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EARTH RECORDINGS

Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss

Old fat furry cat-puss

Wake up and look at this thing that I bring

Wake up, be bright

Be golden and light

Bagpuss, Oh hear what I sing

12th of February, 1974, and for an audience of small children at 1:45pm, a life irrevocably coloured by the wayward wonderings of one saggy cloth cat. Some 44 years later and Earth Recordings opens the door to Bagpuss & Co. once again, revealing for the first time the original music in all its newly-mastered splendour.

The 32 tracks that make up the main body of the compositions are – like all good folk music – a patchwork of traditional pieces, half-remembered tunes and pure improvisation. It's testament to Sandra Kerr and John Faulkner's musicianship that the recordings work so well, not only within the context of the television episodes, but as an album in its own right. Of the recording, Oliver Postgate (in his exquisite autobiography 'Seeing Things') says: "Between them Sandra and John could play every sort of instrument from a mountain dulcimer to an Irish fiddle. They knew and could sing every tune in the world and didn't bother with written music, except as a last resort. They were exactly suited to Gabriel the Toad and Madeleine the Rag Doll and in those roles were happy to play whatever music and sing whatever songs would be needed."

Those songs manifested themselves as reworkings of familiar tunes ('I Saw A Ship'; 'Row Your Boat'; 'Bucket's Burning'), takes on traditional ballads ('Brian O'Lynn'; 'The Frog Princess'; 'Weaving Song'; 'The Old Woman Tossed Up in a Basket') and delicious flights of fancy ('The Bony King of Nowhere'; 'Turtle Calypso'; 'Uncle Feedle'). The counterpart to Madeleine and Gabriel's more polished ditties are the interludes from the mice; a raggle-taggle chorus that accompanies the creatures' efforts of help (with the mice once famously going on strike when they were not permitted sang as they worked). Again, Postgate muses: "Once I had worked out a few episodes I would make a very rough list of the bits where I though music would be appropriate. I would send it to [Sandra and John] to think about. Then we would borrow a fairly silent room in a remote house and, taking the various articles that we intended to celebrate with us, would spend a happy day with a tape recorder, thinking up and recording whatever songs and tunes came to mind."

The outtakes provide an intimate – and often very humourous – insight into the trio's work ethic, if it can be called such a thing. (By all accounts they sound as though they're having a very jolly time indeed.) Highlights include alternative opening words and end music, as well as Postgate sound-checking in character as Bagpuss. This never-before heard audio provides a real treat for fans (and indeed those new to the Smallfilms stable) – affirmation again to the enduring quality of these special recordings, and the beloved programme that inspired them.

"An accidental classic of the folk-roots underground that we never dared hope we’d hear with such clarity." -Stewart Lee.

And so their work was done.

Dave Evans

The Words Inbetween

    The story goes that Ian A. Anderson and Gef Lucena were walking the streets of Clifton, trying to come up with a name for their new record label. At the time (the early 70s) Greenwich Village was naturally the mecca destination for any musician worth his 12-string, so the pair had taken to referring to their slice of Bristol as 'Clifton Village' (long before this was taken up by estate agents across the land, albeit in a very different fashion).

    And so The Village Thing was born; home to a great many extraordinary talents, not least of all Dave Evans, and his magnificent debut 'The Words In Between'. Like many albums of the era - and inclination - "Words" was recorded straight to tape in someone's home (in this instance, Ian Anderson's). Nothing unusual there – the DIY aspect of making records at this time was something of a necessity, rather than an aesthetic – but one has only to look a little further to realise that the sounds Dave Evans relayed to a shiny new Revox were unique. Not just the songs, but the guitar on which he played; every aspect of his sound was of his own design.

    No small feat during a time when most of his peers had to beg borrow or steal an instrument, just to fulfill their Saturday night slot at the Troubadour. Evans has rightfully earned cult status amongst anyone with an ear for the fingerpicking style of guitar. Even the most cursory glance at his 'Old Grey Whistle Test' session is enough to leave one spellbound, Lou Reed (in the audience at the time) was said to have been completely mesmerised by Evans' phenominal yet seemingly effortless touch.

    As far as comparisons go, Evans could easily sit alongside the likes of Robbie Basho or John Fahey in terms of technical ability, but the rarity of his talent lies in his gift for melody, which is relayed both instrumentally, and via his sweet Welsh lilt. In a world where it seems as though every guitar LP of the 60s and 70s has been scrutinised within an inch of its life, 'The Words In Between' might just be that rare thing: a wonderfully arcane gem. "The Words in Between' feels clear and effortless. It's a recording of just guitar and voice, and really does guide us to the spaces in-between, where we find solace, a calm warmth. Dave’s consoling voice comes through in his words, and his exquisite guitar playing guides us along on this lovely journey. 

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    LP includes MP3 Download Code.

    Bert Jansch

    Santa Barbara Honeymoon (RSD18 EDITION)

       The second of two albums that Bert wrote in America in the mid 70s, ‘Santa Barbara Honeymoon’ foregrounds some of Bert’s most charming and addictive melodies. Album highlights include ‘Baby Blue’, ‘Lost and Gone’ and a reworking of Jackson C. Frank’s ‘Blues Run The Game’. Includes 6 additional non-album tracks as a download. Limited edition purple vinyl. 1000 copies worldwide. 

