Sunday, September 7, 2014

In Search of Iain Matthews: An Amelia Earhart Trilogy

It’s the second week of the month and I always try to come up with a theme to play across seven days of posts. I came up with today’s selection back in May and have dubbed it “In Search of Iain Matthews.” Born as Iain Matthew McDonald, he has performed as Ian McDonald, Ian MacDonald, Ian Matthews, and finally as Iain Matthews. I took the name of this week’s special in honor of his band Plainsong’s LP “In Search of Amelia Earhart.”

Matthews got his start with a West Coast/surf sounding band called Pyramid in 1966. The band released one single in 1967, “The Summer of Last Year” backed with “Summer Evening.” A third cut, “Me about You,” was eventually released in 1999. While Pyramid’s non-charting single “The Summer of Last Year” is available on YouTube, the sound quality of that recording is not the best; therefore, I won’t be providing it as an example.

We will, however, be featuring some of Matthews’ better recordings (in my opinion) from his first decade of performance. Matthews still performs today and my brother had an opportunity to open for one of his Pittsburgh shows a number of years ago. While not generally known by the hoi poloi, Matthews’ voice is unmistakable and needs to be heard more often – that’s my mission this week.

Today, we feature a trio of songs that appeared on Plainsong’s 1972 release “In Search of Amelia Earhart.” While only three songs on the album dealt with “The First Lady of the Air,” the title was inspired by Fred Goerner’s theory that Earhart was captured by the Japanese on Saipan. According to Goerner’s theory, Earhart’s first mate Frederick Noonan was beheaded and Earhart died of dysentery during her capture. It was theorized that Earhart and Noonan were actually on an air reconnaissance mission to spy on the Japanese for the US government.

It was hard picking one of the three songs that appear sequentially on the Plainsong LP, so I created a YouTube playlist that features all three Earhart related tunes. The first was Plainsong’s rendition of Red River Dave McEreny’s 1939 composition, “Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight.”

The bridging song is that well known gospel tune “I’ll Fly Away,” which was one of over 600 songs penned by Albert E. Brumley beginning in the 1920s - hence our labeling this post also in the Spiritual Sundays category. Finally, the trio of tunes ends with Matthew’s own composition of the “True Story of Amelia Earhart.” While Plainsong consisted of several members, the principal partners in the band were Ia(i)n Matthews and Andy Roberts, who still today perform as a duo under the band’s name.

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