Saturday, May 29, 2010

John Paul Jones contribution mislabeled on Robyn Hitchcock album

An update on a story published here back in March.

And I don't mind saying, I was right.

Propellor Time, the new album from Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3, was released on March 22 on the British label Sartorial Records, featuring guest performances from John Paul Jones that were recorded during six-day sessions back in 2006.

By the time the album was released, there was no official word released publicly as to which songs Jones played on -- or what instrument he was playing, out of the many instruments he commands.

Hearing only the sound clips offered online at that time, I guessed that Jones was the source of the mandolin that could be heard on two of the tracks, "Luckiness" and "Born on the Wind."

Not so, I was told. Three days after the album release, label boss and musician Terry Edwards wrote to tell me Jones plays mandolin on "Luckiness" and "Evolove." Well, I guessed the right number of tracks, I guessed the correct instrument, and I was right on one of the two songs. I made my correction and was satisfied.

Until a copy of Propellor Time arrived in the mail. Even though the liner notes even identify John Paul Jones as playing mandolin on tracks 3 and 10, which corresponded to the tracks Terry had indicated, I knew it had to be a mistake. There was no mandolin to be heard on "Evolove." Moreover, there was mandolin on "Born on the Wind" but nobody taking credit for it in the liner notes.

I brought the discrepancy up to Terry Edwards, and the label boss replied with embarrassment. He wrote me on April 14 and didn't have a definitive answer yet. He wrote:
"Sorry it's taken a while to get back to you. Robyn's away on tour & I've not been able to ask him about JPJ's involvement - but it sounds to me as if you're right. And we spent SO much time on getting the credits right on the album... I'll report back when I know more."
Today, he sent me his definitive answer.
Hi Steve,

Can't remember if I got back to you re John Paul Jones' contributions on Propellor Time. You're right, of course - he's on the penultimate track, not Evolove. The last two tracks got flipped and the playing credit for JPJ was overlooked. Human error, eh?

All the best, Terry
So, despite how the CD's liner notes read, John Paul Jones plays mandolin on tracks 3, "Luckiness," and 9, "Born on the Wind." Just as I thought! Thanks so much to Terry for following up on this and setting the record straight.

Another thing: Wouldn't that make this pressing of Propellor Time a collector's item? I quickly wrote Terry back asking him if he ought to market it as such. He said they've already gone into re-pressings of the CD and vinyl, with the error intact.

However, rarity seekers need not despair. Terry alerted me to a limited-edition release of this 2010 album on cassette tape (remember those?) that he says is so far the only edition of Propellor Time to have been released with an updated version of the liner notes, correctly identifying the two tracks that feature John Paul Jones. That sounds like an obscurity to me!

It's a limited run of 100 on clear plastic cassettes. They are signed and numbered by Robyn Hitchcock. Each order of this tangible item also comes with a free download of the album (so that you can actually listen to it using modern technology). The tape is available exclusively through the Sartorial Records online shop.

While you're there, if you're unfamiliar with Terry Edwards and Sartorial's other music, do yourself a favor and check out the Sartorial Records label sampler, available on CD and as a digital download. (Curiously contained within the CD is a golf pencil -- handy in a pinch!)

It turns out that the label boss is a well-versed session musician who has a way with woodwind and brass instruments. Terry's recorded with a lot of different acts over the years, playing some downright entertaining music, some of which is included on the disc. Edwards played with a group called the Higsons, whose sound is simultaneously reminiscent of Sly & the Family Stone and the Clash. Now, if that doesn't whet your appetite, maybe you'd be more into the mellow dub beat on "Asthma" by Terry Edwards & the Scapegoats.

One other Scapegoats track is called "Hey Louis, Let's Do Lunch," which features a witty monologue mocking monotonous and needy business associates. The name "Louis" in the song is pronounced the way you'd call your uncle Louie, which is appropriate because as the song ends it segues perfectly into Die Geisthosen's lo-fi cover version of "Louie Louie" on the next track. What ingenious placement! It bears little resemblance to the Kingsmen (or even Robert Plant's cover, for that matter), but they have infinitely more in common than the Serious Drinking track called "Bohemian Rhapsody" does with a certain song by Queen.

I'm marveling about this Sartorial Records sampler because it's lately been the disc of choice for me when it's beer o'clock and there's nothing else going on. It's so quirky with a wide range of sounds. After hearing the '80s pop leanings of the Higsons on the opening track, you'd never expect to hear straight jazz from the Butterfield 8 one track later. Perhaps best of all, you get to hear a concert rendition of the Scapegoats song "Heat," whose chorus has the repeated line "Gotta let this heat out." The story goes that Robyn Hitchcock once thought the line was "Gotta let this hen out," which is why he has a live album and DVD appropriately named Gotta Let This Hen Out.

Oh, and you can never have too many pencils around.

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