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January 20, 2021 / rockroots

Turner & Kirwan of Wexford – Bootleg

Got to say this again – by all means share my vinyl rips on other platforms, but please be sound and don’t take all of the credit for yourselves. A lot of time and effort goes into digitising these rare records, not to mention spending the GDP of a small nation in collecting them over the years. A site link or even a namecheck would be appreciated.

Anyway, as detailed elsewhere on the site, Pierce Turner and Larry Kirwan – from Wexford – first played together as Aftermath, releasing a single in early 1971. ‘We Have No More Babies Left’ was written in response to the Bhola disaster, in which the deadliest cyclone in recorded history killed half a million people in present-day Bangladesh. The plaintive church-organ-driven song demands that God justify allowing such cruelty to happen. It also mentions an astoundingly long-lived Irish institution: “We’ll bring you a film of this catastrophe while you watch the Late Late Show in bed.” Melancholy ‘B’ side ‘Neck And Neck’ is a little ramshackle compared to later re-recordings. Moving to New York and emphasising their Irish credentials as Turner & Kirwan of Wexford, the duo’s next single (on the Thimble label in 1973) featured ‘Neck And Neck’ on the ‘A’ side, this time with the lush, McCartney-esque production it deserved. The altogether too brief flipside ‘When Starlings Fly’ is simple but gently charming.

However, the main focus of this post is the obscure ‘bootleg’ which forms the missing link between those singles and the excellent 1977 official debut album. The Irish Rock Discography reports that Bootleg was a limited-run private pressing which was sold at gigs and was probably also sent as a demo to record labels in search of a deal. The production code ‘TKLPS (‘Turner & Kirwan LPs’?) 1984‘ is a red herring, given it was apparently released in 1974. Despite being limited in numbers, there seem to be variations in the packaging – white labels vs green labels, some with publicity photos and typed biography inserts and others (such as this one, unfortunately) without. The sleeve was plain white with home-made paper labels glued on. Presumably, the contents were more consistent. What’s on offer? Well, the second version of ‘Neck and Neck’ (as far as I can tell) gets another outing. You also get alternative/demo takes of Absolutely… tracks ‘Warts and All’ and ‘Absolutely And Completely’, and an apparently live rendition of ‘Traveling People’ which is a revelation as to how their more complex material might have translated to the stage. There’s a jaunty but inessential run through an old Manfred Mann (well, Bob Dylan) classic, and the otherwise unreleased soft rock ballads ‘Float on the River’ and ‘Dusty Mansions’. ‘Menapia Man’ is the highlight though – a fragile and haunting reflection on days gone by. If you’re looking for more of the band’s 1977 album here you may be disappointed, but this was never really intended to be a standalone album. Yet for completists, this illustrates another step in the evolution of these two important Irish musicians, from orchestral pop to prog rock and on towards the new wave.

The Singles (192kbps):

  • Aftermath – We Have No More Babies Left
  • Aftermath – Neck And Neck (In The Race Of Life)
  • Neck And Neck
  • When Starlings Fly

Bootleg (192 kbps):

  1. Warts And All
  2. Absolutely And Completely
  3. Neck And Neck
  4. Float On The River
  5. If You Gotta Go (Go Now)
  6. Traveling People (live)
  7. Dusty Mansions
  8. Menapia Man (live)

See Also:

Irish Rock Discography: Turner & Kirwan of Wexford

January 13, 2021 / rockroots

San Bernadino

In one of the more unlikely musical transformations, photographic evidence shows San Bernadino‘s evolution through the 1970s from dickie-bow-clad showband to country-and-western combo. Along the way they shed members until they were just a four-piece; singer Barry Donovan, guitarist Don Murphy, bassist Richard Lucy and drummer George Drummond. After two late ’70s singles on the Ruby label the group moved to the Release label and signaled another change in direction: new wave pub rockers.

Here’s two of their singles from this period (both from 1981, in fact), although I’m missing at least two more. ‘Caught in a Trap’ is new wavey rock and ‘B’ side ‘Court Room Justice’ is bluesy AOR. Follow-up single ‘I’m a Headbanger’ is probably the band’s best remembered song, a frantic-riffing paean to a heavy metal fan who is ‘into Motörhead and Rainbow’. It’s backed with an uncomplicated rip through the Chuck Berry standard ‘Route 66’, aside from which the other tracks here were written by Don Murphy. The distinctive picture sleeve looks like it could have been lifted from a Marvel comic, but surely not? So were they a heavy metal band? No – no more than The Freshmen were a punk band based on their punk pastiche single, and funnily enough The Freshmen’s Billy Brown produced these singles. But it seems they were a decent rock group with a finger somewhat on the pulse and the initiative to write their own material. They dropped off the radar after 1982.

