Sunday, September 03, 2006

Mike Heron "Smiling Men With Bad Reputations"
(UK Rock, Folk-Rock 1971)

Smiling Men with Bad Reputations is Mike Heron's solo debut, released while he was still a member of the unique Incredible String Band (ISB). In one way, Smiling Men follows the path cut by previous ISB material in its presentation of world music and folk sounds; yet Heron's solo outing also breaks new ground in that it exhibits strong rock influences, sounds that would inspire and influence future ISB releases.

Heron's compositions on Smiling Men are original and fresh, rich with texture, eclecticism, and good musicianship. His lyrics are equally thoughtful and textured throughout -- the kind of lyrics that make one want to listen. Heron brings in John Cale as a major collaborator on four tracks. Cale provides brass and vocal arrangements for two cuts and adds viola, harmonium, piano, and bass to several others. South African avant-garde saxophonist Dudu Pukwana wails heavily on the opener, "Call Me Diamond," an alto sax-driven swingin' little rocker. "Flowers of the Forest," an almost melancholy tune reminiscent of the Band, features Richard Thompson on lead guitar. Heron sings in the guise of Cat Stevens on "Feast of Stephen," another rock-influenced piece. And the Who (minus Roger Daltrey), credited as Tommy and the Bijoux, join Heron on "Warm Heart Pastry," a full-blown heavy rock song. The tune, probably more suited to a Who album, stands stylistically apart from the rest of Heron's project, yet it adds to Smiling Men's eclectic quality. Heron, like ISB, was prone to generating atmospheric, odd melodies, some of which were drawn from Celtic and Eastern sources. "Spirit Beautiful" is a fine example. Here, Heron creates an Indian folk song with assistance from Indian musicians on strings and percussion (veena, tambura, mridangam, moorsing). Other standouts include the mood-evoking "Brindaban" and the lengthy, awkward "Beautiful Stranger," a rocking Traffic-like piece with Tony Cox playing VCS3 and Cale on harmonium. Heron ends the set with an intimate solo performance, "No Turning Back," featuring sparse acoustic guitar and lamenting vocals. [This version of the album includes bonus material.] ~ David Ross Smith, All Music Guide


Anonymous Anonymous said...

fantastic, so looking forward to this one!
if its half as good as the cover it will be amazing!
thanks again

04 September, 2006 04:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome! "Warm Heart Pastry" is one of the greatest Who songs ever! As Mike sings, "Hey I'm a hungry man and ya know I ain't talkin' 'bout grits!"

05 September, 2006 01:45  
Anonymous hermanthegerman said...

@ anonym: yep!
@ lizardson: great site, fine and rare to get stuff among your postings. thanx. may be you can post some more of mike heron´s solo albums? or - even better to my nose - some robin williamson (merry band, legacy of scotish harpers etc).

05 September, 2006 02:48  
Blogger Donno said...

Speaking as one of the few who just didn't get The Incredibles I approached this with some caution but was happilly surprised at how much I liked it, really excellent stuff. Perhaps I should give the later Incredibles albums a further listen when I have the chance.
Thanks muchly for helping my re-eduction.

05 September, 2006 19:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I looove ISB and Mike Heron's contributations are always welcomed.. but this album.. it's just alright with me. Robin Williamson first solo grabbed me closer to home.

08 September, 2006 00:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this; I've been after it for ages. Any chance of more Mike Heron posts? :D

05 December, 2006 19:57  
Blogger Sha said...

I like the album cover, too. And the first song sounds like the album is a winner! Thanks a lot for providing so much quality rare stuff.

06 June, 2009 22:56  

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