Tuesday, 9 June 2015

“Matthews’ Southern Comfort / Second Spring” by MATTHEWS SOUTHERN COMFORT – A Review Of Their 1st and 2nd Albums On Uni Records – Reissued And Remastered By Beats Goes On Of The UK Onto CD In 1996 (reissued 2008)…

MATTHEWS SOUTHERN COMFORT [featuring Ian Matthews] - “Matthews Southern Comfort/Second Spring” (1996 and 2008 Beat Goes On CD – Andrew Thompson Remaster)

"…Leave This Troubled World Behind…"

Few bands got to release three albums in one year (Fairport Convention and Creedence Clearwater Revival did it in 1969) – but Britain’s Folk-Rock outfit MATTHEWS SOUTHERN COMFOIRT featuring Ian Matthews managed in in 1970. And that’s where this 2LPs-on-1CD Beat Goes On reissue comes in (the following CD contains the third album). Here are the comforting details...

Originally UK released June 1996 on Beat Goes On BGOCD 515 (reissued December 2008 with the same Catalogue No and Barcode 5017261203137) - it breaks down as follows (76:06 minutes):

1. Colorado Springs Eternal
2. A Commercial Proposition
3. The Castle Far
4. Please Be My Friend
5. What We Say
6. Dream Song
7. Fly Pigeon Fly
8. The Watch
9. Sweet Bread
10. Thoughts For A Friend
11. I’ve Lost You
12. Once Upon A Lifetime
Tracks 1 to 12 are their debut vinyl album "Matthews' Southern Comfort" - released January 1970 in the UK on Uni Records UNLS 108 and Decca DL 75191 in the USA (both in gatefold sleeves and with an insert)

13. The Ballad Of Obray Ramsey
14. Moses In The Sunshine
15. Jinkson Johnson
16. Tale Of The Trial
17. Blood Red Roses
18. Even As
19. D’arcy Farrow
20. Something In The Way She Moves
21. Southern Comfort
Tracks 13 to 21 are their 2nd LP "Second Spring" - released June 1970 in the UK on Uni Records UNLS 112 and Decca DL 75242 in the USA (both with an insert)

The eagle-eyed collectors among you will notice that there are two non-album 7" single B-sides from the period that are missing. First is "The Struggle" - a B-side to "Colorado Springs Eternal" - the only single lifted off the debut album on Uni Records UNS 513 issued in January 1970.  Second is "Parting" - a B-side to "Ballad Of Obray Ramsey" - the only 7" taken off the 2nd LP on Uni Records UNS 521 issued May 1970. Not to fear - they are both BONUS TRACKS on the "Later That Same Year" Beat Goes On CD remaster (BGOCD 807) along with both sides of their other non-album single - "Woodstock" b/w "Scion" (see separate review).

The 16-page booklet cleverly reproduces the gatefold inner of the debut LP on its inner spread while the lyric sheets that accompanied both original LPs have been reproduced also - but using the drawing face shots on the back sleeve of the 2nd LP in between text (its nicely done). The short but hugely informative liner notes are by noted Musicologist JOHN TOBLER.

The remaster was done back in 1996 at Sound Recording Technology in Cambridge (doesn't say who) and it's really sweet - especially on the far better recorded second LP.

The debut was meant to be an Ian Matthews solo album. In fact the band's name was a mistake - named after the last track on the second LP "Southern Comfort" (written by Sylvia Fricker). But Matthews Southern Comfort somehow stuck. In fact when Ian Matthews left - the group continued as "Southern Comfort" on Harvest Records. And yet despite its lavish gatefold sleeve and the inclusion of heavyweight Fairport Convention players like Gerry Conway, Ashley Hutchings, Richard Thompson and Simon Nichol - the debut LP in my eyes firmly defies flight. Weak songs are the culprits. Looking through the song credits you see the name Steve Barlby - which turns out to be a pseudonym for songwriters Ken Howard and Alan Blaikeley - who were his management team at the time. Part of the recording contract deal was that he had to use some of their songs - and bluntly they're not what the MSC sound was about. The other pseudonym on "Fly Pigeon Fly" is Hamwood - which turns out to be the duo of Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood. The organ on "Thoughts For A Friend" is clumsy - "The Castle Far" sounds like some dreadful madrigal - but "A Commercial Proposition" written by Richard Thompson is more like it.

"Second Spring" is everything the debut should have been - it's properly brilliant and has stood the test of time too. The presence of ace guitarist and melody strong Carl Barnwell makes his presence known with "Moses In The Sunshine" and "Even As" - which like "Woodstock" practically defines the mellow sound that people love them for. The Traditional "Blood Red Roses" is done Acapella and is gorgeous - as is the impossibly pretty Matthews original "Tale Of The Trial". I've always felt that their stunning cover of James Taylor's Apple debut song "Something In The Way She Moves" should have been the lead off single instead of the banjo plucking "Ballad Of Obray Ramsey" - it's a gem (lyrics from it title this review). It ends on the epic eight minute "Southern Comfort" which feels like Fairport in full flight meets MSC. Very tasty...

So there you have it - a debut that promises much but delivers little - and a follow up that nails it. Their third and last album "Later That Same Year" followed in November of 1970 and was just as strong as "Second Spring" (the CD remaster of "Later" also contains those four quality bonus tracks).

"Matthews' Southern Comfort / Second Spring" is a really lovely CD reissue by Beat Goes On of the UK - and brings back such fond memories...

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