San Bernadino (192kbps):

  • Caught in a Trap
  • Court Room Justice
  • I’m a Headbanger
  • Route 66

See Also:

Irish Rock Discography: San Bernadino

Irish Showband & Beat Group Archive: San Bernadino

January 6, 2021 / rockroots

The Fairways featuring Gary Street – Yoko Ono

It’s feast or famine here at the Rock Roots ranch. After two and a half years with only one post I’ve set myself the challenge of completing all of my unfinished posts for the site. And to make matters even more difficult I’m going to try to get them all out in 2021; St Patrick’s Day will be the 10th anniversary of the site, hard as that is to comprehend. Let’s see how I get on….

To start, there’s a very convoluted history to the band that recorded ‘Yoko Ono’. The Irish Showbands website can fill in all the minute details, but suffice to say here that they began as The Agents in County Offaly in 1965. Later they recruited singer Gary Street (real name Joe Conway) and guitarist Mike Bryan. As The Fairways, they released a series of hits and misses, all of them written by the Conway/Bryan team. This ‘A’ side is probably not the best example of their output, to be fair, but it shows off some nice nice brass instrumentation and production. A gentle pop-reggae number about trying to “get to Skaville”(!), the name of our eponymous heroine is awkwardly shoe-horned into the lyrics as someone who’ll be waiting at that particular destination. Why is she in Skaville? Is John Lennon with her? Or the rest of the Beatles? Who knows, but Gary is anxious not to keep her waiting too long. Just for context, this single was released in the same month (July 1969) as John & Yoko’s ‘Give Peace A Chance’, so it was a name on many people’s lips. ‘B’ side ‘I Don’t Care’ is a rather old-fashioned Music Hall number that you could imagine as an obscure Herman’s Hermits ‘B’ side. ’nuff said.

Deferring again to the Irish Showbands biography, the band split towards the end of the same year, and Mike Bryan was killed in a car crash just a few months after that, aged just 25. Gary Street joined another group who adopted the name ‘The New Fairways‘ in the early 1970s before gradually evolving into The Duskeys – an early vehicle for country singer Sandy Kelly. Gary, meanwhile, sang on the English circuit for many years but died in 2003. Here they are in happier times and with a distinctive and – for the Irish pop scene – quite arty picture sleeve.

The Fairways featuring Gary Street – Yoko Ono (192kbps):

  • Yoko Ono
  • I Don’t Care

See Also:

March 16, 2020 / rockroots

Mitch & The Editions – The Singles

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The First Edition‘ started out during 1968 with Mitch Mahon on vocals, Andy Dunne on keyboards, Leslie Mulvey on guitar, Paddy Frawley on saxophone, Eamonn Tierney on bass and Paul O’Hanlon on drums. The name evolved to ‘The Edition‘ and ‘Mitch & the Editions‘, though when they released their first single on the Pye label in late 1969 it was credited to ‘Mitch Mahon & the Editions‘. The ‘A’-side was an upbeat slice of soul-pop, while the ‘B’-side was more in the crooner ballad vein. Though vocalist Mitch recieved star billing, it was organist Andy Dunne who wrote all of the band’s original output. At the end of 1969 the multi-artist compilation LP Paddy Is Dead And The Kids Know It featured their already-released ‘B’-side along with a decent cover of the psych-pop era Status Quo song Make Me Stay A Bit Longer.

From this promising start, the group quickly lost momentum as a planned second single was put on ice and the decision was made to target the showband market. With new bass player Alan Murray, they eventually released three more singles on the Polydor label during 1971-1972. The first of these was a fairly straight-forward pop offering. Hey Diana was a stronger effort with a stomping swagger. God’s Children had a cod-reggae flavour with some sophisticated production. The band never really made the chart breakthrough they probably deserved before they broke up sometime around 1972.

The Irish Rock Discography adds that a band-member named Ronnie Duff was electrocuted onstage in 1968, and that after the group’s demise a new line-up gigged for a short time with Andy Dunne joined by guitarist Eric Bell, singer John Farrell, drummer Peter Carr and others. Band leader and songwriter Andy Dunne died in 1986, and the handful of singles which demonstrated his not-inconsiderable talent were finally made accessible via YouTube in recent years.

