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Alastair Dougall (Brighton, UK)

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The Time Has Come
The Time Has Come
Price: 6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fire and Wine, 2 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Time Has Come (MP3 Download)
The cover picture of Anne Briggs staring unsmiling at the camera, faithful dog at her side, as if she has been caught poaching rabbits by the local gamekeeper, expresses the appeal of this album. These are the songs and the playing of a wayward, maverick free spirit. Some of the pitching may be a little off at times, some of the lyrics a bit naive or clumsy, but there are also absolutely timeless, magical, sensual performances on this album. With Tangled Man, Fine Horseman, Wishing Well, Ride, Ride, Ride, the title track, Briggs seems to be right by your side in some lost cabin in the woods, softly crooning while firelight reflects in a couple of bottles of red wine.


The Island Years
The Island Years
Price: 149.10

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Tribute, 1 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Island Years (Audio CD)
As the other reviews say, this is indeed an impressive box. I particularly liked the LP-style format, more convenient than the big Sandy Denny box of a couple years back. Compiler John Hillarby has done a clever job of finding new never-before-released versions of songs, on the audio CDs and the DVD -- especially so when JM fans will probably already have the Ain't No Saint box as well as all the albums [well I have, anyway!]. His lengthy essay in the book is enjoyable and conveys clearly some of the insecurities that must have driven Martyn on to create some of the most emotional folk/rock/jazz ever, and also led to his sadly early death. I had the sense that Hillarby was treading a bit carefully so as not to cause offence to anyone, but at least he avoids the usual hagiography and gives a reasonably well-rounded [no pun intended] picture of the man.

Just one thing -- Is the jolly ditty Hello Train really about his mother, who virtually abandoned him [shades of another John - Lennon- there]?

A few caveats: Obviously the box is pricey and does contain a lot of previously available material -- basically all the original Island albums -- which people may already own. I was personally a bit disappointed to see large images of the record sleeves in the book, as I have them all on vinyl -- though I concede that not everyone will! A little more captioning of the fascinating images would also have been nice.

Two massive pluses are the live concerts from the 70s which are both brilliant and full of the banter that made seeing John Martyn live such a joy. I would have loved more material like this. For example, I once heard a bootleg of Martyn live at Les Cousins in 68 which was pretty interesting. Could that be cleaned up for general release?

Anyway, the Island Years is a pretty great tribute and covers all most important music, in my opinion, that Martyn made. I for one, wouldn't splash out on a similar box on his later work, interesting and good though some of it is [too much synth/sax, not enough JM!].
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 12, 2013 11:50 PM BST


19 Rupert Street
19 Rupert Street
Price: 13.42

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For hardcore fans only, 22 Sep 2011
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This review is from: 19 Rupert Street (Audio CD)
I agree with everything the previous five-star reviewer says, but would just like to add that this intimate, homespun tape recording is really one for dedicated Denny fans only. There are some charming performances here but the sound quality is not that great [one mic in a room, not surprising; Denny's guitar is a bit out of tune on Who Knows Where the Time Goes, much better heard on her album with the Strawbs] and the song selection is not that thrilling [why Sandy, Alex and Polly opt to sing a couple of carols in August is a bit surprising; I suppose that was the fashionable folk club repertoire of the time. There's also a rather clunky busker's attempt by Alex at the blues song Trouble in Mind]

For die-hard fans it's worth four to five stars; for fans who maybe prefer her work with Fairport to her solo work, two to three stars. For anyone [probably under 30!] coming fresh to Sandy Denny's amazing music, it's best avoided, for the time being.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 13, 2011 2:10 PM BST


Demolished Thoughts
Demolished Thoughts
Offered by positivenoise
Price: 7.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Back Porch Psych, 24 May 2011
This review is from: Demolished Thoughts (Audio CD)
Subtlety and delicacy may not be the first words that spring to mind when considering Sonic Youth [although their music can be both], but here the band's Thurston Moore has unleashed the inner folkie that may have been there all along. The feel is reminiscent of one of Neil Young's gentler recordings such as Comes a Time, with Moore's pleasant, husky voice and open-tuned acoustic guitar supported with beguiling touches of violin and harp. Producer Beck has taken a lot of care with the production, which as others have mentioned, has touches of his own Sea Change record. The best actual song strikes me as the first one, Benediction, whose melody starts out like a routine Neil Young strummer but then veers intriguingly and beautifully upwards in the chorus. However, as with much of Sonic Youth's output, its the yearning instrumental passages that mark this record as exceptional. A quietly uplifting album.


