Khruangbin – Mordechai

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From the myth of the Titan Atlas onwards, carrying the weight of the world has been perceived as a form of punishment, and a near-impossible task when posed in the mortal realm. “I ask not for lighter burdens but for broader shoulders,” a Jewish proverb declares. That one three-piece band can uphold the world’s musical legacy across a buoyant, 10-song album is quite the feat, then. How can they shoulder such multitudes? As bassist Laura Lee explains, when you’re a citizen of the world, its weight isn’t a burden, more a liberating force.

“We’re immersed in a lot of different cultures, being from Houston,” Lee says. “Because it’s a cultural melting pot, we thought that if we can make an album that sounds like the world, it would also sound like Houston.”

For their third album proper, Khruangbin – the trio of Lee, guitarist Mark Speer and drummer DJ Johnson – stitch disparate sonic touchstones from various locations worldwide to create a thoroughly modern groove, loaded with references and textures, yet blithesome and weightless in its delivery. It’s less a paint-by-numbers approach than a gentle kneading of time-tested ingredients.

The band once again tracked in analogue at their studio, known as The Farm, on Speer’s family’s land in the tiny town of Burton, Texas, where the population hovers around 400. After writing each song in the studio, the trio would capture a series of live performances. Subtle ambience lent by the breeze, and the area’s flora and fauna, are all part of the real and living soul of Mordechai, an album so titled for a transformative experience Lee had with a friend of the same name. “There’s something really sweet and beautiful about the freshness of a new take,” Lee says. “And they’re alive because they’re recorded in a barn and not a studio. They’re not insulated from the elements. Sometimes the best take has rain or birds.”

Though the album maintains the live essence of the band’s previous recordings, Lee, Speer and Johnson sing on 80 per cent of Mordechai’s songs, more than on any other Khruangbin album. Their approach to vocals is often textural, another layer in a subtle symphony of instrumentation. “Time (You And I)” – a disco anthem that incorporates keys, pedal steel and a suite of percussive elements – features sparse vocals that recall the innocence and cheer of lost kid-soul recordings, or The Langley Schools Music Project. They are plain spoken, imperfect and totally unselfconscious. “We can play like children play/We can say like children say,” the trio sing in unison, as they jam with childlike exuberance.

The singing not only mirrors the message of the lyrics in this instance, but also the roots of Khruangbin as an instrumental band. There is enough space between words for the listener to apply their own take – be it sentimental or joyful, concrete or abstract – and the listener is not distracted by discerning the lyrical meaning but is instead entranced by the groove. Throughout Mordechai, the lyrics are not an intellectual exchange, but a visceral one. The song concludes with a series of phrases that roughly translate to “that’s life.” They’re whispered in different languages, from Hebrew to Korean to Serbian, another delicate but heady layer.

On “Pelota”, the album’s sixth track, Lee and Speer sing gently in Spanish over a mosaic of Latin percussion and syncopated hand claps, as Speer’s electric guitar flutters somewhere between South America and West Africa. In Khruangbin’s instrumental modes, Speer’s playing has often occupied the role of singer, conveying simulated vocal melodies through his intricate and lithe picking, and lines that ring out like elegant incantations. On Mordechai, his work occupies different spaces, depending on the song’s need; in “Pelota”, it’s the lead that draws the listener into the song, just before it recedes into the background, acting as an auxiliary texture – a sort of backing vocal. On “Connaissais De Face”, it’s born of the Ethiopian songbook, somewhere between the sounds of the great Ethio-jazz composer Mulatu Astatke and singer Mahmoud Ahmed. It lives out in front, punctuating the conversational vocals, as horns often do in Astatke and Ahmed’s work.

Scroll through the comments section on any Khruangbin video and see that much is made of the group’s locked-in quality, their distinct ability to play as a unit. The same is true on Mordechai, though the spirit of the material often allows for more evident displays of personal flair. Johnson’s Jedi-like focus behind the drum kit – he could keep time for a metronome – is often framed by a dynamic opening or closing break, as heard on “One To Remember”, a reggae-inspired slow burner, “Pelota” and “Connaissais De Face”. He opens “So We Won’t Forget” with a few spirited hits before joining Lee to form a dynamic, rhythmic machine.

Instrumental music is not for everyone, nor is “world music”, but with Mordechai, Khruangbin have flung open the door to wider appeal with their most seamless display of genre-melding yet. As with The Avalanches’ Since I Left You, or Michael Kiwanuka’s Kiwanuka, there’s a studiousness and a reverence for the sounds the album draws from and updates; but at the same time, there is no sense of gatekeeping, no sense that the listener is being tested.

Mordechai instead teems with the joy that comes with musical discovery, the urge to evangelise to anyone who might listen. Think of the rush that comes with hearing a brilliant international record for the first time, one largely unknown to English-speaking listeners – it’s why David Byrne started his Luaka Bop label in 1988, and why Lee, Johnson and Speer exist as Khruangbin. They’re sharing the feeling they got from that lost Brazilian psych-rock album, or from hearing that Turkish pop diva unknown to western audiences, through music that’s singular in its point of view, and strong in its cultural identity. Mordechai is a great record, made by deep listeners who believe that discerning taste does not equate to snobbishness. Through it, we’re reminded that good music is for everyone.

John Cale on Jonathan Richman: “He created his own special reality”

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From the urgent primitivism of The Modern Lovers to a series of open-eyed, childlike and whimsical ‘solo’ albums, Jonathan Richman has carved out an idiosyncratic career. In the current issue of Uncut – in shops now or available to buy online by clicking here – friends, fans and former collaborators help Rob Hughes explore Richman’s extraordinary musical adventures.

The summer of 1973 was supposed to be The Modern Lovers’ decisive moment. In August, the quartet found themselves supporting Tower Of Power at San Bernardino’s Swing Auditorium, as part of a showcase for potential record company suitors. Anticipating something akin to the boisterous party mood of the headliners, the crowd were instead subjected to Jonathan Richman’s odd, dissonant songs about auto signs, Cubist painters and being straight. It didn’t go well.

“As we came on, everyone in the audience was yelling, ‘Rock’n’roll! Rock’n’roll!’” recalls keyboardist Jerry Harrison. “And there we were, doing stuff like ‘Hospital’ – ‘When you get out of the hospital/Let me back into your life.’ It didn’t quite measure up to what they were expecting, so they reacted fairly violently towards us.”

Bassist Ernie Brooks remembers: “All these people had turned up – Warner Bros, A&M and others – because they wanted to manage us. But the crowd started throwing stuff. At one point during the show Jonathan said, ‘We know you don’t like us, but we love you anyway.’”

