Friday, 8 November 2019

"At A Point Between Fate And Destiny" by MIGHTY BABY (7 November 2019 UK Grapefruit Records 6CD Clamshell Box Set of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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Grapefruit Records of the UK (part of Cherry Red's roster of labels) has been feeding the voracious needs of crusty old music-types like me for some years now. But even by their lofty/cult label standards - this November 2019 six-disc box set "At A Point Between Fate And Destiny" by MIGHTY BABY has to be 'another' feather in their very fluffy reissue bonnet (even if the second LP leaves a lot to be desired – its bolstered up with a huge amount of worthy alternate material).

MIGHTY BABY arose out of the ashes of those Motown-blasting Mod darlings of the 60ts THE ACTION. After discovering mind-expanding LSD (not an abbreviation of London Sizeable Doughnuts I assure you), they then promptly did the big time Psychedelic (sort of England’s answer to the Grateful Dead) followed quickly by a bit of mellow navel-gazing acoustic-electric Americana meets mountain streams. Given those freeform hallucinogenic reference points, it's hardly surprising that their commune-a-go-go underground debut and lesser-valued stoned Country Rock follow-up have become sought-after albums (they were all but ignored on release and have always had serious rarity status and collectability ever since).

First up is the self-titled UK debut "Mighty Baby" on Head Records from November 1969 (a smart move has been to reproduce the gatefold sleeve with that iconic Martin Sharp artwork on the outside and Keith Morris photos of the band on the inside) and then their final studio slab of America/Eagles type Country-Rock, "A Jug Full Of Love" from October 1971 on Mike Vernon's revered label Blue Horizon.

This November 2019 multiple-disc CD box set adds on swathes of extras – a Previously Unreleased Acetate Mix of the 1969 debut album, an entire CD of 1971 Rehearsals for the second, an aborted album in-between from 1970 (bootlegs of "Day Of The Soup" have been available for years but in lesser sound quality), US and Euro issued Singles and LPs and even lengthy live material unheard for nearly five decades – six CDs worth in fact. You even get involvement by hero-worship inducing blokes like DAVID WELLS and JOHN REED with quality Remastering from OLI HEMMINGWAY at The Wax Works (I've slept with all three, but that's another set of litigation circumstances). There is a huge amount of mighty baby-ness to wade through – so onwards and upwards my soother-sucking devotees...

UK released Friday, 9 November 2019 - "At A Point Between Fate And Destiny: The Complete Recordings" by MIGHTY BABY on Grapefruit Records CRSEGBOX062 (Barcode 5013929186200) is a 6CD Clamshell Box Set including two studio albums from 1969 and 1971 and a huge amount of Bonus Material. It plays out as follows:

CD1 "Mighty Baby" (79:55 minutes):
1. Egyptian Tomb [Side 1]
2. A Friend You Know But Never See
3. I've Been Down So Long
4. Same Way From The Sun
5. House Without Windows [Side 2]
6. Trails Of A City
7. I'm From The Country
8. At A Point Between Fate And Destiny
Tracks 1 to 8 are their debut album "Mighty Baby" - released 7 November 1969 in the UK on Head Records HDLS 6002 and February 1970 in the USA on Head Records LPS 025 (both in Stereo). Produced by GUY STEVENS and MIGHTY BABY - it didn't chart in either country.

9. I've Been Down So Long (Early Version)
10. Trials Of A City (Early Version)
11. House Without Windows (Early Version)
12. A Friend You Know But Never See (Early Version)
13. Messages
14. Ancient Traveller
15. Same Way From The Sun (Early Version)
Tracks 9 to 12 and 15 are a PREVIOUSLY UNISSUED Stereo Acetate Version of the First Album, recorded February 1969. Tracks 13 and 14 (recorded 1969 by Guy Stevens) first appeared as a Bonus 45 Single in the 2015 album "Slipstreams: In Rehearsal Summer 1971" by MIGHTY BABY on Flashback FBLP1002.

CD2 "A Jug Of Love" (72:34 minutes):
1. Jug Of Love [Side 1]
2. The Happiest Man In The Carnival
3. Keep On Juggin'
4. Virgin Spring [Side 2]
5. Tasting The Life
6. Slipstreams
Tracks 1 to 6 are their second and final studio album "A Jug Of Love" - released 6 October 1971 in the UK on Blue Horizon Records 2931 001 (no US release) - Produced by MIKE VERNON and MIGHTY BABY (didn't chart).

7. Devil's Whisper
8. Virgin Spring
Tracks 7 and 8 are the A&B-sides of a 27 August 1971 UK 7" single on Blue Horizon Records 2096 003. The A-side is non-album while the 7:02 minute B-side "Virgin Spring" is an edited 'Alternative Version' and different to the full LP cut at 9:20 minutes
9. Only Dreaming
10. Dustbin Full Of Rubbish
11. An Understanding Love
12. My Favourite Day
13. A Saying For Today
Tracks 9 to 13 are Demo Recordings recorded in the summer of 1968. Released as The Action - they first appeared on the 1985 UK 5-Track Mini Album "Action Speak Louder Than..." on Dojo Records DOJOLP 3. 