Simon Werner A Disparu
Simon Werner A Disparu
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 9.85

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than the movie?!?, 24 May 2011
This review is from: Simon Werner A Disparu (Audio CD)
Writing as an occasional admirer [not a buy-everything fan] of Sonic Youth, this is an engrossing, at times exciting even mesmerising collection of instrumentals, soundtracking this [pretty obscure?] French movie. If the movie is anything like as good, it'll win an award! For me, Sonic Youth's actual songs have always been the least interesting thing about them - they're more like the first-stage rocket that sends the spacecraft into outer space. What I look forward to is when the band soar off into unexplored realms mixing rock, jazz, psych, ambient, you name it. Listening to the final 13-minute track here, Theme d'Alice, I think it's called [I don't have the CD with me as I'm writing this],with its propulsive changes and mood shifts, fulfils everything I could want from a Sonic Youth record. And the previous tracks are pretty cool, too. There's even a charming Erik Satie-style piano piece. Well worth the ticket price!


Nick Drake: The Pink Moon Files
Nick Drake: The Pink Moon Files
by Jason Creed
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.96

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Saw it written..., 19 April 2011
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This compilation from the labour-of-love fanzine Pink Moon is well-considered and gives fascinating and fresh insights into the enigmatic Nick.
Its great advantage over the biographies by Patrick Humphries and Trevor Dann is that it has no particular agenda -- it presents first-person testimonies by the likes of John Martyn, Island Records employees, Robin Frederick and Drake's Cambridge contemporaries, his family, a psychiatrist, among many others and allows you to draw your own conclusions about what sort of a person Drake was, how much success meant to him, what kind of success he was interested in, his mental health and so on. Some of the essays and reminiscences are very touching. One of the many intriguing aspects of the book is that, on occasion, the same events are seen through different eyes.

As editor, Jason Creed rarely intrudes, when he does have something to say, he comes across as modest, concise and to the point. The book is also well proofread -- unlike some recent music books I can think of. Trouble has been taken. [If the book is ever updated, there are a couple of people whose thoughts on Nick Drake I'd like to hear - Bridget St John and Beverley Martyn, both of whom knew him well...and John Cale, who worked with Drake on Northern Sky]

Read this book and Ian Macdonald's brilliant analysis of Nick Drake's muse in his book The People's Music and that's the closest you'll get to unraveling and understanding something of the Nick Drake story.


It's Lovely To Be Here: The Touring Diaries Of A Scottish Gent
It's Lovely To Be Here: The Touring Diaries Of A Scottish Gent
by James Yorkston
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.17

6 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Dour Tour, 18 Feb 2011
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As a great admirer of James Yorkston's songwriting -- Tortoise Regrets Hare is in particular a magnificent lyric with so much implied -- I was hoping for a lot more from this. Although, in his recorded work he comes across as quite a moody individual, haunted by ghosts of lost loves etc, in this book he comes over as a genial bore trundling around the British Isles with little on his mind beyond the decor of his next B&B bedroom or where to find a decent vegetarian restaurant. He never has much to say about any of the many gigs he plays beyond the audience was OK, I was OK, it was nice to have a whisky after and so on. One learns nothing about his writing or his life apart from the fact that he has a number of musician friends [none of whom I've ever heard of], all jolly good sorts who follow him around Britain just glad to play for a pittance in sundry obscure bars. I can only assume that Yorkston was determined not to offend anyone and so left all the interesting detail of his recent career and inner life out deliberately. Unfortunately with this kind of autobiography, if you can't say something nasty,(or at least genuinely amusing)....don't bother! [Also Yorkston's tendency to refer to women as 'wifeys', as in 'trolley-wifey' for air hostess, is pretty teeth-grinding. Is this a Scottish affectation? I don't think so. I hope not. It's not meant to be whimsically humorous, is it?]
I'm determined that this half-hearted effort won't put me off James Yorkston's music and am greatly looking forward to seeing him play in the near future. Having seen JY a couple of years back i know he's a sharpwitted near genius -- his ability to apparently improvise a song on the spot was unforgettable. I just didn't see any sign of sharp wits in this book -- did the editor, perhaps, remove all the good bits?
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 22, 2011 5:00 PM GMT


