Monday, May 14, 2007

Lal & Mike Waterson

"Bright Phoebus" 1972

Karl Dallas:
In my sleevenotes to The Electric Muse, I described this as "the definitive folk rock album" - a strange claim on the face of it, since there isn't a rocked-up Child ballad to be heard, and many of the songs owe more to styles like the French chanson, yet in 1972 I felt, and I still feel, that this album was what that misnamed genre was all about.

To be true, all the usual suspects are here: Fairport alumni like Richard Thompson, Ashley Hutchings, Dave Mattacks, Maddy Prior and almost every other significant voice in the revival at that time, and of course Martin Carthy. And, of course, there are the superlative production skills of Bill Leader, whose seminal influence upon the revival has yet to be fully acknowledged. Like Ralph Peer in the rural deep south, Leader contributed to what we now consider as the sound of tradition in ways those who have followed his lead will never, probably, understand.

Yet, significant as it was, Bright Phoebus has not had the effect one might have hoped at the time. Partly, this is down to the vagaries of the record business. Bill sold his Trailer label to someone else when the economic pressures became too much for him, that person sold it on, and it disappeared from the shelves. Now, nearly thirty years later, it is available once again. And about time.

Where does one start? There IS the uproarious, unbuttoned, almost end-of-the-pier hilarity of Rubber Band, Magical Man (in which Mike Waterson's "I'm the original magical man", with its characteristic shake on second syllable of "orIGinal", never fails to raise the hairs on the back of my head), and of course, the title song, which should have become the anthem of the revival, if there were any justice (which there ain't, as we all know).

There are Lal's dark visions, often enlightened, as in the last verse of The Scarecrow, by a sudden blast of sunlight. For me, these are what I return to the album for most often, and for me the peak of them all is Red Wine and Promises, with its rejection of proffered love: "I don't need nobody helping me;/Don't need no bugger's arms around me." Rarely have I encountered a deeper understanding of the self-destructiveness that alcohol can bring to the over-indulgent. (This is the only track where it is not Lal singing, but her sister, Norma, and a wonderful job she does of it.)

Again, the sudden appearance - it is almost an intrusion - of Bob Davenport's unaccompanied voice on Child Among the Weeds is a remarkable coup de musique. Whose idea was this? Bill Leader's, I suspect, but whoever, it is a stroke of genius.

Have I anything bad to say about this album, with the consummate artistry of its accompaniments, especially when the acoustic guitars of Carthy and Thompson are playing in tandem, the fine ensembles, and the sequence of superb song after superb song? Well, I don't like the C&W-tinged Danny Rose, with its Döppler-shift police car sirens, very much, but others may hear it as the high point.

I don't have much time for league tables in music, and anyway, after thirty years it's probably not eligible, but if there is room in any kind of Folk Hall of Fame for it after all these years, then Bright Phoebus should have the prime place of honour. And if you buy only one album this year, whether your tastes be topical or trad, then this should be the one.

And, please, though Lal is no longer with us, couldn't you start singing some of these songs in public, Norma and Mike? They don't deserve to only be heard electronically.

Originally posted by our friend, Fat Pam

15 Comments:

Blogger Lizardson said...

Download

14 May, 2007 19:20  
Anonymous md said...

I only just heard a radio programme about this album last week and oh how I yearned to hear it.
And now I can - a great many thanks for the opportunity.

14 May, 2007 19:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh man
thank you

!

14 May, 2007 23:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Like stumbling upon the Holy Grail ... Thank you profusely!

15 May, 2007 01:51  
Blogger newelectricmuse said...

It's a unique, unusual and even sometimes rather unsettling album - you really should hear it. You may not like it - but you should hear it.
Newelectricmuse

15 May, 2007 04:41  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I discovered the delights of blogspot, this was one of the ones I really wanted to hear. I have bid so many times on ebay and missed out. Will keep bidding, I expect, but at least now I have a download. It's much better than nothing! Cheers!

15 May, 2007 05:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You hero. This is one great post. Thank you.

15 May, 2007 16:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heard so much about this album so downloaded it.
It lives up to it's praise.

Many Thanks
beGlad.

16 May, 2007 04:54  
Anonymous schlep said...

Thanks so much - nice place you have here!

16 May, 2007 10:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh. This is like finding buried treasure. Many thanks for all your hard work.

John_R in Western Australia

17 May, 2007 06:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Superb!
i've been looking for a LP call "barry Dransfield - st" (1972) hard to find. maybe you could help ?
thx
(excuse my poor french)

17 May, 2007 20:56  
Anonymous dave said...

This is one of those mythic albums you know about but have never heard. Thanks!

18 May, 2007 03:21  
Anonymous streaker said...

This does not work any longer. Any chance to repost?

27 July, 2007 15:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://rapidshare.com/files/36658855/phoebus.zip

23 August, 2007 07:24  
Anonymous Einar said...

Could you please post more Lal Waterson? Once in a Blue Moon, A True Hearted Girl, or others?

13 December, 2007 05:22  

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