This was no isolated incident. The Modern Lovers made a habit of polarising audiences. They’d developed a reputation around their hometown of Boston. Richman, in particular, was the antithesis of starry ’70s indulgence, standing centre stage in jacket, tie and pressed trousers, his neat hair cropped short. The best of his early songs – “Roadrunner”, “Hospital”, “Someone I Care About”, “She Cracked”, “I’m Straight” – were products of a distinct outlook, one that valued romantic love, filial loyalty and the frisson between modern suburbia and old-world aesthetics.

Richman appeared as a wide-eyed innocent navigating a fickle American culture, guided by an unnerving sincerity. He was anti-drugs, anti-hippie and pro-fidelity. “It was not an act in the slightest,” confirms Harrison. “It was him. He had this ethos, this entire belief system about how to live one’s life.”

“There was very little that was orthodox about Jonathan,” says John Cale, who produced The Modern Lovers’ early demos. “Like his views on life, his views on music and art were much more from a childlike and dream-filled perspective, which allowed him to create his own special reality.”

You can read the full six-page feature on Jonathan Richman in the September 2020 issue of Uncut, out now with Peter Gabriel on the cover.

Lou Reed’s New York gets the Deluxe Edition treatment

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On September 25, Rhino will release the Deluxe Edition of Lou Reed’s 1989 album, New York.

The 3xCD + 2xLP + DVD box set features a newly remastered version of the original album; live versions of every album track compiled from multiple performances; unreleased early versions of several album tracks; plus non-LP track “The Room,” as well as live versions of “Sweet Jane” and “Walk On The Wild Side”.

The set also includes ‘The New York Album’, a concert video that was originally released in 1990 on VHS and Laserdisc but has never been available on DVD, until now. It features Reed performing the entire New York album live in Montreal at the Theatre St Denis. The DVD concludes with an audio-only interview with Reed.

The set comes packaged in a 12×12 hardcover book that includes new liner notes by music journalist David Fricke and essays from Lou Reed archivist Don Fleming.

Check out the full tracklisting below:

Disc One: Original Album (2020 Remaster)
“Romeo Had Juliette”
“Halloween Parade”
“Dirty Blvd.”
“Endless Cycle”
“There Is No Time”
“Last Great American Whale”
“Beginning Of A Great Adventure”
“Busload Of Faith”
“Sick Of You”
“Hold On”
“Good Evening Mr. Waldheim”
“Xmas In February”
“Strawman”
“Dime Store Mystery”

Disc Two: “New York” – Live
“Romeo Had Juliette” *
“Halloween Parade” *
“Dirty Blvd.” *
“Endless Cycle” *
“There Is No Time” *
“Last Great American Whale” *
“Beginning Of A Great Adventure” *
“Busload Of Faith” *
“Sick Of You” *
“Hold On” *
“Good Evening Mr. Waldheim” *
“Xmas In February” *
“Strawman” *
“Dime Store Mystery” *

Disc Three: Works In Progress/Singles/Encore
“Romeo Had Juliette” (7” Version)
“Dirty Blvd.” (Work Tape) *
“Dirty Blvd.” (Rough Mix) *
“Endless Cycle” (Work Tape) *
“Last Great American Whale” (Work Tape) *
“Beginning Of A Great Adventure” (Rough Mix) *
“Busload Of Faith” (Solo Version) *
“Sick Of You” (Work Tape) *
“Sick Of You” (Rough Mix) *
“Hold On” (Rough Mix) *
“Strawman” (Rough Mix) *
“The Room” (Non-LP Track)
“Sweet Jane” (Live Encore) *
“Walk On The Wild Side” (Live Encore) *

DVD
“Romeo Had Juliette”
“Halloween Parade”
“Dirty Blvd.”
“Endless Cycle”
“There Is No Time”
“Last Great American Whale”
“Beginning Of A Great Adventure”
“Busload Of Faith”
“Sick Of You”
“Hold On”
“Good Evening Mr. Waldheim”
“Xmas In February”
“Strawman”
“Dime Store Mystery”
A Conversation with Lou Reed (audio only)

Vinyl Side A
“Romeo Had Juliette”
“Halloween Parade”
“Dirty Blvd.”
“Endless Cycle”

Side B
“There Is No Time”
“Last Great American Whale”
“Beginning of a Great Adventure”

Side C
“Busload of Faith”
“Sick of You”
“Hold On”
“Good Evening Mr. Waldheim”

Side D
“Xmas In February”
“Strawman”
“Dime Store Mystery”

* previously unreleased

Angel Olsen unveils All Mirrors’ sister album, Whole New Mess

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Back in the November 2019 issue of Uncut, Angel Olsen revealed that All Mirrors was initially intended to be the second part of a double album.

She’s now announced that the first part of that proposed double album will be released separately as Whole New Mess, via Jagjaguwar on August 28.

It features many of the same songs, but in stripped-down solo versions recorded with Michael Harris in a converted church in Anacortes, Washington. There are also two songs that didn’t appear on All Mirrors – hear one of those, the title track, below:

Angel Olsen will play a livestreamed show from the Hazel Robinson Amphitheater in Asheville, North Carolina, on the day of the album’s release – tickets here.

OSees announce new album, Protean Threat

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OSees – the band formerly known as Oh Sees, Thee Oh Sees, OCS etc – have announced that their new album Protean Threat will be released by Castle Face on September 18.

Hear a track from it, “Dreary Nonsense”, below:

“THIS RECORDING IS AT THE APOGEE OF SCUZZ” writes bandleader John Dwyer. “PUNK ANTHEM AMULETS FOR YOUR EARS AND HEART A BATTERY FOR YOUR CORE. BE STRONG, BE HUMAN, BE LOVE”.

Check out OSees’ rescheduled UK and Ireland tourdates below:

05/11 – UK – Bristol – SWX
06/11 – UK – Birmingham – The Crossing
07/11 – UK – Glasgow – SWG3
08/11 – IRL – Dublin – Button Factory
09/11 – IRL – Dublin – Button Factory
11/11 – UK – Manchester – Albert Hall
13/11 – UK – Brighton – Chalk
15/11 – UK – Cambridge – Junction
16/11 – UK – London – Electric Ballroom
17/11 – UK – London – Electric Ballroom

Tim Buckley’s Starsailor: “It was just so good in the studio”

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The current issue of Uncut – in shops now or available to buy online by clicking here – includes a six-page feature on Tim Buckley, taking a deep dive into the making of his legendary Starsailor album. Jon Dale discovers that while Starsailor may now be regarded as Buckley’s masterpiece, its release in October 1970 put the brakes on a promising, if already unpredictable career, confusing fans and leaving him in the commercial wilderness. “He sacrificed previous audiences, his manager Herb Cohen, his record company,” says guitarist Lee Underwood. “All he had left was his vision and his music and a few musicians who believed in him.”

