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14 Jan 2017

Keith Christmas “Stimulus” 1969 UK Psych Folk Rock








Keith Christmas “Stimulus” 1969 UK Psych Folk Rock
Stimulus was originally released in 1969 on the RCA label and is a true lost treasure of the 60s. Here we see Keith backed by members of Mighty Baby as well as Matthews Southern Comfort’s pedal-steel guitarist Gordon Huntley who, all together, have created a beautifully styled gem of the late 1960’s.

As was popular at the time, the emphasis on long tracks Trial & Judgement and / Know You Can’t Loose showed off Keith’s great songwriting ability and the gift for extended musical musings. 1969 was a busy time for Keith as with the release of Stimulus he also found time to play the acoustic guitar on David Bowie’s first album Space Oddity and later appeared at the very first Glastonbury Festival.

Fable Of The Wings and Pigmy followed in the next few years, during which time Keith toured with many of the top bands of the day, including the Who, Ten Years After, King Crimson and Roxy Music.

In 1974 he joined the Belgium-English 70’s rock band The Esperanto Rock Orchestra as their vocalist and appeared on their 1974 album, Danse Macabre, produced by Pete Sinfield.

That same year Keith returned to solo work and produced Brighter Day which was issued on the same label as Pete Sinfield, which was Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Manticore label.

This release offered a tougher perspective than previous albums while Stories From The Human Zoo, recorded in Los Angeles and released in 1976, featured assistance from several American musicians, including Steve Cropper and Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn.

After taking time out from the music scene in 1981 Keith re-emerged at the end of the 80’s with a fresh outlook, rejoining the folk club circuit with renewed enthusiasm and back to the recording studio. Forming the blues band Weatherman in 1991 he issued an album the following year.

In 1996 the excellent Love Beyond Deals was released on the famous HTD label. Love Beyond Deals was produced by Ashley Hutchings and featured a fantastic collection of guests from the folk world . Yet another change of direction was to follow with a highly acclaimed instrumental album Acoustica in 2003.

2006 and Keith releases his first ever truly solo CD Light of the Dawn and just continues to tour and release material and has been described as 'a songwriter at the peak of his powers’. 2011, and a 5 track EP called Fat Cat Big Fish was released and even this year as we go full circle from Stimulus to the present day. Check out Keith’s 2012 album Live at the Pump for a continued journey into the wonderful world of a true all-round singer songwriter of our time.
CD Liner-notes………..

Stimulus was the debut from one of the slighter British folk-rock songwriters of the late '60s and early '70s. Keith Christmas absorbed some good traits – you can hear bits of Bob Dylan, Bert Jansch, Roy Harper, and (in the vocal rather than the songwriting) Ray Davies, whether by intention or accident. Still, it’s kind of a meager effort, imbued with some of the haunting melody and lyrical melancholy that were hallmarks of British folk-rock (and a few more country-ish licks than was typical for the style), but not invested with nearly as much personality as the best exponents of the genre. He did seem a little more comfortable with full if mild rock arrangements than some other similar singer/songwriters, but his writing was a little unfocused, and his vocals on the thin side of both timbre and expressiveness. Like too many folk-rock and folk albums of the era, there was a regrettable venture into forced jolly vaudeville (“Bedsit Two-Step”), though very impressive folk guitar picking was heard on “Roundabout.”..by Richie Unterberger……..

Keith’s first album was reissued on CD in a limited amount on a small English label. First two tracks still are somewhat times-typical lightweight pop. The guitar instrumental “Roundabout” shows that Keith masters a certain guitar creativity. A song like “Ice Man” shows that he has even more in his pocket. It has a great performance and a convincing guitar and arrangements.

At those days Keith was one of the persons to stimulate the beautiful voice and s/sw-folksinger Shelagh McDonald (with ‘Stargazer’ from 1971 as her future highlight). She even sketched a portrait of Keith which appeared on the LP. Both artists appeared along with Synasthesia (another great acid folkrock band which album luckily also found reissues), on a compilation called ‘49 Greek Street’. The following track, “I know you can’t loose” has in fact a nicer version by Shelagh McDonald on her début album.

Last tracks “Metropolis” and “Trial and Judgement” might still be influenced by American folk and songwriters. The album shows potentional, but does not show his best side yet.
The most essential period for Keith’s creativity is around the second album (“Fable of Wings”-1970) and third album (“Pigmy”-1971). From both albums are listed all tracks except one. Instead is added an unreleased acoustic version of “I know you can’t loose”,and another track from the first album, mislabeled as coming from the second album. I can’t tell if it’s a shame about the two left out tracks, but still I would have preferred a 'two-albums-on one’ concept. From the third track on, “Waiting for the wind to Rise” the compilation really sounds great to me. Just listen to the acoustic fingerpicking ballads like “The Fawn”, or to all the fine arrangements of songs with acoustic guitar and a pop-rock band with organ on “Lorri”, “Kent Lullaby”, “Hamlin”. “Fable of Wings” has a fine blues acoustic guitar lead. The tracks from “Pygmy” have different, more worked out instrument arrangements. The slightly mellow “Travelling Down” has an orchestral arrangement. The sweetly sung “Timeless & Strange” leaves the guitar and voice leading with additional harpsichord and some second guitar. Another orchestrated guitar song track, with violin improvisation, “Evensong”, in minor chords is another favourite. Also the romantic “Poem” is arranged in a similar way. “The Waiting Grounds” is a 70’s rock track with the earlier mentioned band. Both last tracks are more ambitiously arranged. “Song for a survival” has various rock arrangements (backing choir vocals, great jazzy and freaky 70’s rock, some brass improvisations) stretching the song over 9 minutes. Last track, “Forest and the shore” has not only an accompanying rock band arrangement, but even a complete backing choir, mellotron, organ, and more improvisational singing. What great albums these were ! A fine and recommended release for those who like the 70’s sound of original pop-folk singer-songwriting…………..

In 1969 Keith Christmas recorded his first album ‘Stimulus’ at Sound Control in Chelsea, London when he was signed up by Sandy Roberton. Mighty Baby were given the task of backing the tracks and partly because of this it has become a collector’s item.
Stimulus was originally released in 1969 on the RCA label and is a true lost treasure of the 60s. Here we see Keith backed by members of Mighty Baby as well as Matthews Southern Comfort’s pedal-steel guitarist Gordon Huntley who, all together, have created a beautifully styled gem of the late 1960’s…….. 

Musicians
*Keith Christmas - Guitar, Vocal
*Martin Stone - Electric Guitar
*Mike Evans - Bass
*Roger Powell - Drums
*Ian Whiteman - Piano
*Gordon Huntley - Steel Guitar

Tracklist
A1 Travelling Down
A2 Bedsit Two-Step
A3 Roundabout
A4 Ice Man
B1 I Know You Can’t Lose
B2 Metropolis
B3 Trial & Judgement 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..

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