Sunday, 23 July 2017

"Just For The Record: The Solo Anthology 1969-76" by ANDY ROBERTS (July 2005 Sanctuary/Castle Music 2CD Reissue - Nick Watson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Andy The Revelator..."

Played guitar on Scaffold recordings – sessioned with Jimi Hendrix and Graham Nash - produced by Paul McCartney - toured with Led Zeppelin - had the drummer from Jethro Tull in his band - was involved in four Liverpool Scene albums - another for the short-lived Everyone group - another for the revered Plainsong ensemble and then on top of all that managed four more solo albums of his own by late 1973 (one of which was issued in two different versions). And yet I suspect like most people - you won't have a knacker's nadge as to who ANDY ROBERTS actually is. Which is a damn shame and something we need to rectify pronto. And that's where me and this rather brill little twofer-CD set from Sanctuary's Castle Music come bellowing in...

"Just For The Record..." offers the uninitiated 33-Tracks stretching from the London guitar-players first solo recordings with RCA in 1969 to his stay with cult British Folk-Comedy geezers Grimms in 1976. Included are Six Previously Unreleased tracks from his own archives and quality remasters of tracks from his rare and sought-after Seventies LPs - "Home Grown" (March 1970 on RCA - remixed and reissued in June 1971 on B&C Records), "Nina And The Dream Tree" (October 1971 on Pegasus), "Urban Cowboy" and "The Great Stampede" from March and December 1973 on Elektra Records as well as three tracks from the "Everyone" LP project in January 1971 on B&C Records and a Grimms track from 1976.

The project has had AR's full involvement and uses real tapes - and it shows. There are also guest appearances across the tracks from a wide variety of musical alumni – Ian Matthews, Zoot Money, Tim Renwick of Quiver, Carol Grimes, members of Plainsong, Grimms and Fairport Convention, Bob Sargent of Brinsley Schwarz, members of Liverpool Scene, vocalists Mac and Katie Kissoon and more. And for me especially – one of the big gifts here is the beautiful Acoustic Nick Drake/Roy Harper-ish Folk Rock of the 5-track "Nina And The Dream Tree" LP from 1971 in its Remastered entirety. Yum Yum. There's a ton of detail to get through so onwards and upwards...

UK released 26 July 2005 - "Just For The Record: The Solo Anthology 1969-76" by ANDY ROBERTS on Sanctuary/Castle Music CMEDD 1084 (Barcode 5050749410849) is a 2CD 33-Track Compilation of Remasters with Six Previously Unreleased Tracks that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (74:33 minutes):
1. The Raven
2. Applecross
3. Moths & Lizards In Detroit
4. The One-Armed Boatman And The Giant Squid
5. Creepy John
6. Home Grown
7. You're A Machine
8. John The Revelator
9. Baby, Baby
10. Autumn To May
11. Queen Of The Moonlight World
12. Lonely In The Crowd
13. Radio Lady (US Version)
14. Don't Get Me Wrong
15. Sitting On A Rock
16. Gig Song
17. Richmond
18. Elaine
19. Just For The Record
20. Good Time Charlie
All songs written by Andy Roberts except cover version of "Creepy John" and "Good Time Charlie" (both by Spider John Koerner), "John The Revelator" (Blind Willie Johnson/Traditional) and "Autumn To May" (Peter, Paul And Mary)
Tracks 1, 7, 9 and 18 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
Tracks 3, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 16 are from his debut solo LP "Home Grown" - first released as a 14-track UK LP in March 1970 on RCA Records SF 8086
Tracks 2, 5, 11, 12 and 19 are his debut solo LP "Home Grown" - remixed and reissued as a 10-track UK LP in June 1971 on Charisma/B&C Records CAS 1034. 
Track 13 is from the "Andy Roberts Is With Everyone" LP by ANDY ROBERTS - released July 1971 in the USA on Ampex Records A 10117
Tracks 14 and 15 are from the "Everyone" LP by EVERYONE - released January 1971 in the UK on B&C Records CAS 1028 (same LP as Track 13 with different mixes)
Track 20 is from his 2nd solo LP "Nina And The Dream Tree" - released October 1971 in the UK on Pegasus Records PEG 5
Track 17 is from his 3rd solo LP "Urban Cowboy" - released March 1973 in the UK on Elektra Records K 42139