Buckley had started preparing the material for Starsailor in late 1969, and his new band had already begun to breathe the songs into life while on tour. There was also a new member of the band, Bunk Gardner, joining in on flutes, tenor saxophone and bass clarinet. When he first saw Buckley, he was fixated on his singing – “one thing for me [that] stood out was Tim’s range. He could do a lot of things with his voice” – but he soon learned that Buckley was after the very essence of the musicians he played with. “Tim actually gave us free rein to express ourselves musically. I could see that Tim was going in a more progressive direction.”

In the studio, the music flowed from the players, their near-telepathic understanding of one another, honed by time on the road, allowing the music to travel far and wide. But while Starsailor might sound off-the-cuff at times – there are moments of improvisatory splendour on the album, where it sounds as though the musicians are responding as one, in real time, to Buckley’s cues – it was also a deeply considered, rigorously planned album, as Underwood explains. “Tim spent a lot of time writing the lyrics, and even more time working with the odd time signatures and unusual melodic and harmonic factors as well. Improvisation is involved on Tim’s part and the other musicians’ parts as well, but a lot of conscious artistry was involved on Tim’s part before he and the musicians ever got into the studio. This was not a slap-dash ‘shot in the dark’ effort. Tim worked hard on every aspect of it.”

“Song To The Siren” was almost three years old by the time it appeared on Starsailor. It made its first public appearance on the final episode of The Monkees television series, in 1968 – typical of Buckley to use a high-profile promotional appearance to debut his latest song, as yet unavailable on any album. “No thought of merchandising whatsoever,” laughs lyricist Larry Beckett. “Let’s do the edgiest, strangest thing we have. That was beautiful.” The version of “Song To The Siren” that appeared on Starsailor, though, had changed a little since its premiere, given Buckley’s embarrassment over the first line of the final verse, “I’m as puzzled as the oyster”.

“He was sensitive about criticism of that line,” Beckett sighs. “He always believed the worst.” He changed “oyster” to “newborn child” and then botched the second line, too. “Though it’s a very strong song, he ruined the last verse,” Beckett told me. “I’m standing right there as he’s recording the song, but his performance was so outstanding that I thought, ‘I’m just gonna let it ride.’ Let’s just let that be the take, because I don’t think he can sing it any better.”

“I really had high hopes after that session,” Gardner adds. “It looked like Tim was starting to be recognised as somebody to check out, because he was so different and was really radically going in another direction. But I know that it felt very comfortable because we had been playing together a while before we made Starsailor. It was just so good in the studio, that feeling of even though you’re recording, let’s go for it, no holds barred – anything that you can come up with, as far as being fairly wild and experimental in your approach, the better!”

You can read much more about Tim Buckley and Starsailor in the September 2020 issue of Uncut, out now with Peter Gabriel on the cover.

Read A Certain Ratio’s tribute to Denise Johnson

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Denise Johnson, the Manchester singer renowned for her work with Primal Scream, New Order and many others, has died aged 56.

Her longest association was with the band A Certain Ratio, who issued the following heartfelt statement today:

“Our beautiful and dear Denise has died suddenly at her home in Manchester.

“She had been ill in the week prior to her death but told friends she was “much better” on Friday. She was found on Monday morning and the cause of death is not yet known.

“Although best known, and famous around the globe for her work with Primal Scream on their albums Screamadelica and Give Out But Don’t Give Up, she first came to ACR’s attention when we heard her beautiful voice on ‘Just a Little More’ by Fifth Of Heaven in 1988.

“Shortly after, she worked with Martin Moscrop and Donald Johnson on an early acid house track called ‘Acid to Ecstasy’ by ED209, released on Dave Rofe’s DFM label.

“Denise also worked on Ashley & Jackson’s The Sermon and Solid Gold which Martin produced, before joining ACR in the studio to appear on the album ACR:MCR where her vocal skills come to the fore on ‘Be What You Wanna Be’.

“The rest is history and historic for ACR, Denise then appeared on ACR:MCR (1990), Up in Downsville (1992), Change The Station (1997), Mind Made Up (2008), She had also been in the studio with us recently and her beautiful voice is on our forthcoming album ACR Loco.

“She has been an integral part of ACR’s live line-up since 1990 and has appeared over 200 times with the band in those 30 years, adding her uniqueness to the ACR catalogue pre and post 1990.

“She provided guest vocals for New Order, Electronic, Gay Dad and Bernard Butler, to name but a few. She was also a staunch Manchester City supporter, loved them with all the passion you could hear in her singing voice.

“More recently, she’d been performing acoustic sets with guitarist Thomas Twemlow, featuring covers of great Mancunian songs by artists such as Cherry Ghost, 10CC and New Order. They opened their Bluedot 2019 set with The Carpenters’ ‘Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft’ – an appropriate choice for a gig in the shadows of Jodrell Bank’s Lovell Telescope. Her debut album, titled Where Does It Go, is due out in September.

“She’s irreplaceable as a person and an artist, ACR are devastated at this loss, we’ll miss her infectious sense of humour and the soaring beauty and passion she brought to our music and our lives.”

ACR – Jez Kerr, Martin Moscrop and Donald Johnson

New Order and 808 State were among many others paying tribute to Denise Johnson on social media.

Robert Plant announces solo anthology, Digging Deep: Subterranea

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To coincide with the new season of his Digging Deep podcast – which launches today – Robert Plant has announced a new career-spanning solo compilation, Digging Deep: Subterranea.

Released on 2xCD and digital formats via Plant’s own Es Paranza label on October 2, the compilation includes three previously unreleased tracks: “Nothing Takes the Place of You”, written by New Orleans musician Toussaint McCall and recorded for the 2013 film Winter In The Blood; “Charlie Patton Highway (Turn It Up – Part 1)” taken from the apparently “soon-to-be-released” album Band Of Joy Volume 2; and a duet rendition of Charley Feathers’ rockabilly classic “Too Much Alike” featuring Patty Griffin.

Peruse the full tracklisting for Digging Deep: Subterranea below and pre-order here:

CD1
Rainbow
Hurting Kind
Shine It All Around
Ship of Fools
Nothing Takes the Place of You *
Darkness, Darkness
Heaven Knows
In the Mood
Charlie Patton Highway (Turn It Up – Part 1) *
New World
Like I’ve Never Been Gone
I Believe
Dance with You Tonight
Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down
Great Spirit (Acoustic)

CD2
Angel Dance
Takamba
Anniversary
Wreckless Love
White Clean & Neat
Silver Rider
Fat Lip
29 Palms
Last Time I Saw Her
Embrace Another Fall
Too Much Alike (Feat. Patty Griffin) *
Big Log
Falling in Love Again
Memory Song (Hello Hello)
Promised Land

* previously unreleased

Peter Green dies aged 73

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Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green has died aged 73.

