CD REVIEW – Iain Matthews – The Rockburgh Years

Iain Matthews left Fairport Convention during the recording of the ‘Unhalfbricking’ album back in 1969. And most of us will have some kind of recollection of Matthews Southern Comfort, either name only, their hit single (Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock) and three seminal albums, the eponymous ‘Matthews Southern Comfort’ (1969), ‘Second Coming’ (1970) and ‘Later That Same Year’ (also 1970 – the title gives it away!).

A couple of early solo albums followed in 1971 (‘If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes’ and ‘Tigers Will Survive’) before Iain and Andy Roberts formed Plainsong and released the 1972 concept album, ‘In Search of Amelia Earhart’.

Vertigo, Elektra and Columbia took the solo artist Iain Matthews on at various times during the years 1972-1977 when he released albums that received some critical if not commercial acclaim. His 1974 albums, ‘Journeys From Gospel Oak’ and ‘Some Days You Eat The Bear… Some Days The Bear Eats You’ are considered quality British Americana.

But by 1978 Iain had restless feet. In his own words: “I was sitting in Seattle, wondering what to do next. The phone rang, and it was Sandy [Roberton – founder of Rockburgh Records] offering me a lifeline. I’d loved working with him in Plainsong, where he’d produced and managed us, and I knew that if he formed a label he would do a terrific job, without compromising my vision of who I was.”

And that is where this compilation begins. Over the next six years, he released four albums on the Rockburgh label which were all produced by Roberton. And together with these, Cherry Red Records have found previously unreleased material from Iain’s private archive and from fan collections a 1978 BBC In Concert sequence of six live songs, another show at The Beursschouwburg in Brussels in January 1979 showcasing the ‘Stealin’ Home’ album but also covering Jackson Browne’s ‘These Days’ and Van Morrison’s classic ‘Brown Eyed Girl’. ‘Stealin’ Home’ gets more live airing on Disc 6 with shows from the USA in 1978 and 1979. And a Milan concert in May 1984 showcase the ‘Spot of Interference’ and ‘Shook’ albums, together with a version of Neil Young’s ‘Mr. Soul’. Iain’s period as a Rockburgh artist included a number 13 song in the US charts, ‘Shake It’ .

The album ‘Stealing Home’ (1978) is also worthy of note for his band including Bryn Haworth on guitars and mandolin, Rick Kemp on bass, Pete Wingfield on keyboards (anyone remember “Eighteen with a Bullet”?) and Phil Palmer on guitar with a couple of guest appearances by Mel Collins. Although recorded in Oxfordshire, Mathews’ previous time in the USA clearly rubbed off, as it sounds polished, mellow, nicely crafted and immensely melodic. If I tell you that ‘King of the Night’ was turned down by the Eagles (dunno why, you can hear them playing this one!), that’ll give you an indication of the direction.

‘Siamese Friends’ (1979) features a number of co-writing contributions from Iain’s new band-member colleagues Mark Griffiths and Bob Metzger, and the overall band were taken from Matthews’ touring bands of that time. It follows on nicely from the previous album, but seems to have suffered from circumstances that prevented good promotion. But it’s still quality, from the Matthews/Griffiths/Metzger opener ‘You Don’t See Me’, the cover of John Martyn’s ‘Anna’, an uptempo shuffle song from Jona Lewie no less ‘The Baby She’s On The Street’ and a pre-Fleetwood Mac Stevie Nicks number ‘Crying In The Night’ that has a kind of Squeeze quality, it’s an excellent album that, once again, stands up well, even now.

For those of us who recall the ’80’s, it had its good points but the attempts to bring in instrumentation, production qualities and needless to say fashions, have all faded and aged badly. That said, there is undoubted quality material on ‘Spot of Interference’ . Matthews does well with the pop-rock Left Banke song ‘She May Call You Up Tonight’, the energetic box set title track ‘I Can’t Fade Away’, and the mid-atlantic pop-punk of ‘I Survived the ’70’s’ is on a par with many others of that era which made the charts.

Rockburgh Records was wound up in 1981, meaning that ‘Shook’, the fourth and final album of Iain’s Rockburgh phase, was licensed to Line Records and Polydor for European and American release when it appeared in 1984. It is another library of quality songs, with the likes of ‘Indiscreet’, albeit those synth drums and riff definitely of its era. ‘Views (The Dance Goes On)’ a bit of Cars poppiness about it. And when you hear the rhythm of ‘Wish’ you are definitely transported back to the eighties, as it, together with ‘Driver’ originated from his time with the power-pop outfit Hi-Fi. 

The final two CD’s of the set sound remarkably good (many thanks Cherry Red!) and are an excellent reminder of how quality musicians honed their craft on the road back in the day. It is great to hear it with Iain talking in-between, enjoying the music, and he’s clearly an excellent live performer.