Disc 2 (65:16 minutes):
1. Keep My Children Warm
2. I've Seen The Movie
3. 25 Hours A Day/Breakdown/Welcome Home
4. Dream Tree Sequence
5. Poison Apple Lady
6. Urban Cowboy
7. Living In The Hills Of Zion
8. Charlie
9. Big City Tension
10. Home At Last
11. Home In The Sun
12. New Karenski
13. Bluebird Morning
Tracks 1 to 4 are from his 2nd solo LP "Nina And The Dream Tree" - released October 1971 in the UK on Pegasus Records PEG 5
(Using Track 20 on Disc 1 and the above four - you can sequence the entire LP as follows:
Side 1: Tracks 1, 2 and 3 from Disc 1 - Side 2: Track 20 from Disc 1 and Track 4 from Disc 2
Tracks 8, 9, 10 and 12 are from his 3rd solo LP "Urban Cowboy" - released March 1973 in the UK on Elektra Records K 42139
Track 11 is from his 4th solo LP "The Great Stampede" - released December 1973 in the UK on Elektra Records K 42151
Track 13 is by GRIMMS and is from their 3rd LP "Sleepers" - released 1976 UK LP on DJM Records DJLPS 470

COLIN HARPER (author of "Irish Folk, Trad & Blues: A Secret History") penned the superlatively detailed liner notes that condense the man's staggeringly varied career into 12-pages of text. Amidst the reminiscences from Roberts are adverts for Scaffold gigs back in 1965, photos of The Liverpool Scene on stage and at various stages of counter-culture play, colour snaps of AR at The Isle Of Wight Festival in 1970 with Zeppelin and Blodwyn Pig - a trade advert for his support slot with Procol Harum at The Queen Elizabeth Hall - all rounded off with AR and Ian Matthews reunited at the 2000 Cropredy Festival (Fairport Convention). There are the usual reissue credits and a very nice touch is his 7-LP Discography pictured on the inside rear inlay (includes the "Andy Roberts" budget compilation LP on Charisma CS 6).

NICK WATSON did the Remasters at The Town House and even the largely Acoustic Demo recordings sound glorious. As much of the music is very Acoustic based Folk-Rock in its nature - the remasters seem to have made the melodies more open and haunting in ways I hadn't heard before. I also love the way the reissue acknowledges the two entirely different sounding versions of his sought-after debut "Home Grown" - with my poison being the re-done 1971 version on B&C Records. Even though it has less tracks than the RCA original (10 against 14) - along with "Nina And The Dream Tree" - I think both are forgotten gems Seventies soft-rock lovers will love enjoy rediscovering. To the music...

Although primarily remembered as a session-guitarist - Andy Roberts was/is a multi-instrumentalist. Across his four solo LPs (and on the others too) - he plays Acoustic, Electric and Slide Guitar, Dulcimer, Flute, Glockenspiel, Piano, Violin and handles all lead vocals. His debut "Home Grown" has a tangled history. RCA put out a 14-track version in March 1970 while manager Sandy Robertson oversaw a 10-track remix/re-record in 1971 put out by Charisma’s B&C Records. What you notice about the RCA initial pressing is how stripped down and Acoustic tracks like "The One-Armed Boatman And The Giant Squid" are (and hissy too in some places). While "Home Grown" feels like Country-Rock ala Gordon Lightfoot singing about weed and its 'home grown' medicinal properties. The Country feel continues with "Gig Song" where our travelling man spends his life on the motorways of the world. Things improve immeasurably with his funky cover of the Blues/Gospel Traditional "John The Revelator" (one of my fave tracks on the first version). But things go stellar for me with the accomplished sound to the B&C pressing in 1971. There's a coherence to the Cochise and Brinsley Schwarz swagger of "Creepy John" while the near seven-minute "Applecross" is as lovely as Acoustic Rock gets. Continuing with Acoustic - the beautifully recorded two-minute instrumental "Lonely In The Crowd" could be one of those fingerpicking melodic ditties Jimmy Page slipped into Zeppelin LPs. Another is the very Terry Reid instrumental "Just For The Record" - a tune that lets him show off his acoustic note-plucking and harmonics prowess (he'd been touring with Ian Matthews and Richard Thompson and clearly some of that guitar talent had sunk in deep).