Solicitors acting on behalf of his family said in a statement: “It is with great sadness that the family of Peter Green announce his death this weekend, peacefully in his sleep.

“A further statement will be provided in the coming days.”

Green was born in Bethnal Green on October 29, 1946. He started playing professionally aged 15, joining several bands including Bobby Dennis And The Dominoes and The Muskrats.

In 1965, he met drummer Mick Fleetwood while a member of Peter B’s Looners.

Green joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, making his recording debut with him on the 1967 album A Hard Road, which featured two of his own compositions, “The Same Way” and “The Supernatural”.

He went on to form Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac alongside guitarist Jeremy Spencer. John McVie later replaced Bob Brunning on bass. The band released their self-titled debut album in February 1968.

He released two more albums with Fleetwood Mac – Mr. Wonderful in August 1968 and 1969’s Then Play On. The songs he wrote for Fleetwood Mac included “Albatross”, “Man Of The World” and “Oh Well”.

Green made his final appearance with the band on May 20, 1970.

After Fleetwood Mac, Green worked on solo material, releasing his debut solo album The End Of The Game in 1970.

He released a further five records over the next 13 years, ending with Kolors in 1983. A year later, he put out the album A Case For The Blues as part of new band Katmandu.

In the late ‘90s, Green formed the Peter Green Splinter Group with guitarist Nigel Watson and drummer Cozy Powell. They released nine albums between 1997 and 2004, when Green quit the group. After a five-year break, Green began touring again as Peter Green And Friends.

Green was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with Fleetwood Mac in 1998.

Earlier this year, artists including Fleetwood, Spencer, Christine McVie and David Gilmour performed at the London Palladium during a concert celebrating the early years of Fleetwood Mac and its founder, Green.

The 8th Uncut New Music Playlist Of 2020

It’s Friday afternoon, so it’s time for another of our rarer-than-intended rundowns of the finest new music that’s appeared over the last few days or so.

There are firm favourites such as The Waterboys, back with another track from their new Good Luck, Seeker LP, and Bill Callahan, passing us another piece of his upcoming Gold Record.

Ty Segall’s Fuzz are making a rowdy entrance with their first new track in five years, while Robert Fripp is exploring the sonic opposite with his latest Music For Quiet Moments release. There are also new songs from Dawes, Metz, Mary Lattimore, Buck Meek and more.

Thanks to all the artists and labels involved. If you like something you hear, think about pre-ordering an album – it really helps. Or pick up a copy of Uncut to read more about great acts like these every month.

FUZZ
“Returning”
(In The Red)

THE WATERBOYS
“Low Down In The Broom”
(Cooking Vinyl)

MARY LATTIMORE
“Sometimes He’s In My Dreams”
(Ghostly Intnl)

GALYA BISENGALIEVA
“Barsa-Kelmes”
(One Little Independent)

KATY J PEARSON
“Fix Me Up”
(Heavenly)

METZ
“A Boat To Drown In”
(Sub Pop)

CATHERINE ANNE DAVIES & BERNARD BUTLER
“The Breakdown”
(Needle Mythology)

BILL CALLAHAN
“Protest Song”
(Drag City)

BUCK MEEK
“Roll Back Your Clocks”
(Keeled Scales)

DAWES
“Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?”
(Rounder)

ROBERT FRIPP
“Music For Quiet Moments 13 – Horizon (Carrboro 21 Feb 2006)”
(Robert Fripp)

Cardiacs frontman Tim Smith has died, aged 59

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Cardiacs frontman Tim Smith has died, aged 59.

Smith formed Cardiac Arrest in 1977 with his brother Jim, officially becoming Cardiacs on the release of their cassette-only 1981 album Toy World. Their unique mix of punk and prog gained the band a cult following over the course of a further seven albums, all on their own Alphabet Business Concern label. High profile fans included Thom Yorke, Graham Coxon and Mike Patton of Faith No More.

Smith suffered a heart attack in 2008, which left him with severe brain damage and a condition called dystonia that severely impaired his ability to move and speak. A kickstarter campaign was launched in 2018 to help fund his treatment, reaching its £40,000 goal in under 24 hours. A final Cardiacs album, LSD, remains unfinished.

No cause of death has been confirmed, but the official Cardiacs Facebook page posted a link to the song “Heaven Heven” by Cardiacs side-project The Sea Nymphs, which took its lyrics from a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem:

“I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.”

Hear The Rolling Stones’ “Scarlet”, featuring Jimmy Page

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The Rolling Stones are due to reissue their 1973 album Goats Head Soap in numerous formats on September 4.

Among the bonus tracks is the previously unheard “Scarlet”, recorded in October 1974 and featuring Jimmy Page and Rick Grech. Listen below:

Says Mick Jagger: “I remember first jamming this with Jimmy and Keith in Ronnie’s basement studio. It was a great session.”

Keith Richards adds: “My recollection is we walked in at the end of a Zeppelin session. They were just leaving, and we were booked in next and I believe that Jimmy decided to stay. We weren’t actually cutting it as a track, it was basically for a demo, a demonstration, you know, just to get the feel of it, but it came out well, with a line up like that, you know, we better use it.”

“Scarlet” will feature on the box set and deluxe CD and vinyl editions of Goats Head Soup, along with two other previously unreleased tracks, “All The Rage” and “Criss Cross”.

Listen to “Criss Cross” and find out more about the Goats Head Soup reissues here.

Watch Jarv Is… play their new album in a Derbyshire cave

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On Friday, Jarvis Cocker and band released their debut album under the Jarv Is… name, Beyond The Pale.

To celebrate, they filmed themselves playing the album in Peak Cavern in Derbyshire – the same venue where two of the album’s songs were recorded during a gig there in 2018.

You can watch Beyond The Pale: Live From The Centre Of The Earth below, until 8pm today (July 22):

Beyond The Pale was written (& partially recorded) in front of a live audience, so it feels extra-strange not to be able to take it on the road at the moment,” Jarvis Cocker explains. “Fortunately, our friends Iain & Jane suggested a way round the problem: set up our equipment in a cave & they would film the results. We have invented a new way of playing a concert.”

You can listen to or buy Beyond The Pale here.

The Jayhawks – XOXO

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It is 35 years, give or take, since The Jayhawks formed in Minneapolis. It cannot have seemed, at the time, a likely long-term endeavour. In a city whose mid-’80s rock’n’roll soundtrack was being furnished by local punks like The Replacements, Hüsker Dü and Soul Asylum, the establishment of a country band dedicated to chiming choruses and soaring sunshiney harmonies was a spectacularly headlong windmill-tilt.

