Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hey For A Life On The Road

A request fluttered into my Inbox yesterday and, since I was feeling in a good mood and since it was a *good* request, I decided to grant it. Listen to me, granting favours and lording it over the blogosphere! BTW - if my prose reads stilted or unusual today it may well be because I've just finished reading Dandelion Wine for the first time in ten or more years. And I've no idea what the connection might be, so it equally may not be.

IMPORTANT: Until recently a lot of the tracks on these albums were available on compilation CDs - but now it seems they're not any more. If I'm wrong, or of they are re-released, I'll be taking them down pronto so you can buy them. Check out Andy's Web site for more info (and a fuller history of his career).

Andy 'Manley Footwear' Roberts made four-and-two-half really nice albums in the late 60s & early 70s, and only one of them (The Great Stampede) is available on CD (and even that filed under 'Folk' in Virgin!). Here are three-and-two-halves of them.

(Side tryp - sorry for the delay between posts these days. As I say, I'm working full time so don't have loads of time for blogging - also running out of albums that aren't available on CD.
Side side tryp, I see Lizardson has finally made the move - under threat from the blogmeister - to only unavailable stuffs. Good man).

So, anyway - Andy Roberts. Long-serving sideman of Roy Harper and Pink Floyd, member of the Hank Wangford Band, Grimms, and Plainsong, as well as being a founding member of the original Albion Country Band. I have often though that if I'd ever made an album it would sound like one of his. Good songs, some verging on the great and some just down-home pleasant, not always able to sort out the good from the not-so-good (all of his albums contain at least one song that, frankly, doesn't make the grade). Good, workmanlike professional playing that, though it uses the same core bunch of musos as Keith Christmas' Pygmy and Fable Of The Wings albums, never quite lifts off into that elusive 'groove'.

Andy Roberts - Home Grown (1969/70)

After leaving The Liverpool Scene, Andy Roberts made a solo album for RCA - Home Grown. It's good, better than the vast majority of similar albums that were being made at the time, but not brilliant. Three or four songs from it are very good, and a couple are great (one-armed boatman, queen of the moonlight world).

For some reason, he then switched labels and released a different version of Home Grown on B&C/Pegasus - ten or so of the same tracks but remixed, a couple of different takes of the same songs, and a couple of switcheroos. So, by my reckoning, that's one-and-a-half solo albums so far. The version of Home Grown posted here contains (in my opinion) the best versions of each of the songs, with the alternatives tacked on as bonuses.

01 - Home Grown
02 - Just For The Record
03 - Applecross
04 - The Praties Are Dug
05 - John The Revelator
06 - Autumn To May
07 - Moths And Lizards In Detroit
08 - Creepy John
09 - Jello
10 - Gig Song
11 - Queen Of The Moonlight World
12 - Where The Soul Of Man Never Dies
13 - Lonely In The Crowd
14 - The One-Armed Boatman And The Giant Squid
15 - Boris At The Organ
16 - Untitled Piece
17 - Moths And Lizards In Detroit (original version)
18 - Queen Of The Moonlight World (original version)
19 - The One-Armed Boatman And The Giant Squid (remixed version)

Download Home Grown

Andy Roberts - Nina And The Dream Tree (1971)

This, for me, is Andy's masterpiece. I love it. It would be on my list of top ten abums of all time if I ever had to make one - at least it would be on my shortlist (I think I have more than ten top abums ever). Only 'Good Time Charlie' and 'Breakdown' fail the magnificence test. This is the solo album *I* should have made.

01 - Keep My Children Warm
02 - I've Seen The Movie
03 - 25 Hours A Day & Breakdown & Welcome Home
04 - Good Time Charlie
05 - Dream Tree Sequence

Download Nina And The Dream Tree

Everyone - Everyone (1971)

After Nina, Andy formed a band with a guy called Bob Sargeant, but unfortunately the two styles of songwriting and playing bear no resemblance to each other and Andy's nice British guitar-based songs are squashed uncomortably between Bob's transatlantic jazz/soul-tinged organ-led numbers. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Andy contributes what is probably the least interesting song in his entire catalogue - 'Radio Lady'.

This isn't a rotten album, but it is an album of two halves - or two half-solo albums - the Andy Roberts half and the Bob Sargeant half (so that makes a total of three solo albums so far for Andy). In the early 70s you couldn't move for remaindered copies of this album (with its weird fold-out-drop-down front cover picture) in the remainders & bargain bins.

01 - Trouble At The Mill
02 - Sad
03 - Midnight Shift
04 - Don't Get Me Wrong
05 - Sitting On A Rock
06 - Too Much A Loser
07 - Radio Lady
08 - This Way Up

Download Everyone

Andy Roberts - Urban Cowboy (1973)

After Everyone, Andy switched labels again and made his second-best (and almost certainly his best-produced) album. Urban Cowboy was on Warners (then recently metamorphosed into one-third of Kinney, if I recall correctly - anyone got copies of Zep III with the original Atlantic catalogue number covered by a Kxxxxxx sticker?), and featured 'Poison Apple Lady' and 'New Karenski' (the first two of four or five songs about 'Karen', who inspired some of the best songs of his career), 'All Around My Grandmother's floor (which I think was intended for Plainsong), and his recording of 'Richmond' (a song about being young and seeing Jeff Beck's band in Southend) which had previously been recorded by Shelagh MacDonald (a live version by Andy was also on the '49 Greek Street' album).

01 - Charlie
02 - Big City Tension
03 - New Karenski
04 - Urban Cowboy
05 - Elaine
06 - Home At Last
07 - All Around My Grandmother's Floor
08 - Richmond
09 - Baby Baby
10 - Poison Apple Lady

Download Urban Cowboy

Andy's fifth (or fourth, officially, but depending on your point of view) solo album is available from Amazon, Virgin and HMV. Go buy it and contribute to the bank account of someone who's been a solid and significant figure in British music for forty years.

Apologies for any factual errors - I'm writing this on the train with no Internet access so have to rely on my memory. And it was nearly 35 years ago....

See you soon.