To tie in with Joe Boyd's excellent memoir of the same name (a book I'm currently reading & has found praise from Brian Eno, Zoe Heller and Nick Kent - as good as Barry Miles' `In the Sixties'), this 23-track compilation has surfaced. An ideal companion to put on repeat/shuffle as you read the book, alongside key albums produced by Joe Boyd: Nick Drake's `Five Leaves Left/Bryter Later', Fairport Convention's `Liege & Lief', Vashti Bunyan's `Just Another Diamond Day' & Incredible String Band's `The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion.' Like recent compilations `Rip It Up & Start Again', Paul Morley's `North By North-West' and the Duran-selection `Only After Dark' it shows that the compilation is in rude form, and this is one to buy alongside Rhino's welcome reissue of Lenny Kaye's original `Nuggets.'
Joe Boyd's adventures in the UK, and subsequent work on Hannibal records remains a source of much great music - Robert Wyatt's `Rock Bottom' remains one of the greatest albums released, so for releasing that alone...& Boyd also produced my favourite R.E.M. album, 1985's Southern-themed `Fables of the Reconstruction of the Fables' (which was recorded in London). These 23 tracks take in the career discussed in the autobiography, Boyd's work generally centred on acoustic/folk-based work, but did take in psychedelia with The Purple Gang's `Granny Takes a Trip' and the Pink Floyd's timeless `Arnold Layne', which is surely one of the greatest singles of all time ever ever ever? Poor Syd left behind some great songs and `Arnold Layne' certainly one of them - nice to see David Gilmour/Rick Wright playing it again, I wonder if they'll release the version they did with Bowie on lead vocals? The Purple Gang song is fantastic incidentally, a perky pop song that sounds like The Pretty Things colliding with Van Dyke Parks with some lovely kazoo that must have influenced the Floyd's `Corporal Clegg'?
There's a generous selection of Fairport Convention material, `Autopsy' from `Unhalfbricking' and `The Deserter' from `Liege & Lief' - the latter was really the `Music from Big Pink' of the UK scene and was a record I purchased on the back of this compilation. Sandy Denny's post Fairport-outfit Fotheringay also feature with the song `The Sea', another joy I wasn't familiar with...
Clapton-fans will love the opening track, a version of `Crossroads' that became the template for the version played by Cream and Clapton thereafter, Boyd revealing in the excellent sleeve notes that it was based on `Travelling Riverside Blues' as well as `Crossroads' - the former also covered by Led Zeppelin. The Incredible String Band's `Way Back in the 1960s' is quite amusing and one Dylan-fans should love; while Soft Machine's `She's Gone' finds Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt singing over a punky sounding psychedelic song, like Love's `Seven and Seven Is' it sounds like punk before punk. Wild stuff...
Mike Heron's `Flowers of the Forest' and John and Beverley Martyn's `Primrose Hill' are lovely tracks that will prompt me to track down some of their albums, while the Nick Drake selections are predictably sublime. Drake has quite an audience now, and Joe Boyd is a big reason why those records sound so great - though I must admit it's tedious when Heartbeat/The Royal use a Drake-song everytime someone dies or something goes wrong! `Poor Boy' is suitably jazzy with great soul backing vocals and a hint of irony, while `Way to Blue' is one of Drake's key songs alongside `Northern Sky', `Pink Moon' and `Fruit Tree' with a fantastic string arrangement from Robert Kirby. `Way to Blue' works particularly well back to back with Nico's `Afraid', a gorgeous piece that finds John Cale's classical arrangement supporting Nico's wondrous lyrics in that voice (nice to read in the sleeve notes that Boyd was an admirer of Nico's `The Marble Index'). `Afraid' demonstrates that `Desertshore' is as great as `Chelsea Girl' and `The Marble Index.' & `Come Wind Come Rain' is a wonder from Vashti Bunyan, though there are greater songs on `Just Another Diamond Day', e.g. `Glow Worms', `Rose Hip November', `Window Over the Bay', `Diamond Day'...ah, the whole lot then!
To conclude, an excellent compilation that contains great material I knew and lots I didn't and the ideal companion to Boyd's enjoyable book.
on 17 February 2013
White Bicycles encompasses a time when many changes were occurring on the music scene, with the emergence of folk rock, singer songwriters, and new inventive sounds from Pink Floyd for example.
Joe Boyd has gathered together an eclectic mix of all that was good about music in the late 60's.