But all those years later, here The Jayhawks still are, and with an album that is certainly no worse than any of its 10 splendid predecessors, and that might age well enough to rank among their best. XOXO is the result of a recalibration of The Jayhawks’ internal dynamics: Gary Louris, The Jayhawks’ primary singer and songwriter, decided to open the floor to his colleagues. Though all have contributed to the writing before now, no previous Jayhawks album has been quite such a team effort in this respect. Only two tracks are credited solely to Louris. On six tracks, he isn’t credited at all. Lead vocal duties are shared.

This wasn’t ever likely to result in an upending of The Jayhawks’ aesthetic: bassist Marc Perlman has been with them since the start, and drummer Tim O’Reagan and keyboardist Karen Grotberg both date the beginnings of their service back to the mid-’90s. However responsibilities are divided, if these four people make a record, it’s going to to sound like a Jayhawks record. In terms of other Jayhawks records, then, XOXO probably has most in common with the big pop sound of 1997’s Sound Of Lies and the fretful country-rock of 2003’s Rainy Day Music: at the moments when
that balance is most adroitly negotiated, XOXO sounds something like a classic.

Opening track “This Forgotten Town” sounds, therefore, even more like a declaration of intent than it normally might. Lead vocals are swapped between Louris and O’Reagan, and the song itself sounds something like a cut-and-shut between The Jayhawks of Hollywood Town Hall (choogling Creedence Clearwater Revival country verses) and The Jayhawks of Sound Of Lies (ecstatic, harmony-drenched Gerry & The Pacemakers-variety choruses; it does not feel insignificant that the cover image is Duncan Hannah’s “The British Invasion”, depicting a beehive-bouffanted 1960s pop fan contemplating her copy of The Zombies’ “Tell Her No”).

XOXO is sequenced a bit like a set by a nervous group preparing to play to an audience unfamiliar with them: The Jayhawks have massively frontloaded the irresistible tuneful bangers. O’Reagan’s “Dogtown Days” is a gleeful powerpop stomper, swaggering like Big Star and as hook-happy as Cheap Trick. Louris’s “Living In A Bubble”, following that, does have a point that it wishes to make – it’s a rumination on the information overload that is the default condition of 21st-century humanity – but it’s wedded to a jaunty honky-tonk piano backing that recalls one of Randy Newman’s sardonic country tunes, or even Gilbert O’Sullivan at his less vexingly twee.

The gear is shifted into the rest of XOXO by Grotberg’s “Ruby”, a stately, solemn ballad that resembles something Lynn Anderson might have sobbed through during Nashville’s golden age. There are a few tracks that almost sound like they were written in the hope that Billy Sherrill or Al De Lory could have been resurrected to produce them. “Bitter Pill”, a wistful, mid-paced lament led by Louris, sounds like it wandered in from an early-1970s Glen Campbell album. “Homecoming”, another Louris tune, convincingly evokes the cosmic country of Gene Clark’s early solo efforts.

During The Jayhawks’ first decade – and during a brief and apparently unhappy reunion around 2011’s Mockingbird Time – the key dynamic of the group’s sound lay in the tension between Gary Louris’s rock instincts and the gentler predilections of co-founder Mark Olson. It’s entirely to The Jayhawks’ credit that, rather than huddling permanently around the vision of one member, they’ve ended up with a broader range than ever, and sufficiently confident to rouse their dormant inner Fleetwood Mac on the unapologetic roof-down AOR of “Little Victories” and to dispense with percussion entirely on the full-blown coffee-shop folk of “Down To The Farm”.

After 35 years, give or take, The Jayhawks just about deserve to be thought of as a genre unto themselves: a sweet and glorious synthesis of all the Americana music of their time, and from some time before that. XOXO is, astonishingly and hearteningly, the sound of a group still finding new ways to be themselves.

Pretenders – Hate For Sale

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Anyone who was there at the time will tell you how much the original Pretenders meant to Chrissie Hynde, how proud she was of the noise they made. She’d finally put together her dream band. There were hit singles, two albums of smouldering pop ballads and swaggering guitar rock. They were big news everywhere. Then half the band died. You know the story.

At that point, Hynde could have gone solo, or put together a new band with different name. Instead, she stuck with the name and a sound she would return to repeatedly across the next 40 years. When Hynde a few years ago described the multiple Pretenders lineups she’s fronted since 1983 as a series of tribute bands, she wasn’t looking for a laugh. Every record she’s since made with the Pretenders’ name on it – Hate For Sale is the 11th – has sounded in thrall to the original band and the music they made.

The last album that came out under the Pretenders’ name was a brave change for Hynde, however. For 2016’s Alone she teamed up with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach as producer, working mainly with his side-project band, The Arcs. Auerbach gave her a more rootsy sound, put a little Stax in the mix, some country soul alongside the greasy rockers. There was much promise there that wasn’t followed up on her next release, 2019’s Valve Bone Woe, an album of jazzy covers of songs by Brian Wilson, Nick Drake, Ray Davies, Hoagy Carmichael, Frank Sinatra, Mingus and Coltrane. It wasn’t really jazz enough for jazz fans and fans of “Brass In Pocket” were probably wholly indifferent to it. She showcased it, though, with a fabulous concert at London’s Royal Festival Hall, a version of The Beach Boys’ “Caroline, No” stunning enough to make you forget for a moment about disconcerting letters of congratulations to Donald Trump, stuff like that.

Hate For Sale, the first album Hynde has made with the touring band she’s had for 15 years, returns her, however, to the totemic sounds of the early Pretenders albums, trusted and familiar territories. The album, in fact, goes to such lengths to replicate those records, Hynde could probably have got away with calling it ‘Pretenders III’. At times, it seems like new lyrics have been written for songs we’ve already heard. It’s hard to listen to “Lightning Man”, for instance, without thinking of “Private Life”, from the first Pretenders album. Which unfortunately overshadows the heartfelt merits of the new song, a tribute to the late Richard Swift, the American producer and musician who as a member of The Arcs had played on Alone. There is so much, meanwhile, about “The Buzz” that recalls “Kid” that Hynde would have had grounds to sue for copyright infringement if she hadn’t actually written both songs.

It isn’t only her own musical past Hynde recycles on Hate For Sale. “Turf Accountant Daddy” appropriates Bowie’s “Jean Genie”, which itself was inspired by The Yardbirds’ cover of Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man”. “I Didn’t Know When To Stop” is jittery in the jerky stop-start manner of “Precious” and “Tattooed Love Boys” and also knowingly quotes The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”. The rockabilly tear-up “I Didn’t Want To Be This Lonely”, which could have come from the rowdier end of 2008’s patchy but undervalued Break Up The Concrete, entertains the swaggering ghosts of Bo Diddley and Eddie Cochran. “Maybe Love Is In New York” aspires to the heights of “Message Of Love” and “Talk Of The Town”, but flutters rather than truly soars.