‘I Can’t Fade Away: The Rockburgh Years, 1978-1984’ is an excellent record of a very productive era for Iain Matthews that probably deserved a better outcome in terms of raising his profile, giving him more success. But there again, his subsequent road might have been very different, had the outcome changed.

A word about Cherry Red Records. They really do put their heart and soul into repackaging, an effort that mirrors the effort of the muscian. Each disc comes in its own mini replica cover with the original album artwork; the accompanying booklet, with informative notes by Ron Yaxley (set compiler) and a tasteful clamshell box.

But here’s the thing. This set is likely only to appeal to completists, but it does deserve a wider audience. I’m impressed with it though and hope it does gain him a wider audience!

Tracklisting:

Disc One: Stealin’ Home

  1. Gimme An Inch Girl
  2. Don’t Hang Up Your Dancing Shoes
  3. King Of The Night
  4. Man In The Station
  5. Let There Be Blues
  6. Carefully Taught
  7. Stealin’ Home
  8. Shake It
  9. Yank & Mary / Smile
  10. Slip Away
  11. Sail My Soul
    Bonus Tracks
  12. Sing Senorita (Outtake)
  13. Let There Be Blues (Demo)
  14. Let Me Live Until I See You Again (Demo)
    BBC In Concert
  15. Shake It (Live) *
  16. Just One Look (Live) *
  17. Stealin’ Home (Live) *
  18. Man In The Station (Live) *
  19. King Of The Night (Live) *
  20. Payday (Live) *

Disc Two: Siamese Friends

  1. You Don’t See Me
  2. Survival
  3. Heatwave
  4. Home Somewhere
  5. Crying In The Night
  6. The Baby She’s On The Street
  7. Hearts On The Line
  8. Anna
  9. Lies
  10. Runaway
    Bonus Tracks
  11. You Don’t See Me (Live) *
  12. Heatwave (Live) *
  13. Lies (Live) *
  14. No Reply (Live) *
  15. Hearts On The Line (Live) *
  • Previously Unreleased

Disc Three: Spot Of Interference

  1. I Survived The 70’s
  2. She May Call You Up Tonight
  3. I Can’t Fade Away
  4. The Hurt
  5. Driftwood From Disaster
  6. Why Am I?
  7. No Time At All (See How They Run)
  8. For The Lonely Hunter
  9. See Me
  10. Civilisation
  11. What Do I Do? Bonus Tracks
  12. The Hurt Stayed (Demo) *
  13. In No Time At All (Demo) *
  14. For The Lonely Hunter (Live) *
  15. I Can’t Fade Away (Live) *
  16. She May Call You Up Tonight (Live) *
  17. The Hurt (Live) *
  18. Driftwood From Disaster (Live) *
  19. No Time At All (See How They Run) (Live) *
  20. Civilisation (Live) *
  21. Payday (Live)

Disc Four: Shook

  1. Shorting Out
  2. Views (Dance Goes On)
  3. Wild Places
  4. Indiscreet
  5. Wish
  6. Driver
  7. Tomorrow Falls On Saturday
  8. Fear Strikes Out
  9. Over Under Sideways Down
  10. Room Service
    Bonus Tracks
  11. Why Don’t We Work On All This (Demo) *
  12. Work On All This
  13. Better Not Stay (Demo)
  14. What Do You Wish You Could Be (Demo)
  15. Perfect Timing (Demo)
  16. Voices (Demo)
  17. Action (Demo)
  18. Change (Demo)
  19. On The Beach

Disc Five: On The Road And In The Studio 1979 –
Live In Brussels

  1. Stealin’ Home (Live) *
  2. Just One Look (Live) *
  3. Lonely Hunter (Live) *
  4. These Days (Live) *
  5. Man In The Station (Live) *
  6. Don’t Hang Up Your Dancing Shoes (Live) *
  7. Gimme An Inch Girl (Live) *
  8. Call The Tune (Live) *
  9. Shake It (Live) *
  10. Payday (Live) *
  11. Slip Away (Live) *
  12. Brown Eyed Girl (Live) *
    1982 – Hi-Fi Demos
  13. Sights In Manhattan (Demo) *
  14. Views (Dance Goes On) (Demo) *
  15. Indiscreet (Demo) *
  16. Out Of My Range (Demo) *

Disc Six: The Rockburgh Years Live Stealin’
Home Live 1978-1979

  1. Shake It (Live) *
  2. Stealin Home (Live) *
  3. Gimme An Inch Girl (Live) *
  4. King Of The Night (Live) *
  5. Man In The Station (Live) *
  6. Don’t Hang Up Your Dancing Shoes (Live) *
  7. Call The Tune (Live) *
  8. Payday (Live) *
    Live In Milan 1984
  9. I Can’t Fade Away (Live) *
  10. Indiscreet (Live) *
  11. Shorting Out (Live) *
  12. Work On All This (Live) *
  13. Wild Places (Live) *
  14. Civilisation (Live) *
  15. Mr Soul (Live) *
  • Previously Unreleased

Internet

http://iainmatthews.nl/

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