CD3 "A Jug Of Love Rehearsals" (44:44 minutes):
1. Jug Of Love
2. The Happiest Man In The Carnival I
3. The Happiest Man In The Carnival II
4. Virgin Spring I
5. Virgin Spring II
6. Tasting The Life
7. Lazy Days
Tracks 1 to 7 are rehearsals for the "Jug Of Love" album, recorded June 1971
8. Christmas Jam
Track 8 is a band jam recorded June 1969 during the making of the Keith Christmas debut album "Stimulus" (RCA Victor Records SF 8059)
9. Egyptian Tomb (Single Version, Mono)
10. I'm From The Country (Single Version, Mono)
Tracks 9 and 10 are non-album versions issued as a German and French 7" single in 1970 on Phillips 6073 900 each in different picture sleeves (both of these rarities are repro'd on Page 37 of the booklet) 

CD4 "Day Of The Soup" - Abandoned Album from 1970 (67:19 minutes):
1. Winter Passes
2. Now You Don't (Part 1)
3. Now You Don't (Part 2)
4. Now You Don't (Part 3)
5. Now You Don't (Part 4)
Tracks 1 to 5 are Olympic Studio demos recorded June 1970 for the potential but abandoned second LP "Day Of The Soup"
6. Keep On Juggin' (from "Disco 2" show, 25 July 1970)
7. Now You See It
8. Stone Unhenged
9. Sweet Mandarin (tracks 7 to 9 Live At Lanchester University, March 1970)
Tracks 1 to 5 and 7 to 9 first appeared in 2009 on the 8-track compilation "Live In The Attic" on Sunbeam Records
Track 6 first appeared 2010 on the 8-track compilation "Tasting The Life: Live 1971" on Sunbeam Records

CD5 "Live At Malvern" (66:34 minutes):
1. Egyptian Tomb
2. Trials Of A City
3. Keep On Juggin'
4. Woe Is Me
5. India
6. Goin' Down To Mongoli
Tracks 1 to 6 recorded Live At The Winter Gardens, Great Malvern, Worcestershire, 20 February 1971 - first appeared on the 2010 compilation "Tasting The Life: Live 1971" on Sunbeam Records
7. Keep On Juggin' (recorded Live at Glastonbury Festival, June 1971) - 2019 PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

CD6 "Live At Glastonbury" (73:42 minutes):
1. Virgin Spring
2. Goin' Down To Mongoli
3. Woe Is Me
4. Lazy Days
5. A Blanket In My Muesli (aka India) (Full Version)
6. Devil's Whisper
Tracks 1 to 6 recorded Live at Glastonbury Festival, Pilton, Somerset, 25 June 1971. A 16-minute edit of "A Blanket In My Muesli" first appeared on the triple-album live set "Glastonbury Fayre - The Electric Store" (Revelation Enterprises REV 3) in April 1972 - here it is presented as a 'Full Version' of 36:25 minutes. Track 4 "Lazy Days" first appeared on the compilation "Tasting The Life: Live 1971" on Sunbeam Records in 2010 - Tracks 1 to 3 and 5 and 6 are 2019 PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

IAN WHITEMAN - Vocals, Flute, Saxophone, Organ, Piano, Harmonium and Percussion
MARTIN STONE - Lead and Slide Guitar, Acoustic Guitars and Mandolin
ALAN 'Bam' KING - Guitar and Vocals
ROGER POWELL - Drums and Congas
ZAHARA (Susan Archuletta) - Flute on "The Happiest Man In The Carnival" on the "A Jug Of Love" album 

The 40-page booklet with liner notes from DAVID WELLS is a feast even for diehard fans benefitting enormously with hugely detailed extracts from band–member IAN WHITEMAN and his forthcoming biography The Average Whiteman. You get a potted history of THE ACTION and their Mod beginnings through to their discovery of Religion and Drugs and the late Sixties formation of MIGHTY BABY. Page 12 features May 1969 trade adverts for Covent Garden’s Middle Earth venue sporting no-marks like The Byrds, Family, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Pink Floyd, Spider John Koerner, Eric Burdon & The Animals, Zoot Money and of course The Action (can't say I'd want to pay five schillings as a member's fee for any of these hairy men acts let alone the guest fee of seven schillings and six pence – an outrageous amount). Page 16 for instance has a promo card from Head Records, London of their grass-lounging five-piece looking suitably in tune with the elements man - whilst the album Acetate and rare Euro Pic Sleeves bring up the final credits pages (the Box Set is dedicated to the memory of Mike Evans and Martin Stone who passed in 2010 and 2016).

