Tuesday, 7 May 2013

NetRhythms review: "Twelve Strings to the Beau"...

A really good review of the new “Twelve Strings to the Beau”, just published by NetRhythms.co.uk.

Many thanks, Mike Davies!

(P.S. the album's out next Monday (13th)... six days to go!)

Beau – Twelve Strings To The Beau (Sound of Salvation)

Musical archivists, those in their late 50s and anyone with an interest in the British music scene of the late 60s may remember Beau, or Christopher John Trevor Midgley as was his more prosaic real name, as the first person to release a record on John Peel’s Dandelion label. Issued in July 1969, a song about the Russian uprising, 1917 Revolution was fairly representative of the sort of articulate, intelligent and precisely sung English protest folk also being turned out by the likes of Al Stewart and Roy Harper.

A No 1 in the Lebanon, it’s success back home was considerably less spectacular, but obviously generated enough interest – along with Peel’s continued admiration – to spawn two albums, the eponymous debut and 1971’s Creation, which featured backing by Jim Milne and Steve Clayton from Tractor. A third was planned, albeit to be released under the name of John Trevor, although the only recording to surface in that guise was Sky Dance, a track that formed part of the label’s last release, There Is Some Fun Going Forward.

For most, Beau was now likely consigned to the land of the musical forgotten, but the truth is he has continued to be active, albeit since 1975 largely as a songwriter with the occasional live performance. Interest remained, however, with reissues of the two albums in expanded formats and then in 2009, the release of Edge of the Dark featuring five 1972 recordings (backed by Tractor) from what would have been his third album for Dandelion, provisionally titled High Mass, alongside other previously unreleased tracks from 1975-1985. Then, last year, Cherry Red issued Fables & Facades, a collection of full band versions of songs recorded between 1978-2000.

Yet, lurking in the vaults there remained another set of recordings that had still not seen light of day. Recorded in 1975, the original idea was to road test Tractor Studios in Lancashire, recently set up by erstwhile Dandelion label-mates Tractor. Playing 12 string guitar, the sessions went so well he decided to record what would have become his fourth album only to have a promotion at work and family relocation leave it gathering dust. Until 38 years later when a random blog and a rare live show, led to it finally being dusted off and put out there.

So much for the preamble, but what about the music? Fourteen numbers in total, three (Cartoon, The Commodore, Bristol Museum) appear on the Angel Air album, though whether these are the same versions or reworks from 1972, is unclear but either way, like the others they’re in the folk styling of the time, the themes political, the words clearly and passionately delivered against 12 string guitar accompaniment, calling to mind such names as Harvey Andrews, Country Joe McDonald (especially The Wine Was Sweeter Then), Jackson C Frank, Don Mclean and Paul Simon.

Presented in pristine analogue, they may be of their time but numbers like the gentle Love Is, the social injustice of Miss Alice Preece, the nine minute Why Do You Laugh? (his American Pie) still sound sharp and fresh. Plus, although it did appear on the reissue of his debut, this affords the first chance to near in context the original recording of The Roses Of Eyam, the song made famous by Roy Bailey but written by Midgley.

I have no idea what sort of music he’s making now, but listening to what he made then he deserves to be far more than a folk obscurist’s footnote.

Mike Davies May 2013

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