Folk Guitar
Folk Guitar
Offered by Direct Entertainment UK
Price: 9.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great introduction, 22 Oct 2010
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This review is from: Folk Guitar (Audio CD)
Back in the late 60s I bought two Transatlantic sampler albums [15/11d and 19/11d respectively, as i recall with the unpromising titles of The Contemporary Guitar Sampler Vol. 1 and Vol. II. Forty {!) years later those two albums are still two of my favourites, including as they do some of the greatest acoustic guitar instrumentals ever recorded by the likes of Jansch, Renbourn, Fahey, McTell the Pentangle and many others. These albums still make me marvel at what an acoustic guitar can do in the right hands and this apparently simple but subtle, inventive wonderfully melodic music has sustained me through numerous ups and downs over the years.

I've often wished to get these albums on CD -- maybe Sanctuary or Castle could look into it? -- but, in the meantime, this cheap album, with the unappealing catch-all title 'Folk Guitar' will have to do. It actually contains a few tracks that originally appeared on those Contemporary Guitar records, and the other tracks are of a consistently high class -- a special shout-out for a guitarist, Dave Murrell -- whom I'd never heard of. Only slight crit -- the vocal tracks by Donovan, Jansch [though good in themselves] interrupt the acoustic vibe a bit -- maybe the Castle compilers were nervous of a purely instrumental album. Well they shouldn't have been -- and perhaps Castle/Sanctuary can be persuaded to get back in those archives and release some more comps like this one [but even better!]. How about it?

PS since writing this I've since discovered that there are a couple of similar-ish CDs out there entitled Guitar Workshop Vols 1 and 2 [2, the more interesting one, appears to be o/p], so these may be worth checking out. A few tracks the same as Folk Guitar.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 17, 2011 1:34 PM BST


Young Man Blues: Live in Glasgow
Young Man Blues: Live in Glasgow
Price: 13.58

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dawn of a Revolution, 30 July 2010
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Almost unbelievably recorded live on an ancient reel-to-reel by a Scottish teenage schoolboy called Frank Cola [crazy name, etc] between 1962-4, this wonderful 30-track CD chronicles the rise of the peerless Bert Jansch, before his groundbreaking Ist album. Throughout, Bert's playing is superb and he's in fine voice, too. Sound quality is a little uneven in places, as you'd expect, but that adds rather than detracts from the atmosphere -- you can sense the audience's rapt attention, aware, as everyone there must have been, that something very special, really a revolution in guitar playing, is unfolding before them. As a bonus, a booklet written by Jansch expert Colin Harper puts the recordings superbly in context. Anyone interested in UK/US folk music of any kind should investigate this.


A Pocketful Of Starlight: The Best Of Bridget St. John
A Pocketful Of Starlight: The Best Of Bridget St. John
Price: 9.74

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thanks again for..., 8 Jun 2010
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Great to see a long-overdue BSJ compilation. I'm not convinced that an artist is necessarily the best judge of their own material, but the choice here is pretty good... though I would say that her first two albums are a little under-represented [I'd have liked to see Lizard Long-Tongue Boy and Making Losing Better included]. In addition to Lazarus being replaced by the much more cheerful Nice, the track order is different from that printed above, with BSJ's arguably most famous song Ask Me No Questions more sensibly placed as the penultimate track.
This non-chronological compilation starts off with the superb Fly High featuring great sonic stuff from John Martyn, but then may seem to flag a bit for newcomers to Bridget's work. The only tracks here I have doubts about are the pleasant but dated [wah-wah guitar solo alert!] Some Kind of Beautiful[ too early in the order at track 2], while the slightly ramshackle, hippyish If You've Got Money [track 4], has some charm but is also too high up the running order. Once we come to her excellent take on Kevin Ayers Yep, the collection is back on track.
This album is a good introduction to the wonderful, emotional, sensual world of Bridget St John, a reminder of what a fine - and versatile - writer and singer she is... as well as Britain's sexiest female songwriter [check out Bumper to Bumper [track 6].
I hope that this release and the [superior] BBC sessions album help raise BSJ's profile where it deserves to be: right up there with Drake, Denny, Martyn and co. It would be nice to pick up a copy of Word/Mojo/Uncut or another rock mag and see a nice piece about her!


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