maids of Erin (Andy Irvine's Hurdy Gurdy grounds it so beautifully). "Jackson And Jane" is one of his own Folk melodies put to words - those nouns being from 'Folk Songs Sung In Ulster' - a dubious tale about jockey Hugh Jackson and his grey mare Jane who apparently talked to him as they larruped around the race course chasing down yet another Cootehill Cup. Side 1 ends with number two masterpiece - his defining version of "The Lakes Of Pontchartrain" (learnt from Christy Moore who in turn picked it up from Mike Waterson of The Watersons). Brady plays 3 Guitars, 4 Tin Whistles and a Harmonium as the tale of a Confederate soldier trying to make his way to Cuba unfolds. He meets a 'creole' girl with 'flowing hair' and a kind heart by "The Lakes Of Pontchartrain" who takes him in and treats him 'right good' - but he must part, as the militia are hot on his trail. Unfortunately there's noticeable hiss on this track and I can understand why he re-recorded it as 'New Recording' on his September 1999 "Nobody Knows: The Best Of..." CD set on Rykodisc.

Side 2 opens with a very traditional folk tune "The Creel" that segues around 5:20 minutes into some stunning Bouzouki playing on "Out The Door And Over The Wall" by The Bothy Band's main man Donal Lunny sounding not unlike an Irish Zorba the Greek. The six-minutes of his lone voice on "Young Edmund In The Lowlands Low" is hard work at the best of times and the sporadic clicks and pops (like its been dubbed off a fairly clean LP) only gets on your nerves. The instrumental "The Boy On The Hillside/Johnny Goin' To Ceilidh" is short and sweet but only a shoe-in for the gorgeous "Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore" - yet another tearful pint-of-Guinness moment. I once had an Ireland-only 7" single (in a picture sleeve of all things) by Barry Moore (Christy Moore's brother now more commonly known as Luka Bloom) who did a stunning cover version of that 100-year old Irish gem "Danny Boy" by adding a sort of Bob Dylan Harmonica to the melody. Brady does the same for "Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore" - but also throwing in multiple guitars and mandolins - giving the whole soundscape this huge Waterboys "This Is The Sea' kind of magic. I've seen Irish immigrants in London and New York hear this song and dig deep into their fourth whiskey to no avail - thinking of the lassie they left on...

Newly signed to WEA for Ireland and England - in 1981 Brady wisely made the big musical move away from straight-up Folk into Rock with his "Hard Station" LP (June 1981 on WEA Ireland K 58312) - an album that even today is liable to make many a sane Irishman go misty into his Guinness of a Saturday night's lonesome reverie Santana covered "Night Hunting Time" from “Hard Station” on their "Shango" LP in 1981 - while Tina Turner added his "Steel Claw" from Brady’s brilliant 1982 set "True For You" to her massive comeback LP "Private Dancer"). Dobro specialist Jerry Douglas covered Paul's lovely ballad "Follow On" on his 1998 CD set "Restless On The Farm" with Maura O'Connell on Lead Vocals - while Brady hooked up with Bonnie Raitt when they covered Richard Thompson's mournful "The Dimming Of The Day" on her 1994 CD "Longing In Their Hearts". 

I reviewed "The Bothy Band" from 1976 (also on Mulligan) and it has better Audio than this CD. I can't help hoping that some day someone will return to this great Folk record and dig out those out proper tapes (and surely there must be outtakes and demos) and do the Remaster job this forgotten and overlooked gem deserves. Now that really would a reissue 'Folk Album Of The Year' award winner. In the meantime we'll have to do with a five-star album on a three-star reissue.

"...Drink a health to old Ireland..." - Paul Brady sings on the wonderful "Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore". Time to get this round in...round your favourite tavern...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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