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23 Aug 2016

Mick Softley "Sunrise" 1970 UK Psych Folk Rock

Mick Softley  "Sunrise" 1970 UK Psych Folk Rock


watch review from psychedelic baby

review by Julian Cope

After hearing his Immediate single (Dylan-esque folk rock), first CBS album (trad folk) and his £20 rated single with the Summer Sons (twisted sitar psych) I wasn't too sure what to expect when I purchased a knackered copy of this LP a few years back for a "mere" fourteen quid. Hence my delight on finding it combined all three genres (with added Moog). Softley, owner of one of the loudest voices on record (check the distortion on any CD transfer of his Immediate record), hit the UK folk scene in the 60's (writing "The War Drags On" as covered by Donovan among others) but by the time of this LP he was living in a van on a bit of waste ground in St Albans (as depicted on the front cover). It's a gatefold with some of the lyrics reproduced and pertinent photos (surprise, a sunrise!). His backing band consists of virtually the same players as on Mick Greenwood's first three albums - maybe they had a thing about hairy dudes called Mick. 

The album kicks off with a Richard Thompson-type rocker ("Can You Hear Me Now") before slipping into the double-mellow "Waterfall" and "Eagle", along with another CBS act of this era, Trees, the very definition of acid folk to my ears. "Julie Argoyne" is a piece of whimsy to rank along with Van der Graaf's "Aerosol Grey Machine" until the oddly affecting coda. Then onto "Caravan", a stop-start acoustic number, stop-start enough for me to think the record was skipping in fact. I found this songs genuinely moving but if your taste in lyrics runs more to the "it is only a garden made of sandwich"* school then it may trip your sentiment detector. I could happily delete "If You're Not Part Of The Solution, You Must Be Part Of The Problem" from the album but the side is tailed by "Ship" a spacey Moog-bearing trance out of the first order. The lyrics to this are printed on the gatefold but I won't bother quoting them here as they make little sense when unsung. 

Side two begins with "You Go Your Way, I'll Go Mine", another rockin tune (maybe he felt he had to get them out of the way) with some deliciously wonky lead guitar, like a picked version "Waving My Arms in the Air" on Barrett minus the wah wah. After the homespun folksy twittering of "Birdy Birdy" lies "Time Machine", a kind of folkier faintly Moog-y version of "In the year 2525" and probably the best known track off this release, with Softley sounding like the "space tripper" of the lyrics. Demonstrating their good taste the Dutch had this as a single A side with a hirsute Mick doing his best gonk impression on the cover. I think there was a version of this with Mac Macleod (as Soft Cloud) on a Ptolomeic Terrascope cover CD a while back - if anyone's got that, wouldn't say no to copy as it's OOP. 

"On the Road Again" is a solo acoustic number, difficult to describe - maybe you'll have to take my word for it (cough) before the album's climax, "Love Colours", an endless sitar and chant trance out that keeps pausing only to lurch off at an even more disturbing tangent every time. Maybe the best cut on the whole thing, definitely the best for annoying your neighbours with. 

I have some of Mick Softley's later albums but I would hesitate to recommend them here, they're much more straight up folk-rockin' with less of the psych influence. They also go for an extortionate £50 or so each but what can you do when you're addicted... 

* I do like Faust but I suspect their lyrics could be generated by putting traditional cockney knees up tunes through AltaVista translation a few times. .......

After a gap of five years following his 1965 solo acoustic folk debut LP, Songs for Swingin' Survivors, Softley emerged with his second album (although a couple of rare singles had come out in the interim). Like many folk-based singer/songwriters who'd first recorded in the mid-'60s, Softley had made the transition from solo acoustic guitar accompaniment to a more fully arranged folk-rock sound that often used other musicians, as well as touches of jazz and Indian music, though his material wasn't all that different from when he started. Softley had written some outstanding songs in the 1960s (some of them recorded by Donovan and Dave Berry), yet Sunrise is only an average dawn-of-the-'70s British singer/songwriter/folk-rock LP. His stolid vocals suggest a man who takes things quite seriously and doesn't laugh too much. While on the surface there are appealing, prototypically British, moody folk melodies and deliveries, the songs are sometimes too repetitive, or don't expound much on seeds of intriguing threads; "Time Machine," for instance, speculates on the far-off future, but doesn't get much further than its repeated exhortations to "Take a trip on my time machine/You know what I mean." A heck of a lot of notable musicians helped out, however, among them three members of Fotheringay, Lyn Dobson of Soft Machine (on sitar and wind instrumentation), singer/songwriter Lesley Duncan, and ex-Manfred Manner Mike Vickers. Enough listeners take issue with the preceding assessment to have made this a high-valued collector's item, though perhaps due more to its rarity than its allmusic.......

He might look like a slouch on the cover of this 1970 LP Sunrise Star-Rise, waking up sometime around noon in the back of his tour van, but Mick Softley was a classic folk troubadour in his day, hanging out with similar beatniks in the early 60’s like Wizz Jones, Clive Palmer and Maddy Prior. He started his own folk club in Hemel Hempstead when the protest movement was at its hippest, and it was around this time he met a young folkie named Donovan Leitch, who went on to record Mick’s “The War Drags On” for his “Universal Soldier” EP. After a five year recording hiatus, it was Donovan who convinced Mick Softley to record again, the result being Sunrise Star-Rise, a progressive folk rock album with one of the most amazing casts you’ll find on an album that nobody’s ever heard.

Producer Terry Cox had already worked with Sandy Denny, Fairport Convention and Yes, and he assembled a backing band for Mick consisting of Trees’ guitarist Barry Clark, three guys from Fotheringay, Lyn Dobson, Doris Troy (of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon fame) and Richard Thompson from the Fairports. Because straight-up folk music was no longer fashionable at this time, it took an all-star backing band like this one to bring hipper instruments to Mick’s music, like Lyn Dobson’s mystical sitar on the epic “Love Colours,” a long-lost Electric Headswirler if there ever was one. There’s more sitar on the floaty, ethereal, meditative mind-blower “Eagle,” but for a taste of what the full band could bring, check out “Time Machine.” It’s one of Mick’s most famous songs, thanks to its inclusion on one of those ubiquitous CBS loss leader double albums, and it’s Grade A progressive pop, all strummin’ guitars and space-age synths. And someone even gets off a few slashing power chords at the end, straight off the Who’s “Overture.”...

A1 Can You Hear Me Now 
A2 Waterfall 
A3 Eagle 
A4 Julie Argoyne 
A5 Caravan
A6 If You're Not Part Of The Solution, You Must Be Part Of The Problem
A7 Ship
B1 You Go Your Way, I'll Go Mine
B2 Birdie Birdie
B3 Time Machine
B4 On The Road Again
B5 Love Colours

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





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