      Bert Jansch

      A Man I'd Rather Be (Part 2)

        A Man I’d Rather Be' (Part II) comprises Jansch’s late ’60s and early ’70s output, an under-rated era, no doubt influenced by the now well-established Pentangle sound. Bandmates Danny Thompson (bass) and Terry Cox (drums) regularly feature among the musicians as well as cameo appearances by Mary Hopkin, Toni Visconti and Dave Mattacks. In this period we see Jansch’s take on pop (Nicola), blues (Birthday Blues funnily enough), handsome arrangements (Rosemary Lane) and barque folk (Moonshine).

        All of this being conjured during a time when Pentangle was simultaneously releasing albums and constantly touring; to say that the man had a generous talent is something of an understatement.  The lush orchestration of Nicola was partly recorded by John Wood who would later engineer Nick Drake’s recordings at the same studio. The heart melting cover of Birthday Blues contains a set with some of the stalwarts of Bert’s solo and Pentangle sets, ‘Poison’ and ‘A Woman Like You’ and some of his most arresting work including ‘Come Sing a Happy Song’ which featured on the soundtrack of Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale in 2005.

        Rosemary Lane is considered by many to be one of Bert’s finest records, a smooth mix of traditional folk such as the title track and ‘Reynardine’, timeless original compositions like ‘Tell Me What Is True Love?’ and in ‘Alman’ and ‘Sarabanda’, examples of early music including the 16th and 17th/18th centuries, all with the sympathetic production of Bill Leader. Moonshine, Bert’s first release after Pentangle split, It was produced by fellow member Danny Thompson and the legendary Tony Visconti, who not only arranged a number of songs but also played on the record. It also features Mary Hopkin duetting with Bert on Ewan MacColl’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’, Aly Bain and Charles Mingus’ drummer Charlie Richmon. "Simply, I think Bert was a truly unique musician. Somehow he could elegantly bridge differing musical and singing traditions to sing and play in a way that sounded only like Bert Jansch.” - Anne Briggs // “The Jimi Hendrix of the acoustic guitar” - Neil Young // "At one point, I was absolutely obsessed with Bert Jansch. When I first heard that LP, I couldn’t believe it. It was so far ahead of what everyone else was doing. No one in America could touch that.”  - Jimmy Page 

        Various Artists

        Avocet Revisited

          'Avocet Revisited' is a four track EP, commissioned by Earth recordings as a companion piece to Bert Jansch’s 1979 avian-themed masterstroke ‘Avocet’. Again drawing inspiration from the resplendence of birds native to British waters (Bert himself was a keen ornithologist), Earth invited this quartet of artists to each choose a species that particularly speaks to them, and base a track around it. The results have been universally graceful, evocative, and majestic - much like the creatures themselves. Fulmar - Drifting low and gliding high, the flight patterns of this gull-like creature are echoed in Edwyn Collins and Carwyn Ellis’s paean to the bird that spends most of its life airborne. Part waltz, part lullaby, ‘Fulmar’ is exquisite in its simplicity, with Carwyn’s elegant arrangements providing the perfect foil for Edwyn’s unmistakeable intonation. 

          Anne Briggs

          The Time Has Come

             ‘The Time Has Come’ is an absolute master class on words and guitar twisting into one another - the poetry goes beyond simple observation into deeply personal and profound lore. A timeless document of sweet and haunting melodies. My favorite record of all time.’ Ryley Walker. // "I've never written songs, regularly, because I never considered myself a song-writer. I've only ever really considered myself a ballad singer, which is what is most important to me. The stories... the ancient nature of the situations and the human condition. And obviously, it's changed so much over the centuries that those songs have been sung, but it always retains that essence of something that's universal... to humanity, and I've always wanted to touch that. I think I wanted to understand people; I think I wanted to understand myself. It's a way of finding the truth. I felt I belonged to that music.” Anne Briggs //

            Offering some of her first original compositions, ‘The Time Has Come’ was a break from tradition in more ways than one for Anne Briggs. Where previous recordings displayed the unaccompanied melodies of her voice, this album - originally released by CBS in 1971 - brings additional instrumentation in the form of guitar and bouzouki. The result is that her vocals are not submerged, but heightened - the plucked strings providing the perfect foil for her crystalline inflection. ‘The Time Has Come’ is a mix of Anne’s own songs alongside some notable covers (Lal Waterson, Steve Ashley, Stan Ellison, Henry McCulloch). All are graced with the quietly self-assured elegance of Anne’s playing, with sounds ranging from the breezy ‘Clea Caught A Rabbit’ to the terrible beauty of ‘Wishing Well’ - each song typifying the bouzouki or guitar style. To say that Anne was an accomplished picker is to do her something of an disservice - the intricacy of her finger-work rivals - and more often than not eclipses - any number of her contemporaries

            FORMAT INFORMATION

            CD Info: CD Single CD in a 20 page DVD sized book.


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