The album opens with the title track, after a noisy false start, presumably there to underline a general no-frills, back-to-basics authenticity. Blasts of raw R&B harmonica hark back to the sweaty ’60s rooms where the Stones and The Kinks and The Yardbirds and many more made their musical bones. Musically, it’s a tribute apparently to The Damned, with a bit you could sing “New Rose” to if you were so inclined. Lyrically, it’s a snarling takedown of a shallow ex with “money in the bank and coke in his pocket”, whose only interests are “women, cars and motorbikes”. A familiar target, in other words. The cut has a powerful enough urgency, although some may find Stephen Street’s turbo-charged production a little too streamlined. Street produced the Pretenders’ live set, Isle Of View, and five of the 12 tracks on 1999’s ¡Viva El Amor!. He’s what’s known, so it goes, as a safe pair of hands with a more than decent commercial track record. “Hate For Sale” may well then sound great on whatever passes these days for the radio. Nevertheless, it’s a long way from the nervy, electrifying ejaculations of “The Wait” or the hurtling furies of “Bad Boys Get Spanked”.

“You Can’t Hurt A Fool” has the makings of a great country soul heartbreaker, something to listen to as a bottle empties, tears to follow. Ideally, you’d want the track to sound like something out of Muscle Shoals, the band coming nicely to the simmer behind Hynde’s typically affecting voice. Street doesn’t have quite the feel for the song that Auerbach had for similar things on Alone, however, and the band here come a little more slowly to the boil. On Hate For Sale’s other ballad, album closer “Crying In Public”, Street indulges Hynde’s slightly more strident side, on a song that problematically suggests the likely female response to private and more general woes is a little wet hanky time on a park bench. Whatever, her performance here makes you long for the superlative nuance of someone like The Delines’ Amy Boone, a singer who can make a maelstrom out of a murmur. Much as Hynde herself once did, of course, on the albums to which she continues to pay such loving and public homage.

Bluedot festival to host virtual event this weekend

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To make up for the postponement of this year’s festival, the organisers of Bluedot have unveiled a virtual event taking place this weekend (July 24-26).

A Weekend In Outer Space features exclusive live sets from Orbital, Daniel Avery, Roni Size, BCUC and Anna Matronic’s Deep Space Disco finishing off with a Sunday evening broadcast of Elbow’s Jodrell Bank show from 2012.

Live science talks include Ann Druyan in conversation with Brian Cox and Robin Ince, Jim al-Khalili and Jill Tarter. On Sunday New Order, Metronomy, Ibibio Sound Machine and others will join live as part of an afternoon of album listen-alongs with Tim Burgess. The weekend will be bookended by immersive ‘journey to outer space’ and ‘return to Earth’ shows hosted by Bluedot favourites Henge.

A Weekend In Outer Space is free to view, but it will be raising money for Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, which has been closed in recent months (Jodrell Bank is the regular home of Bluedot).

Find out more about A Weekend In Outer Space here.

Ride announce “fully amped” livestreamed show

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Ride have announced a one-off livestreamed gig for Thursday August 6.

The show will be “broadcast loud and fully amped from an intimate, secret location” somewhere in London. The stream will go live at 8.30pm BST and will not be archived. The band will host a live Q&A afterwards.

Tickets cost £12 and are on sale now via Dice, with the option to donate to The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.

To commemorate the event, the band will create some limited edition T-shirts featuring exclusive reprints of classic ’90s Ride designs (see below). This collection will be available to ticket holders only.

Michael Stipe: “I don’t have to please anyone but myself”

The new issue of Uncut – in shops now and available to order online by clicking here – features an exclusive interview with Michael Stipe. On the release of his new collaboration with The National’s Aaron Dessner as Big Red Machine, he discusses his “positive” new songs, writing for marching bands, and why he’s not trying to compete with his legacy.

“I don’t think it’s that I missed [writing songs],” says Stipe. “As an artist, I would say that music is for me a very obvious and a very easy entry into expression. And I’ve got this voice. And I write words. The music just kind of crept back in after a long break. I think it was five or six years from the dissolution of REM [in 2011] to working on music again. And, yeah, I’m enjoying it. I’m really enjoying working with different people and I’m thrilled that Aaron is one of those people. It’s exciting to admire someone’s work so much and then be able to write with them and be in the studio.

“I have 18 pieces of music that I’m working on. Some of them are much more complete than others. And some of them have lyrics and some of them do not; all of them have melody or it wouldn’t be a song… I’ve never written music before, which means that I’m coming at music from a completely different vantage point than I ever did with REM. Working with Aaron was more similar to working with REM: the instruments are more organic, thankfully, because my voice works beautifully with piano and with acoustic guitar. But the stuff that I’m doing more for myself… I don’t know how or why this happened, but I’m writing for tuba. I’m writing for marching bands. I’m writing for things that I’ve never had any experience with whatsoever. But that’s where I get excited.

“Typically, I’ll create a melody by singing over it then I’ll mimic that melody with a synth and develop it or not. I like really dumb synth sounds. So I’m not afraid to be stupid. I can do whatever the fuck I want, in essence. I’m at that point in my life where I don’t have to please anyone but myself. And that’s a high calling, because I have pretty good taste!”

You can read much more from Michael Stipe – as well as from Aaron Dessner – in the September 2020 issue of Uncut, out now with Peter Gabriel on the cover.

Margo Price – That’s How Rumors Get Started

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As the dust settled on Margo Price’s second album, 2017’s All American Made, a settled picture was beginning to form about the kind of artist she was. The long version would reference the Midwest farmer’s daughter’s fondness for Nashville dive bars, her credentials as a new-wave country outlaw. There’s the duets with Willie Nelson (and a collaboration on some Price-branded marijuana), the spaces shared with Emmylou, with Jack White. All of this is memorialised on Perfectly Imperfect At The Ryman, the live album she released this May, two years after her residency at the famed Nashville tabernacle. It was clear enough. Price was a tough cookie, an All-American badass.

Well, not so fast. The producer of Rumors (the title is a clue) is Sturgill Simpson, a cussedly individual artist who wrestled with the formatted expectations of Music City before choosing to follow his own wayward impulses. Simpson and Price know each other from a time before either of them had expectations to confound, and Simpson’s pitch was unvarnished. He told Price he would do a better job than anyone else. For Price, it was a matter of trust. “I like that he’s willing to take risks,” she says. “He likes to stir the pot.”

They recorded in Los Angeles, in the smallest room at EastWest studios. Price, having recorded her first two albums in Memphis at Sun and its more well-appointed successor, Sam Phillips Recording, is not averse to a sacred space. She is familiar with the history of EastWest – Pet Sounds was recorded there. Price also cites Dolly Parton’s “9 To 5”, “California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & The Papas, Tom Petty’s Wildflowers. The ambition was to escape the grey skies of a Nashville winter, enjoy the sunshine, and make a 1970s West Coast pop album.