The AUDIO is a mixed bag to my ears of fabulous to ordinary in a matter of seconds. The exciting but crudely recorded debut LP was pretty much a live affair – so we're not talking Dark Side Of The Moon here – but the Remaster is ballsy and revelatory. I love the way the guitar-playing feels so hurried and even off-key at times and I'd argue it only adds to the charm and that feeling that MB could go all Hawkwind or Grateful Dead at any moment and goof off into a thirty-minute plus guitar barrage that someone might have to stop by jamming a copy of the I-Ching into the plug-banks. The Acetate and Live Tracks reflect their sources – good without ever being great – but make no mistake - that doesn't stop the non-album outtakes like "Messages" and "Ancient Traveller" being anything other than amazing finds very much in the spirit of the debut LP's sound and class.

While The Kinks' "Arthur..." or The Pretty Things' "S.F. Sorrow" grab all the 50th anniversary plaudits - I'd shout out that Mighty Baby's debut is arguably a better lost classic (heresy ahoy I know). So it's hardly surprising too that the opening number "Egyptian Tomb" has been used on so-many cool compilations - an Eastern influenced message song about the world possibly letting you down. Even now 50 years on, it feels like a fantastic slice of forgotten chugger brilliance - a groove that Kula Shaker or even The Stone Roses would genuflect in front of (we get the stereo album cut at 5:28 minutes and the rare mono single mix too). Their conversion to Islam and the Muslim religion falls out of the lyrics but more in a search for peace and understanding than dictatorial indoctrination. Groovy tunes like "I've Been Down So Long", "Same Way From The Sun" and "House Without Windows" are filled with references to ancient travellers, rain purifying the spirit and anticipating light - while guitars trip over themselves to express Nirvana in a recording studio. "Trials Of The City" is the only nod towards Rock and Roll with its almost early Quo-like boogie whilst the box set title song "At A Point Between Fate And Destiny" is as musically plaintive as its deep-thoughts moniker suggests. Wild guitars, crude recording maybe, but what a fab little album their 1969 debut really is...and that "Egyptian Tomb" b/w "I'm From The Country" Euro 45 combo is going into my forthcoming e-book "Love Me Two Times" with a bullet (singles where both sides are great)...

Two years is a long time in the life of a band in flux and by the time MB reached their second platter in the summer of 1971 – the genre-fusing excitement of the debut was gone with a harsh thud. Unfortunately and despite the playing and production values going up through the roof (a great sounding Remaster) - the change-of-musical-direction to insipid Country Rock for the second album "A Jug Of Love" (produced by a bewildered Mike Vernon) was not well received by the British music press on release 6 October 1971 – and for good reason. One went as far as describing the increasingly stoned hippy adventures of Mighty Baby as 'mighty dull' and frankly he was so on the money. With only six tracks and most of them feeling like sub-Band noodles as the boys stare in wonder at nature and snow and thawing streams (but not awed enough to produce an actual tune) – stuff like "Tasting The Life" and the title track are almost stupefying in their ordinariness. Also whilst the first LP could hide the weakness of the lead vocalists behind grooving rhythms – the acoustic sub-Cochise/Brinsley Schwarz of the second platter exposes them as not being able to carry a tune. Only the slightly trippy tinkering bells and jazz flutes of "The Happiest Man In The Carnival" livens proceedings up on an album that comes as a crushing disappointment after the debut.

Of the extra stuff I love the Grateful Dead excess of "A Blanket In My Muesli" – stretching the live at Glastonbury edit from its Fayre 3LP 16-minute edit to a whopping 36-minute monster. The Acetate album stuff is audio compromised for sure but its still more than acceptable and the four parts of "Now You Don't" suggest that the abandoned Hawkwind-esque second LP "Soup Of The Day" would have been a better move than the anaemic "A Jug Of Love" LP we did end up with. There appears to be no footage of their one and only TV performance on "Disco 2" (a precursor to "The Old Grey Whistle Test") - but at least the 25 July 1970 audio track survived - presented here for the first time.

Alan 'Bam' King joined Paul Carrack, Fran Byrne, Phil Harris and Terry Comer in ACE contributing songs to three albums on Anchor Records in 1974, 1975 and 1977 - Martin Stone and Phil Lithman joined CHILLI WILLI & THE RED HOT PEPPERS for their lone LP "Bongos Over Balham" on Mooncrest Records in 1974 - whilst Ian Whiteman, Roger Powell and Mike Evans joined forces with Jazzers Conrad and Susan Archuletta to form the wildly unsellable Acoustic-Religious Folk-Jazz group THE HABIBIYYA. That cacophonous coven made a lone and truly eccentric album called "If Man But Knew" on Island Records HELP 7 in 1972 - not something you are going to see in Sainsbury’s Top 20 LP racks or hear on Radio 1's Drive Time any day soon (Sunbeam Records put out a 2007 CD Remaster of the album if you're interested).

"At A Point Between Fate And Destiny: The Complete Recordings" by MIGHTY BABY is very much one for the collectors (fans will be thrilled) - whilst newcomers may indeed wonder why all the fuss man. But you have to hand it to Grapefruit Records of the UK who seem to know what us punters want. A classy anthology then of a band many revere to this day and despite the wimpy second album – a clear 'reissue of the year' for me...

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