CD Review (Boxset) – Plainsong – Following Amelia: The 1972 Recordings & More

Plainsong formed in the early part of 1972, with key members Iain Matthews (Iain actually changed the spelling of his name from Ian in 1989), who had been a member of Fairport Convention, singing on that band’s first two albums, and Matthews Southern Comfort, along with Andy Roberts, who was known for work with Everyone and a poetry-pop band called The Liverpool Scene. The band’s line-up consisted of Iain, Andy, a piano and bass player called Dave Richards, and an American guitarist and bass player Bob Ronga. The band released just one album during their short existence, In Search Of Amelia Earhart. Plainsong split up in December 1972, barely a year after forming. In later years, after 1990, Iain and Robert got together again under the name Plainsong, working either as a duo or with other musicians. They played live dates and created some more albums.

Understanding how the band’s career progressed is a strong element in how this box set works. The four original members met at Iain’s north London flat in December 1971 after recording and playing together in various combinations over the previous few months. They spent the afternoon working out an arrangement of Along Comes Mary, a Tandyn Almer song that had been a USA hit in 1966 for The Association, and the men agreed that if it worked, they would go ahead and become a band. They worked throughout 1972, touring the UK and Europe, recording a number of sessions for the BBC plus creating two albums, the second of which, Now We Are 3, remained unreleased until 2005. Plainsong broke up at the end of 1972 as Iain took off for California to begin a new career as a solo artist. That was not to be the end though. Bringing in the former Matthews Southern Comfort guitarist Mark Griffiths and singer-songwriter Julian Dawson, the band reformed in 1992, returning to the live stage again in Mayrhofen, Austria in August 1993 – their first concert in twenty-one years. For a while in the late 1990s, Julian was replaced in the band by Clive Gregson before returning again in 2003. Following Amelia: The 1972 Recordings & More is a six CD box set, released fifty years after their 1972 debut In Search Of Amelia Earhart, which has been digitally remastered from the original tapes and also includes Now We Are 3, alongside a great many previously unissued tracks from Iain and Andy’s own archives and worldwide from fans private collections. Plainsong’s 1972 BBC In Concert special for Bob Harris gets its first official airing on CD, as does a rare Sounds On Sunday radio broadcast, their very last recording together before the initial break-up.

One hundred and eighteen tracks comprise the release, half of which have not been available before, although some of them are live versions or session material. Some of the BBC recordings are quite rare now, and the release includes the full original 1972 Folk Fairport concert from Amsterdam, and excerpts from the very first concert by the reformed Plainsong in Mayrhofen, Austria in 1993. Also presented are 2020 remakes of Amelia songs originally recorded to accompany Ian Clayton’s book In Search Of Plainsong, a biography of the band.

The music itself lies very definitively in the country rock – folk rock area, with the emphasis pretty much on the Americana side of things rather than the British or European folk tradition, not that the latter are entirely absent. The Americana sounds a little dated and cliched now in parts, but at the time few, if any, other British acts were taking this route. There is strong song-writing, the narrative nature of the lyrics being a feature picked up from country and western music. The Amelia Earhart songs come across a little stronger than some of the later pieces which seem quite much of a muchness. They kind of get themselves into a style and seem not to quite know where to go with it.

This is a fascinating release though, showing a nook of rock music that rarely is aired. It has a freshness and vitality that lifts it above the cliches of style. All the personnel involved are excellent musicians and that shows through from the outset. The audio quality of the tapes is quite high given that some of them come from non-professional sources. It is a substantial release too, and pretty comprehensive of the band’s creativity spread across the six compact discs. There is a booklet including interviews, potted history and a number of photographs. The box set is dedicated to Plainsong’s manager and producer Sandy Roberton who sadly passed away in July 2022 after a short illness.