From the opening bars of the title track, it’s clear that we’re not in Tennessee any more. “That’s How Rumors Get Started” is a seasonal rush; a report from a relationship that is busy going South. Price’s voice has never sounded better, a gauze of prettiness masking deep hurt as she chides a loose-lipped former lover. Emotionally, this is the stuff of honky-tonk heartbreak, but the arrangement keeps things breezy. It’s all about the crispness of Mike Rojas’s piano, the sweetness of the melody, and the economy of the lyric. “Here you are,” Price sings with concise derision, “still doin’ you.”

Any similarity to Fleetwood Mac is entirely deliberate, but in taking her country sound to Hollywood, Price is actually revisiting her roots. The music she made with her husband Jeremy Ivey, co-writer and guitarist in their band Buffalo Clover, covered the same terrain, and the refocusing of energies feels deliberate; not least because Price has an unreleased “psychedelic gospel” album in the can. Reportedly, it’s an acid-tinged evaluation of religion, and will be released – Neil Young-style – when the moment is right.

But there are gospel tinges here too. There’s a churchy swell underneath the tune of “Hey Child”, in which Price addresses someone – possibly her younger self? – who is wasting their life. Price’s voice is as clear as a church bell, but focus instead on the tune and it’s easy to hear Tom Petty’s laconic drawl taking the song’s moral imperatives in another direction. The Heartbreakers’ keyboard player Benmont Tench adds distinctive colouring to “Stone Me”, a Jenny Lewis-ish song of defiance that locates its toughness in its unrepentant loveliness. “Prisoner Of The Highway” has some fuzzy guitar courtesy of Matt Sweeney, but its feet are planted in the church of Mavis Staples (Jeff Tweedy vintage).

As a writer, Price has shifted her energies. The lyrics are shorn of detail. Hearts are dented, if not entirely smashed, but the emotional core of the songs is harder to locate, because the tropes of country songwriting have been traded for something less defined. There’s a restless energy. From the gnarly Southern manners of “Twinkle Twinkle” to the new wave sherbet of “Heartless Mind”, it’s clear that Price is determined to colour outside the lines.

There’s a refreshing purity, too. On the gorgeous “Gone To Stay” Price reframes tourbus regrets as a posthumous message from a mother to her children (“just think of me, in the love that I leave behind”). And on the concluding “I’d Die For You”, she wraps the whole emotional mess in a grungy sermon that touches on poverty and injustice, loyalty and truth. “Let’s make it clear,” Price sings, “I’m not trying to make a lie sincere.”

These are big themes for tough times, yet Price confronts the bleakness in a way that is generous; resilient, funereal and warm. Singing sweetly about Babylon, she sounds reborn.

John Martyn’s Inside Out: “It wasn’t just a mad, drug-crazed romp”

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Instead of building on the modest success of his luminous 1973 breakthrough Solid Air, John Martyn dived straight back into Island’s West London studios to record the capricious, unruly Inside Out. As Graeme Thomson reveals in an extract from his new biography of the headstrong folk voyager, the album’s intoxicating, coke-fuelled experimentalism bemused the label but became Martyn’s personal favourite. “It wasn’t just a mad, drug-crazed romp,” insists one key collaborator. “We were completely in the zone with John’s music.”

“I’m not really a great joiner,” John Martyn told this writer in 2005, sitting in a beer garden in his adopted hometown of Thomastown, in Kilkenny. “I prefer being on the fringe.” That maverick sensibility is scored deep into his catalogue. For anyone seeking a single piece of evidence marking out Martyn as an instinctive non-team player, a man who bolted at the first sign of consensus or acceptance, a contrarian of the first rank, Inside Out is the place to start.

A foray into the furthest reaches of his musical mind, a dazzling and sometimes bewildering experiment in tone, form, texture, pace and placement, Inside Out arrived barely six months after Solid Air, by some distance Martyn’s best known and most acclaimed album. The only person who didn’t seem to love Solid Air was the man who made it.

“John always moaned about Solid Air,” says John Wood, the engineer who worked with Martyn on the album and its predecessor, Bless The Weather. “He never gave me the impression he liked the record much.” In the immediate aftermath of its release, Martyn publicly expressed his disappointment. “I’m not as pleased with it as I have been with previous ones,” he said. “It was all too rushed.” 

In private, he was often more blunt. “He actively hated it,” says Jim Imlach, the son of Martyn’s great friend and mentor, the late Scottish folk singer Hamish Imlach. “I could tell you a dozen times where he said he hated that album, hated the songs. It was part of his journey, but he didn’t want it to define him. He wanted to be innovative. He was a stubborn sod.”

A free-jazz-orientated improvisation, Inside Out is Martyn’s freedom song, the most committed communique from the part of him which was in thrall to Pharoah Sanders, Dudu Pukwana and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. A fuzzy miniature stitched together from a series of unruly, unmapped performances, it is beautiful and maddening; indulgent and inimitable. The splendidly cosmic cover art, depicting the artist’s inner thoughts as a fury of lightning bolts and thunderclouds, visualises the guiding principle of Martyn’s music: creation as the ultimate catalytic converter, spinning a ton of messy psychological shit into sunshine – and vice versa. Inside. Out. Outside. In.

As a deep descent into a storm-tossed subconscious, it reveals much about Martyn. In later years he would claim it was the only one of his records that he could stomach. “I dived in completely and created within very intense surroundings,” he said. “There was no distance, no self-consciousness. It’s probably the purest album I’ve made musically.”

It was as though his reward for the more streamlined magnificence of Solid Air was to cut loose from the moorings of conventional songwriting, an instinct which captures not only Martyn’s essential spirit, but the quintessence of Island Records. “Chris Blackwell let his artists develop through their formative period,” says Martyn’s greatest musical foil, the bass player Danny Thompson. “He allowed them to breathe.”

Inside Out was recorded in July 1973 at Island’s Basing Street and Fallout studios. Richard Digby Smith was de facto co-producer, although he is not credited as such. The album drops a significant clue regarding its intentions in the opening seconds. Martyn comments that whichever sounds the musicians had been creating prior to the listener’s arrival had felt “natural”, before he slides sleepily into the opening track, “Fine Lines”. We are immediately aware of the fact that we’re hearing a mere excerpt from a far greater whole.

Working with Thompson on bass, Martyn drew from a remarkable pool of musicians, most of whom were readily available to him on his doorstep at Island. Fallout, the label’s second studio, was housed in the basement of their headquarters at 22 St Peter’s Square. “Steve Winwood would have been around all the time,” says Digby Smith. “You would grab these people, put a bit of Hammond on the track. Remi Kabaka would play on anyone’s music, he always had his congas in the back of the car. Chris Wood would walk around with the sax strap around his neck, ready to go into action at any moment. It was almost like one giant band of all the Island artists. Everybody would play on everybody else’s record, you only had to ask.”

