To Vanquish All Our Foes
Shop Around Ö part 51 

I remain very intrigued by the whole reawakening of interest in the wider British folk thing thatís been going for a few years now. I remain even more delighted at the gems being steadily unearthed from that sphere of activity. There is, for example, a fine feature again in this monthís Record Collector by Richard Morton Jack on lost souls of the Ď60s-into-the-Ď70s singer/songwriter scene. The only downside of such surveys is that it hits you hard in the pocket. Salvaged sounds are so often irresistible. That particular article prompted me to explore Keith Christmas and Gordon Jackson. The latter I have to confess was particularly appealing due to the involvement of Reg King on backing vocals, and Iíll make no excuses for that. And itís certainly about time someone salvaged his sole solo soul set! Of course his old Action comrades in their Mighty Baby guise are all over this folk thing, though their own excursion into the territory eludes me.

One of the finds of the year for me was a 49p cassette of the Watersonsí For Pence and Spicey Ale set. The more traditional folk thing is more of an acquired taste. But the close and very naked harmonies are incredibly moving and beautiful, and I suspect Lal Waterson could have sung a shopping list and Ďad me alighting my charger and heading forth to vanquish all our foes.

A couple of Lalís songs are the true highlights of the Never The Same set on Honest Jons. Itís a collection of recordings from the Ď70s British Folk Revival, and as such is spectacularly spartan compared to the more flamboyant likes of the jazz/psychedelic tinged folk troubadours delineated by Richard Morton Jack. The set summons up a wonderful aura of London every bit as vital of other London-oriented Honest Jons sets, like London Is The Place For Me and Watch How The People Dancing. This particular London is one of dusty pub backrooms, pints of ale, arran jumpers, pipes and beards, long dark haired and dark eyed mysterious muses, and voices raised together creating astonishing beauty. An underground captured wonderfully here. A purity thatís dangerous and delightful.

Honest Jons once again through Will Bankheadís designs have created something special. With other sets over the past year or so (donít forget the Son Cubano, Junior Dan, Willie Hightower and Moondog ones among others) Honest Jons has proved itself to be among the best in the salvage business. Like the Numero Group, its releases tend to be a complete product, rather than some sounds recycled.
It was Kent that started this trend over 20 years ago now, by putting together aesthetically perfect pop products that were much more than just Ď60s soul sets. There was a mini tradition of mine for a while where I would treat myself to a Kent compilation on Christmas Eve. Now I guess itís not so simple. Itís been many years since I saw a Kent set in one of my local shops. Mind you itís been a while since I looked for one. I may try to revive that tradition as best I can, as Kent seem to have had something of a winning run of late, with fresh volumes of their For Connoisseurs Only, In Perfect Harmony, and Hotlanta Soul series. We must pay tribute to Lois Wilson for diligently and delightfully keeping the torch burning for Kent in the media. If she didnít there is a definite danger that important salvage operations could pass us by.

Kent of course belongs to the Ace empire, and the parent company continues to rescue all sorts of great sounds. Similarly the Cherry Red group prodigiously shares with the world an astonishing array of jewels. Rev-ola has just given us real classics from Lori Burton, Evie Sands, Claudine Longet, and Nancy Priddy. RPM has given us the essential series of Jackie De Shannon sets, while the parent company has given us sets from the June Brides, Bridget St John, and the Nightingales in as many weeks. The Nightingalesí Hysterics set incidentally is their real lost classic, and I have to wonder why when I wander through the new shopping complexes in Birmingham there is no statue to celebrate the wit and wisdom of Robert Lloyd.

I should also give credit to Blood and Fire for suddenly sparking into life once again with excellent sets from Prince Far I and Willie Williams. It is to be hoped that everyone thatís tapped a toe to the wonderful 'Welcome To Jamrock' will explore the roots of reggae further. It is however a while since Blood and Fire has so spectacularly hit the (screaming) target. LTM on the contrary scarily seems to be doing wonders for the salvage industry. Off the top of my head, of late, theyíve rescued real gems from Isabelle Antena, Orchids, Eric Random, ACR. And it looks like 2006 will be busy for LTM too with a series of Alison Statton related releases pending. And Kill Rock Stars may eventually salvage some Delta 5 sounds. The salvage industry remains our most vital.

© 2005 John Carney