The "Nina..." in the title of his second solo LP turns out to Polly James of the popular TV Show "The Liver Birds" whom he was in a serious relationship with at the time - the muse for all of Side 1. Although there are only five tracks - I love the Nick Drake/Roy Harper feel to the songs - sort of "Bryter Layter" meets "Stormcock" although probably not as good as either - but close. Guests Carol Grimes and Charlene Collins (lady vocals) and ace sessionman Ray Warleigh on Alto Saxophone add hugely to the beautiful almost hymnal "Keep The Children Warm" - a song that doesn't sound fay or cloying after 46 years - but genuine and heartfelt. The casually strummed acoustic guitars and tasty piano notes remind me too of Terry Reid keeping it casual and loose on his 1973 set "River". Gerry Conway of Fairport Convention plays the drums on "I've Seen The Movie" - but its the astonishing string-arrangements of Robert Kirby that elevates the song into the magical - like when Elton used to be on "Tumbleweed Connection" and "Madman Across The Water". On the eight-minutes of the three-part "25 Hours A Day/Breakdown/Welcome Home" - Roberts sees his pal Dave Richards of Plainsong and Grimms play Bass and Organ with Backing Vocals provided by the soulful duo of Mac and Katie Kissoon (who would have their in the mid Seventies). That wild guitar solo in the 'Breakdown' section still feels every so slightly out of place - but the mellow soon returns with the very quiet and very pretty "Welcome Home" part.

His cover of Spider John Koerner’s "Good Time Charlie" has a great chug before finally hurtling into a ye-haw hoedown finish. The huge fifteen-minute "Dream Tree Sequence" runs the musical gamut – Folk Rock to begin with – then into a softer Acoustic centre – and a wicked Harper-esque electric guitar change of pace – all aided and abetted by Zoot Money on Organ and the trio of Ian Matthews (Matthews Southern Comfort) and Mac And Katie Kissoon on Backing Vocals. It feels very Plainsong before that band had been invented yet. I can’t help thinking that "Nina And The Dream Tree" is something of a forgotten classic when it comes to 1971 LPs...

For the artist himself – he prefers (as do many) to run to the two Elektra Records LPs he did in 1973 as his musical apex – "Urban Cowboy" in March 1973 and "The Great Stampede" towards Christmas of that year. With a CD reissue of "The Great Stampede" due when they were compiling this twofer – Castle only provide us with one song from the fourth LP which is a damn shame – especially given the playing time that would have allowed for two or three more at least. But what we do get of both is wonderful - with the lovely "Richmond" and "Bluebird Morning" being my faves here. Of the six unreleased – my heart goes to the demo of "Elaine" and the two-minute Dulcimer prettiness of "Baby, Baby".

Andy Roberts essentially became a musician for hire after the mid Seventies even doing a stint with the live variant of Pink Floyd for their 1981 "Wall" concerts. He's released CDs since and joined the Ian Matthews Plainsong reunion band too.

But for many his criminally overlooked singer-songwriter work between 1970 and 1973 define him and explain why albums that used to linger unloved and unwanted in secondhand racks now go for money. Collectors discovered their quality...and you should too. Well done to all involved...

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