The shape of the sessions was often dictated by the strictly rationed licensing laws Britain inflicted upon itself in 1973. Access to the Cross Keys pub over the road was considered sacrosanct, for lunchtime drinks and further liveners before closing time. The session off-cuts include 20 straight takes of “The Glory Of Love”, during which Martyn gets progressively and audibly more inebriated. At other times, the players broke from almost spiritual levels of creative interaction to throw beer bottles across the studio.

“There was a considerable amount of chemical assistance required throughout, and John was very generous,” says Digby Smith. “It was a plastic bag of white powder, several ounces of the stuff. We used to keep it in one of the two-inch tape boxes, and it was the first thing you would do on arrival, lines of coke the length of the desk. It was epic. It fills me with fear and dread thinking about it now.” One session lasted from Friday evening until Monday lunchtime. “I can’t remember whether I got into a cab or an ambulance. We worked on one song, the same song, for three and a half days. It was such a ball. We were all young, incredibly fit, and as mad as a bag of spanners.”

It was very different to the more focused, structured sessions for Solid Air. “I was older, and I came up through a very disciplined background, learning my craft at Decca studios,” says John Wood. “I couldn’t – and still can’t – hack undisciplined messing about in a studio. It unfocuses the project. If you don’t keep knowing what you’re going to do at each point, it just becomes a mess. And John was not a disciplined worker, that’s for sure, which is probably why he didn’t like working with me.”

Digby Smith is at pains to emphasise that “it wasn’t just a mad, drug-crazed romp. We were working, we were completely in the zone with John’s music. He was absolutely serious about the heart of the music, and pretty clued up technically about how he wanted it to sound. He had an assortment of pedals; there was lots of technical stuff to keep you on your toes. It was such fun. Danny and John were just such a comedic duo. It never turned nasty. Even in the most epic and unnatural circumstances, I cannot recall a single moment of unpleasantness or uneasiness.”

The lack of focus, at least in the traditional sense, was partly the point. Martyn wanted Inside Out to be “heavier… with more blowing”. On its eight-minute centrepiece “Outside In”, his viciously manipulated guitar seems to spiral into inner space and play around with the construct of time. The result is the high point of Martyn’s explorations with the Echoplex. Rooted in extemporised performance, the track required a dense tapestry of treated and layered guitars to find its shape.

“He had an idea in his head,” says Digby Smith. “He was really into his guitar going through delay pedals, the Mu-Tron [phaser] and the Echoplex and recording the guitar with effects on it. He would overdub wild, crazy, avant-garde, random phrases on guitar, and think nothing of doing four or five takes of that. Then I’d say, ‘You and Danny go and have a pint, and I’ll sift through these takes and pick out the best bits and make a compilation.’ What you hear has a certain amount of manipulation, some comping, which he was always happy to let me do.”

The Rolling Stones’ in-house saxophonist Bobby Keys added horn to its later, becalmed passages. He “just staggered into the studio after doing some overdubs with the Stones and said, ‘Can I blow?’ and we said, ‘Sure’,” said Martyn. His playing evokes a beach firework display rendered in slow motion.

The instrumental “Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhail” was based on a pretty Irish air dating back to the early 1800s. Recorded by The Chieftains in 1971, the Gaelic title broadly translates as “The Fair And Gentle Eily O’Carroll”. Martyn took a sharp axe to all that tradition, deploying a wickedly fuzz-toned guitar on the melody line and a churning drone for the bottom end. The result is a warped Celtic death dirge, forlorn and ominous, which sounds as though it is powered via a crank handle.

The barely structured “Ain’t No Saint”, with its hot-potato scatting and fluttering dynamics, resolved itself in the sharp clack of Kabaka’s arrhythmic congas and some wonderful Arabesque guitar figures. Spanish and North African inflections featured again on the instrumental “Beverley”, a sad, soft, disquieting blend of sawed string bass, splashy cymbals and the cries of Martyn’s treated guitar. “Look In” was all jazz-funk grunt and grind, a pre-echo of the music Martyn would go on to make in the ’80s. Like “Outside In”, it became a playground for extended forays into improvisation in Martyn’s subsequent live shows.

Inside Out is not short of such voyaging, guided by surf and stars rather than map and compass, yet there are wonderful songs, too. “Fine Lines” is one of his very best, as tender a song of friendship as Martyn’s signature song, “May You Never”, except that here the love extends beyond a brother to a brotherhood of the “finest folk in town”. It reeks of woozy late-night gatherings and the 5am pre-dawn reckoning, when the music settles to a faint pulse, the bright edge of the chemicals begin to soften and blur the senses, and the awareness of “the love that’s in us all” is a matter of peaceful certitude.

“Ways To Cry” is a slurred susurration, vowels strung together like worry beads; “So Much In Love With You” is a late-night jazz noir, with lascivious saxophone from Keys, gumshoe piano tinkles from Winwood, rim-crack syncopations and sharp blues licks from Martyn.

Taken in the round, Inside Out is perhaps the closest Martyn ever came to a concept album. The breezy version of Billy Hill’s “The Glory Of Love”, first made famous by Benny Goodman in 1936 and a standard thereafter, is no throwaway – Inside Out is a love theme for the wilderness, clinging to its lifeline amid stormy seas. “Make No Mistake” might be his deepest dive into the agonies of the heart and the duality of the feelings it laid bare. “The only politics that work is the politics of love,” Martyn pronounced, at the same time acknowledging that conforming to such an ideology was always going to be something of a stretch. “Love is something I like to foster in the family but at the same time I’m very loud, quite mad and can be an exceptionally nasty person.”

Inside Out was released on October 1, 1973. Martyn later expressed satisfaction at its intentions, if not always its execution. “I would have liked to have attacked it with more technical ability,” he said. “What you get is a kind of vision of what I would have liked to have been playing.”

Ian MacDonald’s review in NME astutely recognised that Martyn “has reached his long-promised fruition whilst simultaneously forfeiting most of his commercial potential”. For all its light-headedness, its drifting refusal to be anchored, Inside Out is a remarkably lucid record in one respect: it was an album designed to set the modest industry gains Martyn had achieved through Solid Air firmly into reverse. It was a hard sell for the suits, even suits as dressed down as those at Island Records. “I remember it being not the right record after Solid Air,” says Chris Blackwell. “Maybe it would have been better a couple of records later. I think people wanted another Solid Air, or an evolution somewhat from Solid Air. Inside Out had a whole different feel to it.”

“It wasn’t what was required!” Martyn recalled in 2005, laughing over his pint of cider and quadruple vodka. “I have no regrets about that. I’d rather have the respect of my peers. I’m very happy there.”

Small Hours: The Long Night Of John Martyn is out now, published by Omnibus – click here to buy a copy.