Monday, April 11, 2011

Stumbling Upon the Vinyl Archive. 5. Unclassifiable.

Despite the worry they have caused, the cracks which are spreading around our bedroom ceiling, have had one pleasant side-effect. The visit of the structural engineer necessitated a clear-out of the attic, which in turn led to the discovery of a long-forgotten trove of Vinyl. I have found kids stuff, blues, jazz, rock, and now these, a selection of almost unclassifiable records.

SKY (1) is an album which has such precious memories associated with it, that for me it is impossible to assess objectively. As a young teenager I used to sometimes go and stay with my Grandpa in Dorset. This meant cycling to Woking, a train ride through the countryside to Gillingham, and then the cycle up the hill to Shaftesbury. As if this wasn't an adventure enough, it was completed by the excitement of a week spent with Grandpa. He was a great character, and always good fun to be with. I remember days there often being busy, cycling around the surrounding countryside, visiting my Aunt and Uncle who lived in the same town, or attacking a mound of 'O' level coursework - but spending the evenings with Grandpa. Many of these evening would be filled with music, either music that he played on his piano, or playing records from his collection. SKY (1) was a record that was often brought out. Although he was a classical pianist who loved playing piano works from a range of composers, he liked occasional forays into other music too. SKY were a rock/classical crossover band that performed instrumentals in a variety of styles, from the most delicate of ballads to some classical standards in a solid rock format. After his death, each of his grand-children were given something of his with which to remember him. The items were chosen, not by anything as pointless as monetary value, but by the connection that the item had been between him and us. Of course, I was given some of the LPs we had listened to - and his old Marantz music system, which I used until only a couple of years ago. In the photo above, the number and sticker on the cover were part of his library system for cataloguing his music. Just holding this LP again transports me back to a world of being 16, of curries and cider, of cycling through the countryside, of music, adventure, optimism, youth, but most of all, all these things with Grandpa.

This LP comes from a later date, but is no less musically unclassifiable than the last one. Some people would want to subsume such things under the label 'prog', but that has become an almost meaningless term for anything that allows musicians to work across genres instead of sticking rigidly to the rules of their musical type. I remember the late, great, Woolly Wolstenholme of Barclay James Harvest decrying the term for exactly these reasons. "Music Inspired by The Snow Goose", is enough of a coherent concept-album of long instrumentals to be dismissed under the 'prog' label - but this album is a remarkably diverse collection of tunes. Camel were able to picture Paul Gallico's touching WWII story in a charming soundscape which is in turns delicate, whimsical, powerful, and touching. I was initially lent a copy of this by some friends in the church I grew up in, near London. I grabbed a 2nd hand copy for myself soon after. Of course, I taped it for playing in the car - while this old piece of Vinyl lay forgotten!

Not quite rock, not quite jazz, almost fusion, but then again, and definitely not really prog. Collosseum II produced a string of albums in the late 1970s full of musical brilliance, creative composition and the kind of frantic duelling on guitars and keys that I adored - but in all honesty was never going to sell millions. My initial interest in the band was because Gary Moore's guitar was intrinsic to the sound - and in the early 80s, I was really into his rock albums. Colloseum II, was then a revelation, as Moore's albums such a Victims of the Future or Run For Cover were positively pedestrian compared to the range, variety, complexity and spark on the Colloseum II records. Electric Savage was the first one I bought - and played to death. I still have enormous affection for this album, and not because it was the only LP cover I ever had to keep inside a brown-paper bag! (the astute music historian will notice the fact that this picture here is the expurgated version, and not the original LP cover, which didn't spare the blushes of the young lady). It's not merely the album cover over which there was a distinct gender-difference in levels of appreciation, though. I know many guys who like this music, but while there may be women who like this stuff - I have never met any! Certainly none of the girls I ever knew, or the one I am married to, can stand it! Really unusual and powerfully creative - I think its great, and wonderful to stumble across again after all these years.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your reminiscing reminded me that I went to see Sky at the Apollo in Glasgow with my Dad. Today I dug out the albums and played 3 to the family - it's pretty good.

About the same time that we saw Sky, I also saw UFO and the Scorpions (at separate gigs). I went with my mates, not my Dad. I'm less convinced that I want to get their stuff out again - but I might give it a spin!