Friday, 25 February 2011

“Meridian 1970” by VARIOUS ARTISTS. A Review of the Jon Savage CD Compilation from 2005 – And A Suggested Follow-Up for 1971.

"…Warm Embraces I Have Found…”

In an overcrowded and weary marketplace - the VARIOUS ARTISTS CD compilation has slowly become something of an unloved and unwanted beast - and to look at “Meridian 1970” you really wouldn’t think very much of it either and be tempted to pass it by...

It doesn’t have a great sleeve to start with - and the track list on the rear is full of names you barely even know - and what’s this stuff in the subtitle about “Protest, Sorrow, Hobos, Folk And Blues”! Even the liner notes are made up entirely of crumpled pages from 4 rock music insiders who put together a compilation of their favourite childhood tracks and then described each in barely legible hand-written pages (complete with coffee stains). And who is this Jon Savage geezer anyway?

But then you play it – and man does it so work. It’s genius – it really is.

“Meridian 1970: Protest, Sorrow, Hobos, Folk And Blues - Compiled By JON SAVAGE” was released in February 2005 in the UK on Forever Heavenly FHVN2LP CD (through EMI) and its 20 tracks run to 78:23 minutes...

1. Mouthful Of Grass - Free
2. Nobody - The Doobie Brothers
3. Industrial Military Complex Hex - The Steve Miller Band
4. Hamburger Midnight - Little Feat
5. Catch The Man On The Rise - Sir Douglas Quintet
6. 3.10 Smokey Thursday - Danny O'Keefe
7. Message From The Country - The Move
8. Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave - Dave Mason
9. Three Hours - Nick Drake
10. One Night Wonder - Meic Stevens
11. Man Of Constant Sorrow - Rod Stewart
12. Cripple Creek - Skip Spence
13. Tulsa County - The Byrds
14. Biloxi - Jesse Winchester
15. Song Of The Wandering Aengus - Donovan
16. Good Shepherd - Jefferson Airplane
17. Black Uncle Remus - Loudon Wainwright III
18. Hear The Wind Howl - Leo Kottke
19. The Moonstone - Tommy Flanders
20. Ashes The Rain And I - The James Gang

So why does it work? The song choices are brilliant and follow each other magnificently. There’s also the journey into the off-the-beaten track – discoveries that are exactly that – discoveries. Opening with the wonderfully soulful instrumental “Mouthful Of Grass” (the original B-side to Free’s “All Right Now” from May 1970 on Island), the emphasis is very much on ‘good’ songwriting and not just obscurities for the sake of it. And the mixture of American acts with British artists is sweet too – The Move perfectly follow Danny O’Keefe, while the funk of Little Feat and the jangling melody of The Byrds lift the pace when needed. The guitar-driven rock of Sir Douglas Quinter on Track 5 matches the 12-string instrumental of Leo Kottke later on Track 18 - but in different ways.

You could of course argue endlessly about the song choices (I wouldn’t have used that Donovan track), but mostly it’s all good. There’s beautiful stuff on here too - ex Blues Project Tommy Sanders released his lone album in early 1970 on Verve and it sank without a trace – unfair – especially considering just how good “The Moonstone” is (lyrics above). Ending with the moody string-filled gem “Ashes, The Rain And I” by The James Gang (featuring Joe Walsh) is a superb choice too.

Given the varying sources and production values, the sound quality wavers between good only (Meic Stevens) to superb (The Doobie Brothers, Nick Drake, Dave Mason and Leo Kottke).

It may seem silly to say this, but getting a compilation like this ‘right’ is far more difficult than you would imagine – and as a voracious compilation maker myself - I was more than impressed when I only recently stumbled upon this unassuming little gem.

Do yourself a favour and spend a fiver on “Meridian 1970” – and enjoy the journey these 4 guys began over 40 years ago – and are still geed-up about to this day.


PS: I’ve listed below a suggested follow up compilation “Meridian 1971” – I’d welcome suggestions – it took me 30 tries!

A suggested follow up compilation to Jon Savage’s CD “Meridian 1970”
A Compilation of Tracks From Not-So-Well-Known 1971 LPs
Posted 5 May 2010 – 20 Tracks, 75:47 minutes

1. Old, Old Woodstock - VAN MORRISON
(From the album “Tupelo Honey”
November 1971 UK LP on Warner Brothers K 460114)

2. It Ain’t Easy - JOHN BALDRY [aka Long John Baldry]
[Features MAGGIE BELL of STONE THE CROWS on Duet Vocals with RON WOOD of THE ROLLING STONES on Guitar; Produced by ROD STEWART]
(From the album “It Ain’t Easy”
June 1971 UK LP on Warner Brothers K 46088)

3. Really Wanted You - EMITT RHODES
(From the album “Mirror”
December 1971 UK LP on Probe SPBA 6262)

4. Born Under A Bad Sign - RITA COOLIDGE
[Written by Booker T Jones and William Bell, covered by Albert King & Cream]
(From her debut album “Rita Coolidge”
1971 UK LP on A&M Records AMLS 2015)

5. Walk To The Point – DAVE MASON and CASS ELLIOTT
[From the album “Dave Mason and Cass Elliott”
May 1971 UK LP Probe Records SPBA 6259)

6. Are You Leaving For The Country – KAREN DALTON
[From the album “In My Own Time”
1971 USA-only LP on Just Sunshine Records PAS 6008)

7. A Hundred Mountains – JACKIE LOMAX [features Bryn Haworth on Guitar]
(From the album “Home Is In My Head”
1971 UK LP on Warner Brothers K 46091)

8. Anymore - BOB LIND
(From the album “Since There Were Circles”
1971 USA LP on Capitol ST-780)

(From the album “Tucky Buzzard”
1971 USA LP on Capitol ST-787)

10. Mr. Skin – SPIRIT
(From the album “The Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus”
1971 UK LP on Epic Records S EPC 64191)

(From the album “A Better Day”
1971 UK LP on Polydor 2383 062)

12. Midnight – THREE MAN ARMY [featuring Adrian Curtis on Guitar]
(From the album “Third Of A Lifetime”
1971 UK LP on Pegasus PEG 3)

13. If I Laugh – CAT STEVENS
(From the album “Teaser And The Firecat”
September 1971 UK LP on Island Records ILPS 9154)

14. Back Down The River - JOHN MARTYN
(From the album “Bless The Weather”
November 1971 UK LP on Island ILPS 9167)

15. Black Woman (The Wild Ox Moan) – ALEXIS KORNER
[Acapella version of a Blues song sung in the 1930’s by Vera Hall Ward]
(From the album “Alexis”
1971 UK LP on Rak Records SRAK 501)

16. Change – TONY JOE WHITE
(From the album “Tony Joe White”
1971 UK LP on Warner Brothers K 46068)

17. Better Days – GRAHAM NASH [feat Neil Young [credited as Joe Yankee] on Piano with Rita Coolidge and Dallas Taylor on Backing Vocals]
(From the album “Songs For Beginners”
June 1971 UK LP on Atlantic 2401 011)

18. Orleans – DAVID CROSBY
(From the album “If I Could Only Remember My Name”
February 1971 UK LP on Atlantic Records 2401 005)

19. Love Ain’t For Keeping – THE WHO
(From the album “Who’s Next”
August 1971 UK LP on Polydor 2408 102)

20. Moonlight Mile – THE ROLLING STONES
(From the album “Sticky Fingers”
April 1971 UK LP on Rolling Stones Records COC 59100)

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