Tuesday, 13 October 2009

“Ask Me No Questions” by BRIDGET ST. JOHN [feat John Martyn, Ric Sanders of Fairport Convention and John Peel] (2005 Cherry Red 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…There Are So Many Things That We Have Shared…"

If Nick Drake had a sister or Nico recorded a Folk-Rock album in 1969 - then the lovely "Ask Me No Questions" by Britain's Bridget St. John would be the result.

Signed to John Peel's fledgling Dandelion Records label - Londoner Bridget St. John was just 22 when she recorded this beautiful but criminally forgotten debut LP. St. John was one of the first three acts released by the BBC's most famous DJ on his 'it's all about the artists' record label.

1. To B Without A Hitch [Side 1]
2. Autumn Lullaby
3. Curl Your Toes
4. Like Never Before
5. The Curious Crystals Of Unusual Purity
6. Barefeet And Hot Pavements
7. I Like To Be With You In The Sun [Side 2]
8. Lizard-Long-Tongue Boy
9. Hello Again (Of Course)
10. Many Happy Returns
11. Broken Faith
12. Ask Me No Questions

13. Suzanne
14. The Road Was Lonely

Produced by JOHN PEEL - the album "Ask Me No Questions" was released in July 1969 on Dandelion S 63750 in a fetching gatefold sleeve (distributed by CBS at the time). Although it received many favourable music press reviews, it sold poorly. It's now a £70-plus listed vinyl rarity but can easily sell for three figures in tip-top condition.

UK released November 2005 - "Ask Me No Questions" by BRIDGET ST. JOHN on Cherry Red CDM RED 282 (Barcode 5013929128224) – this beautifully remastered CD gives us the album's original self-penned tracks (1 to 12 above) with 2 fantastic rarities as extras. The 20-page booklet also has informative and affectionate liner notes by NIGEL CROSS that include an interview with the great lady in 2005 - colour pictures of her in 1969, lyrics to the songs, a trade paper review, reminiscences on John Peel and John Martyn and much more.

Musically - her gut-string guitar picking sounds like Nick Drake on his debut "Five Leaves Left" and her voice is deep and dark like a more somber version of Sandy Denny. Most of the arrangements are just St. John and her guitar - very quiet, pretty folk songs. The mood isn't dark either, more reflective than that - the songs often sound like the countryside although she's from a capitol city. If I were to nitpick, I'd say the lyrics are sometimes weighed down with too many hippy-dippy ponderings about nature and ‘buttercup sandwiches' that may sound twee to some ears now...others, however, will feel they are very much part of the music's charm.

Two notable contributors are JOHN MARTYN on "Curl Your Toes" and the stunning album title track "Ask Me No Questions" where he plays second guitar on both (no vocals unfortunately). There's also second guitar from RIC SANDERS (of Fairport Convention) on "Lizard-Long-Tongue Boy" and "Many Happy Returns" (on which he also plays some wonderful Bottleneck Guitar). 

Highlights include the forgiving relationship song "Broken Faith" (lyrics are the title of this review), the sweet "Barefeet And Hot Pavements" and Martyn's subtle backing on "Curl Your Toes". But the best is kept until last - the near eight-minute folk work out that is the album's title track - "Ask Me No Questions". The song's lovely guitar refrain fades into bird song and bells about three minutes in - only to come back again to the lilting music to great effect. It's still moving - 40 years after the event.

The bonus tracks are genuinely that - bonuses. "Suzanne" (a Leonard Cohen cover) appeared as a rare non-album B-side on "Fly High", a 3-track maxi 7" single in a picture sleeve issued in 1972 on Dandelion/Polydor 2001 280. "The Road Was Lonely" turned as a non-album B-side to the 7" UK single "Passin' Thru" on MCA Records MUS 1203 in 1973. She went on to make two more albums for the Dandelion label "Songs For The Gentle Man" in 1971 and "Thank You For" in 1972 (they're available elsewhere) and has recorded into the 1990s.

So there you have it - if you like Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" (just him and his guitar) or Sandy Denny's more plaintive songs - then this little folk/rock gem is for you. A lovely thing indeed…

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