So I'll sing this song of love for Jools
Now where were we? Ah yes, lamenting the fact Fay
Hallam holed up in Medway garageland rather than cutting loose, and flying solo in as spectacular a way as Laura Nyro or Julie Driscoll.
Well, we touched more upon Laura and her vivid imagination than our Jools'. And I have to confess I am more familiar with Laura's flights of fancy. And yet somewhere along the way Jools married Keith Tippett, became Julie Tippetts in the process (work that one out!) and contributed to many a work in the ï70s avant garde/progressive jazz rock field.
What I do know is that she recorded two dramatic, beautiful and challenging sets, 1969 and Sunset Glow, under her own name(s). They are as good as anything Laura Nyro recorded. And that's really saying something. They are as good as Carole King's Tapestry too, and that's something else.
When gauging the greatness of these records, it's worth remembering Jools was a top swinging ï60s pop star and icon. It's a long time since quoting Nik Cohn was de rigueur (and by the way No Exit will shortly be reissuing his great work I Am Still The Greatest Says Johnny Angelo, and hopefully King Death is right behind!), but let's not forget that in Awopbopaloobop he wrote: 'Myself, I thought she was the best and sexiest thing in Europe.'
She surely could have opted for an easy life in the middle of the road. But, no, with the support of her husband and his mates, she went way out there. 1969 sort of picked up where Streetnoise (with Brian Auger and the Trinity) left off. It's a collection of strange and lovely songs, distorted into what some would call awkward shapes. Others would say the distortion adds to the beauty. I think you will guess which way I'll be casting my vote.
In 1975 Jools repeated the trick again with Sunset Glow. It's so lovely you'll ache inside each time you listen to it. I wonder what impact it had in 1975? I remember Cockney Rebel and Showaddywaddy. I even remember 'Hurricane' catching my imagination. Sunset Glow then remains buried treasure.
I'm listening to Laura's 'Christmas' and 'the Beads of Sweat', and loving the fact that Alice Coltrane is there in the background occasionally with her harp. Now that seems right somehow.
I feel guilty though for what I said about Fay. If she felt that disappearing into that Medway garageland was the right thing to do, then who am I to question why? And yet, if you listen to Sunset Glow you can't help but consider the possibilities ...
© 2003 John Carney