Thursday, 25 September 2014

"Welcome To The Citadel" by MARC BRIERLEY - A Review Of His 1968 Debut Album On CBS Records - Now Reissued, Expanded & Remastered by Cherry Tree of the UK on a 2014 CD...

“…Solstice Of The Heart…” 

With a voice similar to Roy Harper and songs in the Folk Rock tradition of Nick Drake meets Simon & Garfunkel meets Al Stewart - it's a mystery as to why Marc Brierley's debut LP on the giant CBS Records did so little business in 1968? Maybe it was the concert-poster lettering of his name/title or Ron Hendersen's stunning oil painting on the cover that led people to believe it was some kind of "Odyssey & Oracle" Psych masterpiece when it was really a good old Folkie record? It sold zip and consequently it's booked at £400 in 2014 Price Guides - but often sells for much more on Auction sites. And on the strength of this fabulous Cherry Tree Expanded CD remaster (part of Cherry Red Records) - it's easy to see why collectors want it. Here are the keys to the Citadel...

UK released September 2014 - Cherry Tree CDTREE013 (Barcode 5013929691421) breaks down as follows (79:08 minutes):

1. The Answer Is
2. Vagabond Of Sleep
3. Matchbox Men
4. Over The Hills
5. Symphony
6. Take Me For A ride On Your Aeroplane
7. Welcome To The Citadel
8. Hold On, Hold On, The Garden Sure Looks Good Spread On The Floor
9. Autograph Of Time (After All The Heat Was Hung)
10. Sunlight Sleeper's Song
11. Making Love
12. Time Itself
13. And Who Would But Think
14. My Thoughts & Sounds
Tracks 1 to 14 are the album "Welcome To The Citadel" - released November 1968 in the UK on CBS Records S 63478

15. A Time For Love
16. Dragonfly
17. Arctic City
18. Rel's Song
19. If You Leave Me Now
Tracks 15 to 19 are the "Marc Brierley EP" - released 1966 in the UK on Transatlantic TRA EP 147

20. Stay A Little Longer Merry Ann
21. Flaxen Hair
Tracks 20 and 21 are the A&B-sides of a May 1969 UK 7" single on CBS Records 4191

22 Godspeed
23. Phoenix
24. Powers Of Glory
25. Hear Me Calling
26. Don't Let The Bugs Bite
Tracks 22 to 26 are 'Rehearsal Demos' and are Previously Unreleased

The 12-page booklet combines his own recollections on the recording of the album with cool photos of Demo CBS 7" singles, label facsimiles, period photos and a Discography at the rear. The album was recorded across 5 days without Dolby tape hiss reduction - so Simon Murphy's CD Remaster at Another Planet Music is superb - very clear and at times - breathtaking. The artist seems pleased with the results.

Musically "Welcome To The Citadel" has the almost demo-in-the-studio feel of Jackson C. Frank's 1966 self-titled debut album on Columbia Records famously produced by PAUL SIMON and featuring Simon's gorgeous "Blues Run The Game". Mix that up with a little Al Stewart/Roy Harper vocals and you get the picture.

The album opens with the gentle acoustic "The Answer Is" and you feel like you've stumbled on a great, lost Nick Drake situation. "Vagabond Of Sleep" cements the feeling and the violin on "Matchbox Men" gives it a sort of English Folk feel. But of course you never get `that' lucky. His voice isn't the greatest by any stretch of the imagination and his songs lack the sheer delicacy of Drake - and the poppy "Making Love" is so hippy dated it's awful. But in-between are lovely songs like the title "Welcome To The Citadel" track where Henry Lowther provides superb harmonizing Trumpet accompaniment to the acoustic guitar.
"Time Itself" features Sixties Idealism where he sounds a little like the Irish Folk duo Tir na N'Og on Chrysalis (lyrics above). And the last song is an absolute nugget - the six-minute "Thoughts & Sounds" is almost entirely instrumental except for some vocal refrains on the title towards the end of the song. Beautiful and accomplished acoustic guitar harmonics - ala Bert Jansch and John Renbourn - side with gentle percussion and echoed vocals. It's almost Prog and now remastered to superb quality...

A real prize for collectors is the 1966 EP - listed at £50 in the guides - I've never seen a copy in 45 years. Its rightly pictured on Page 4 with our hero wearing shades and a beard and looking oh so Sixties Troubadour. The instrumental "Dragonfly" is absolutely gorgeous. And then comes a real shock - five rehearsal demos (in acceptable sound) with three cracking new tunes "Phoenix", "Powers Of Glory" and "Hear Me calling" where he even sounds a little Ronnie Lane circa 1972 or 1974.

He would go on to produce another LP for CBS called "Hello" in the Summer of 1969 (which I've also reviewed). A superb reissue then and well done to all the good people involved...

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