Tuesday, September 9, 2014

In Search of Iain Matthews: Book Song

Day Three in our search for Iain Matthews who is our Second Week of the Month feature. In today’s episode, we feature a duet between Matthews and Sandy Denny from Fairport Convention’s second album. In the UK, the LP was called “What We Did on Our Holidays”; however, A&M, the band’s US label, rebranded it simply as “Fairport Convention,” as their first album of that same name had not yet been released in the US.

In addition to the albums schizophrenic identity, the UK version’s cover had a photo of a blackboard “assaulted by the members of the band.” The US cover, however, features a fun photo of the band sitting in a pile of leaves. A&M banked that this cover would be more attractive to American audiences and I for one always loved this photo. I can’t say the same for A&M’s cover choice for the next LP, “Unhalfbricking,” which was simply stupid by any stretch of the imagination.

Our choice is the beautiful waltz named “Book Song.” Iain’s and Sandy’s vocals never sounded better. This is one of the songs that I got to know from “The History of Fairport Convention” which included a total of four songs from “What We Did on Our Holidays.”

Penned by Iain Matthews and Richard Thompson, the song highlights the great production skills of American Joe Boyd. “Book Song” is replete with interesting instrumentation that includes a sitar, a backwards guitar, and Claire Lowther’s ‘cello. During the instrumental break, there is a wonderful interplay of Richard Thompson’s lead, a backwards guitar lead, and ‘cello. In my book this is the highlight of this tune.

For those interested, the backwards guitar was recorded on another tape deck and then the tape was flipped and then played backwards and was added to the overall mix. This technique was used by The Beatles; Crosby, Stills, and Nash; Jimi Hendrix; Yes; and countless numbers of other rock musicians.

Today, the effect can be attained electronically without the use of a tape deck; thus giving the guitarist more control over the notes being played.  If you listen to the second verse there are a couple of discordant notes from the backwards guitar which is a necessary evil when reversing a tape and the resultant notes happening when they do. It is not real obvious in this tune, but they are there.  I never noticed this until recently, and that is after listening to this song for over 40 years. So Joe Boyd and the band did a commendable job keeping these issues at a minimum.

No comments:

Post a Comment