DAVE AND TONI ARTHUR
Hearken To The Witches Rune
Just before launching her career as a BBC children’s TV presenter, Toni Arthur and her hubby were hanging out in the coven of Britain’s king of the witches, researching folk’s links with pagan traditions. This selection of super-natural ballads was sung with stark, Celtic-tinged accompaniments, as though performed skyclad in a forest clearing: Packie Byrne’s puckish tinwhistle dances across “The Fairy Child”, while Dave added ritualistic bodhrán to “Alison Gross”; “Cruel Mother” – murderous, monotonous – is the most chilling version ever recorded. The cover’s murky photo was taken by producer Bill Leader, whose Trailer catalogue and label rights were purchased by Dave Bulmer of Celtic Music in the early 1980s. In one of the great controversies of British folk, Bulmer has rarely seen fit to make any of this material available again.
EXPECT TO PAY: Around £40
Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea
Paul McCartney teamed up with UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim and UNICEF to organise four nights, post-Christmas ’79, at the Hammersmith Odeon, in aid of a Pol Pot-ravaged Cambodia. This double LP, featuring The Who, The Pretenders, Elvis Costello, Queen, The Clash, Ian Dury & The Blockheads, The Specials, Rockpile, and McCartney’s 30-strong Rockestra, captures the highlights, particularly The Who’s barnstorming “Behind Blue Eyes”, Robert Plant’s surprise Elvis impersonation with Rockpile on “Little Sister”, and The Rockestra’s tumultuous finale – inevitably, a tearjerking, lighters-aloft “Let It Be”. Like so many charity records – a legal tangle with artists temporarily released from their customary labels – this was a one-off pressing.
EXPECT TO PAY: £15 or so
AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB
(Retouch, 1987; Demon, 1993)
California was the record on which Mark Eitzel found his voice. It was 1988, and American Music Club had made two albums, neither of which had made any great impact. By the time they convened to record their third record in Tom Mallon’s San Francisco demo studio, AMC had begun to knock their influences into a manageable shape.
“I knew what California wasn’t more than I knew what it was,” says Eitzel. “It was not going to be a punk rock record. It was not going to be Americana. It was going to be something else.”
The sound of the record – sometimes delicate, occasionally exultant, employing poetic imagery and occasional country stylings courtesy of pedal steel player Bruce Kaphan – was the product of the varied tastes within the band. “Mostly what we liked was English music,” says Eitzel. [Guitarist] “Vudi was a huge Echo [And The Bunnymen] fan, I was Nick Drake and Joy Division, and Danny [Pearson, bass] was more Carter Family and straight-up country and Neil Young. I’m not sure where Tom [Mallon] was.”
Communications between Eitzel and drummer/producer Mallon broke down after Mallon left AMC, taking the copyright of their first four albums with him. Eitzel remains bemused by the record’s unavailability, but his assessment of Mallon’s contribution to it is generous. “Mallon controlled everything. This was before computers – we were recording on pretty rudimentary gear, and he did a great job. He taught me how to sing in the studio. He made me sing more in tune, he made me sing quieter. It was actually really important to me.”
Eitzel still plays several songs from California in his live set, notably the melancholy “Western Sky” and the disappointed love song “Firefly”. He reprised the Drake-ish “Last Harbor” on his last European tour. “I was ripping off Nick Drake: his guitar playing, but more just his feeling. He’s singing from the horizon that’s always fading. There’s always that kind of beauty.”
Having listened afresh to California, Mallon considers it to be “fantastic. It siphons all the air out of the room.”
Eitzel believes securing a reissue is more important than the historic rifts within the band. “The fractious stuff doesn’t matter to me. Mallon is a pretty honest gentleman, actually. He’s a good person. All I want is the record out.”
EXPECT TO PAY: £25 if you just can’t wait