ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE – Getting It Together In The Country 1968-74 (3CD) Various Artists
Following on from the other compilations, I’m A Freak, Lets Go Down and Blow our Minds etc (all reviewed on SMART) this is the latest offering from Grapefruit Records headed by the excellent David Wells who never ceases to come up with interesting and forgotten treasures.
As you might surmise from the (somewhat) cumbersome title, sorry David! this takes us back to the heady times of the late 60’s early 70’s when it was ‘fashionable’ to ‘get it together in the country’. Led by Stevie Winwood and Traffic I remember this movement being written about by the likes of NME and MM at the time. Encouraged by their lead a thousand and one bands, some well known and some doomed to obscurity decamped to deepest Berkshire (Traffic), Oxfordshire, Cornwall, Wales etc, well you get the picture. Away from the city and factory style recording studio’s bands attempted to live together commune style in the hope this combined with the rural pastoral pleasures of the countryside would ignite creative outpouring. Well for many it certainly did as they blended, rock, pop, folk and country to create a more laid back vibe. As mentioned Traffic paved the way with tracks like ‘Forty Thousand Headmen’ their entry here. There is a good smattering of the well known and ‘name bands’ spread across this 3CD boxset, Fairport Convention, Mott The Hoople, Rare Bird, Matthews Southern Comfort, Rod Stewart and Marmalade to name a few. But I hasten to add not with the familiar over compiled tracks. Indeed I have never heard ‘Louisiana Man’ by The Hollies (from 1969) a song apparently covered 800 times (some royalties there!) and very good it is too. I mentioned Mott The Hoople which instantly brings to mind ‘All The Young Dudes’ but their entry here from 1971 ‘ Home Is Where I Want To Be’ taken from the album ‘Wildlife’ owes more to Matthews Southern Comfort than Bowie and is just one example of the evolvement of some bands, fascinating. The second rank of bands, for want of a better term, is represented by Mighty Baby, Heron, Cochise, Brinsley Schwarz and Orange Bicycle, (a personal favourite), again to name but a few. Orange Bicycle (a localish band) track ‘Take Me To The PIlot’ (an Elton John cover) has long been a favoured cut with me having seen them perform it live a good few times. But away from the well and lesser known names is a plethora of gems to discover and savour, just some of my picks would be Shape of The Rain ‘Willowing Trees’, Tony Hazzard ‘Abbot Of The Vale’, High Broom ‘A Way To Pass The Time’, Northwind ‘Home For Frozen Roses’, Granny’s Intention’s ‘We Both Need To Know’ and Mason ‘Fading’, this last pick is a trio that includes Ian Amey (Tich) and John Dymond (Beaky) late of DD.D.B.M. & T. I’ve always felt that Ian in particular is a much overlooked and underrated guitarist with a very distinctive style. With 64 tracks and a wonderfully informative 44 page amply illustrated booklet this latest compilation may be the best yet in the series, you can almost smell the patchouli oli and grass, those were the days. I’ll leave you with a clip of one of the few well known tracks to be included by Marmalade as a tribute to lead vocalist Dean Ford who sadly left us at the turn of the year. RIP and thanks for the music. Enjoy.
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