Disc One: In Search Of Amelia Earhart

Original Album

1 For The Second Time

2 Yo Yo Man

3 Louise

4 Call The Tune

5 Diesel On My Tail

6 Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight

7 I’ll Fly Away

8 True Story Of Amelia Earhart

9 Even The Guiding Light

10 Side Roads

11 Raider

Bonus Tracks

12 Along Comes Mary

13 Even The Guiding Light (Alternative Vocal)

In Concert (Bbc2 Tv, 1973)

14 Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight

15 Any Day Woman

16 Call The Tune

17 The Poor Ditching Boy

18 Even The Guiding Light

19 Raider

20 Miss The Mississippi And You

Disc Two: Now We Are 3 Original Album

1 Old Man At The Mill

2 Urban Cowboy

3 The Fault

4 Swinging Doors

5 Keep On Sailing

6 Miss The Mississippi And You

7 Home

8 First Girl I Loved

9 Save Your Sorrows

10 Nobody Eats At Linebaugh’s Anymore

11 The Goodnight Loving Trail

12 All Around My Grandmother’s Floor

Bonus Tracks

13 That’s All It Could Amount To

14 Bold Marauder

The Dance Goes On

15 Keep On Sailing *

16 Urban Cowboy *

17 Nobody Eats At Linebaugh’s Anymore *

18 All Around My Grandmother’s Floor *

19 The Goodnight Loving Trail *

20 Bold Marauder *

Disc Three: BBC Sessions

(John Peel/ Sounds On Sunday)

Peel Sessions #1 (Radio 1,1972)

1 Tigers Will Survive

2 Seeds And Stems (Again)

3 For A Spanish Guitar

4 Any Day Woman

Peel Sessions #2 (Radio 1, 1972)

5 Truck Driving Man

6 Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight

7 Yo Yo Man

8 I’ll Fly Away

9 True Story Of Amelia Earhart

Sounds On Sunday (Radio 1, 1972)

10 Seeds And Stems (Again) *

11 Any Day Woman *

12 Take You To The Movies *

13 Blue Blue Day *

14 Miss The Mississippi And You *

15 I Work For Jesus In The Personnel

Department *

16 I Don’t Want To Talk About It *

17 Save Your Sorrows *

Disc Four: BBC Sessions (Bob Harris)

Sounds Of The 70s (Radio 1, 1972)

1 That’s All It Could Amount To

2 Time Between

3 Raider

4 Call The Tune 5 I’ll Fly Away

6 I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry

7 Miss The Mississippi And You

8 Louise

9 Wreck Of The Old 97

10 Carolina Moon

11 Old Kent Road

The Old Grey Whistle Test (Bbc2 Tv, 1972)

12 Even The Guiding Light *

13 Bold Marauder *

In Concert (Radio 1, 1972)

14 Nobody Eats At Linebaugh’s Anymore *

15 Home *

16 Miss The Mississippi And You *

17 Old Man At The Mill *

18 Charlie *

19 The First Girl I Loved *

20 Bold Marauder *

21 The Goodnight Loving Trail *

The Old Grey Whistle Test 40 (Radio 2, 2011)

22 True Story Of Amelia Earhart *

23 Yo Yo Man *

Disc Five: Together Again Mayrhofen 1993

1 And Me *

2 Louise *

3 Even The Guiding Light *

4 Call The Tune *

5 Raider *

6 Charlie *

7 True Story Of Amelia Earhart *

8 Sweet Amelia *

9 Yo Yo Man *

10 The Goodnight Loving Trail *

Dutch Radio 1997

11 True Story Of Amelia Earhart *

12 Sweet Amelia *

13 Yo Yo Man *

14 Souling Song *

15 Charlie *

Norderstedt 2012

16 Old Man At The Mill *

17 Amelia Earharts’ Last Flight *

18 True Story Of Amelia Earhart *

19 Sweet Amelia *

Disc Six: For The Second Time Set List Songs

1 Radio Lady

2 Me And Mr. Hohner

3 Poison Apple Lady

The Folk Fairport Concert (Full Original Version)

4 Mama Tried *

5 Bold Marauder *

6 Louise *

7 Lowlands Away *

8 The Poor Ditching Boy *

9 Souling Song *

10 Tulips From Amsterdam *

11 Nivram *

12 House Un-American Blues Activity Dream *

13 Raider *

For The Second Time (2020 Amelia Remake

Recordings)

14 For The Second Time *

15 Side Roads *

16 Diesel On My Tail *

17 Even The Guiding Light *

18. Louise *

19 Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight*

Release date: 1st October, 2022

Label: Cherry Red Records

Format: CD box set

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