Tuesday, 16 August 2016

"Lord Offaly" by DAVID McWILLIAMS (2016 Esoteric Recordings CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...





"...Silken Thomas Is My Name..."

Sandwiched between the Hard Rock of Atomic Rooster's "Made In England" (with Chris Farlowe on Vocals) in June 1972 and the Jug Band Kazoo Shuffle of the King Earl Boogie Band's "Trouble At Mill" in July 1972 (an off offshoot of Mungo Jerry) – Pye Records Prog Rock label imprint DAWN released David McWilliams' singer-songwriter Folk-Rock LP "Lord Offaly" in July 1972 as well - and it was of course promptly lost in the musical mishmash of that mixed-up summer.

In my twenty-plus years of rarity buying for Reckless Records in London – I've seen maybe three or four copies in people's collections resplendent in its lovely textured gatefold sleeve. In fact – despite charting his first three albums on Major Minor Records in the Top 40 LP charts of 1967 and 1968 – Belfast Folky David McWilliams is all but forgotten now (the Atomic Rooster album from June 1972 is three times the rarity value...yet much easier to find).

But in 2016 - up steps reissue heroes Esoteric Recordings (part of Cherry Red) to put our wee historical oversight right. Here are the details for this lovingly presented CD reissue...

UK released Friday, 29 July 2016 (August 2016 in the USA) – "Lord Offaly" by DAVID McWILLIAMS on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2559 (Barcode 5013929465947) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 10-track 1972 LP and plays out as follows (43:23 minutes):

1. Go On Back To Momma (From The Film "Gold")
2. She Was A Lady
3. I Will Always Be Your Friend
4. Heart Of The Roll
5. I Would Be Confessed
6. Spanish Hope [Side 2]
7. Blind Men’s Stepping Stones
8. Lord Offaly
9. The Prisoner
10. The Gypsy
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 4th studio album "Lord Offaly" – released July 1972 in the UK on Dawn Records DNLS 3039 and 1973 in the USA on Pye Records PYE 3302 (distributed by Bell Records). Produced by DAVID McWILLIAMS and DAVE HUNT with all songs written by McWilliams – the LP didn’t chart in either country.

The 20-page booklet is pleasingly detailed featuring typically in-depth liner notes from noted writer MALCOLM DOME. The black and white photo that adorned the inner gatefold of the rare original 1972 British LP is reproduced (so to that gorgeous Gil McWilliams artwork), as are the lyrics that sat beneath the photo. It's a damn shame no one has found out who plays what on what (still a mystery) – but all of that pales once you clap your lugs on the actual remaster. Done by BEN WISEMAN at Broadlake Studios in Hertfordshire – the 24-bit bit digital transfer from original Dawn Records mastertapes is gorgeous – all that beautifully recorded acoustic instrumentation now shining like a sixpence dipped in Coke – layers of dirt removed. This is a fabulous-sounding remaster – and fans of the record will be thrilled with it...

Depicting far out hippy life and 'free love' to a musical backdrop of MC5 whilst 'the man' establishment tries to oppress all of the aforementioned rumpy-pumpy and good times - the film "Gold" was finally released in 1972 (filmed in 1968) - opening with "Go On Back To Mamma" - its theme song supplied by David McWilliams. It immediately feels 'American' in its Emitt Rhodes structures - a better produced Elton John. It turned up as the B-side to the March 1973 UK 7" single to "Gold" on Mother Records MOT 101. Quite why Dawn didn't use one of the album tracks like "Heart Of The Roll" or even "Go On Back To Momma" as a lead-off single is a mystery - the album could have benefitted from such a plug. The pretty "She Was A Lady" feels very Phillip Goodhand-Tate or even Colin Blunstone - sweet piano and vocals from McWilliams. His philosophy of love and comradeship flows out of the overly busy "I Will Always Be Your Friend" while "Heart Of The Roll" is undoubtedly one of the LP's highlights. It feels like Help Yourself or even McGuinness Flint - McWilliams' vocals like the Eggs Over Easy debut album. Beautiful remaster quality on the Side 1 finisher "I Would Be Confessed" - a 'wondering days are through' confessional which sees David delivery a warm song with sincerity.

My personal fave is the beautiful instrumental "Spanish Hope" which opens the more-overtly Folky Side 2 - a ballad where Acoustic Guitars strums are soon joined by a wailing penny-whistle lament - as deeply Celtic as Simple Minds and just as reminiscent. That same Folk Jaunt follows with "Blind Men's Stepping Stones" where the historical chap Emon Lynott 'curses his fate' as he mandolins his way over the Giant's Causeway.  Sounds like a Bouzouki at the opening of "Lord Offaly" - another undoubted highlight on the LP - a very warm melody from McWilliams that chronicles the distrust of England's King Henry by locals in Ireland's Maynooth. Even at 6:33 minutes - it doesn't overstay its welcome and feels like great Fairport Convention or even Sandy Denny. It ends on more history lessons in the plaintive and hurting "The Prisoner" and "The Gypsy" - tales of hungry ordinary folk paying the price for stealing bread and wine and thereafter transformed into rebels at the hands of their heartless landlords...

McWilliams made two more platters for Dawn Records in the shape of "The Beggar And The Priest" in 1973 (Dawn DNLS 3047) and "Living's Just A State Of Mind" in 1974 (Dawn DNLS 3059) and hopefully Esoteric Recordings have those obscurities also in their reissue sights.

"Lord Offaly" is a wonderful album that's way too obscure and shouldn't be. Silken indeed...

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