 

Mitch & the Editions – The Singles (192 kbps)

01 – You Got What I Need

02 – I’ve Thrown Our Love Away

03 – Make Me Stay A Bit Longer

04 – I’m Goin’ Home

05 – Couldn’t Live Without You

06 – Hey Diana

07 – Lovin’s Really Livin’

08 – God’s Children

09 – What A Crazy Feelin’

 

See Also:

Irish Showbands: Mitch & the Editions

Irish Rock Discography: Mitch & the Editions

Mitch & the Editions YouTube channel (curated by Andy Dunne’s son)

Brand New Retro: Mitch & the Editions

 

July 30, 2018 / rockroots

Billy Brown – One More River To Cross

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The Freshmen have been mentioned in one of the earliest posts on this site, and front-man Billy Brown has also featured from the time his career crossed-over with that of Them multi-instrumentalist Ray Elliott. To recap, The Freshmen were one of the more successful Irish pop groups/showbands of the 1960s, their Beach Boys-influenced summery sound reportedly even overshadowing the Beach Boys themselves when they appeared on the same bill. In 1970 they stretched their creative muscles with a concept album about ‘Peace On Earth’ which, unfortunately, failed to find a mass audience.

Soon, Brown left the group and in October 1971 the singer / keyboardist / saxophonist was reported to be assembling a new band featuring Ray Elliott, Tiger Taylor (guitar, ex-Eire Apparent), Jimmy Greeley (drums, ex-Orange Machine) and Billy Boyd (bass, ex-The Gentry). Ultimately, super-group Brown & O’Brien was unveiled in November 1971, featuring Brown, Elliott and Taylor alongside Mike O’Brien (vocals, ex-The Real McCoy), Eddie Creighton (guitar, ex-The Chessmen), Gerry Anderson (bass, ex-The Chessmen, ex-The Real McCoy and future BBC presenter), Paddy Freeney (drums, ex-The Others) and Pat McCarthy (trombone, ex-Dreams).

The single ‘One More River To Cross’ followed soon afterwards in early 1972 from Hit Records. Intriguingly, the label credits ‘Billy Brown of Brown & O’Brien’, acknowledging both that this is a solo effort but that the new band still exists. This could simply be down to complications from the band-members’ previous publishing and management deals, though it’s also apparent that neither side of the single is a full rock group arrangement. The Neil Sedaka/Howard Greenfield ‘A’ side is a pop ballad featuring violin, piano and a vocal chorus, the Billy Brown original ‘B’ side ‘Yesterday Song’ is a simple piano ballad.

In March 1972, Brown said the band was planning an entire album tentatively titled ‘Questions’, with songs to be composed by Brown with various local lyric writers. Freeney was replaced by drummer Pat Nash (ex-Granny’s Intentions, ex-Woods Band) in July 1972 and the entire band emigrated to Canada to try their fortune. However, by 1973 both Brown and O’Brien had returned to their former bands back in Ireland and their super-group ground to a halt. Elliott and Nash both moved on to The Newcomers – another Irish band based in Canada. Billy Brown struggled through the 1970s with The Freshmen, never quite reliving their 1960s heyday, notwithstanding their surprise punk pastiche hit single ‘You’ve Never Heard Anything Like It’. After the final break-up of the band, he continued writing and producing behind the scenes until his untimely death in 1999.

Billy Brown – One More River To Cross (192kbps, but very scratchy):

  • One More River To Cross
  • Yesterday Song

 

June 5, 2018 / rockroots

From Lagan To Lee

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It’s 1975, and a company that manufactures plastic pipes is looking for a gimmick to promote its brand. The results really shouldn’t have turned out this well. Wavin Pipes was founded in the Netherlands in the 1950s with a revolutionary new idea for replacing corroded metal water pipes with ones made of toughened plastic. By the early 1970s the successful company has expanded and opened a plant in Ireland. Somehow the next logical step was to register Wavin as a record label and issue a series of LPs. The Irish Rock Discography has done a lot of research on the poorly-documented label and discovered that much of their releases were actually reissues of material from the catalogue of the Gael Linn label, possibly pressed as part of a special offer for customers. The gatefold cover features a beautiful illustration by “Young Dublin artist” Jim Fitzpatrick, already famed for his image of Che Guevara, his album covers for Thin Lizzy and his interpretations of Irish mythology. The liner notes tell us that this black-on-silver illustration represents ‘Ban na Naomha, or The Nymph of the Well’, but then go on to talk at considerable length about the advantages of “High and Low Density polyethylene pipes” and make a tenuous connection with the water theme of the cover and title of the album.

The music is representative of the classical traditional Irish music revival spearheaded by Gael Linn and by the late Seán Ó Riada, who appears twice alongside familiar names like Clannad, MacMurrough and The Emmet Spiceland (and happy to clarify that the Golden Dawn featured here are not connected to the Greek far-right political party!). The compilation title is referenced by the opening and closing songs about Irish rivers. All bar one of the tracks with lyrics are sung ‘as Gaeilge’, and of particular interest to rock fans is the inclusion of the obscure only known recording by Ceathrar – a forerunner of the Bothy Band. The album has become something of a collector’s item over the years, with the result that even a scratchy copy of the vinyl is hard to get!

From Lagan To Lee (192kpbs):

  1. Patricia Cahill – My Lagan Love
  2. Sean O’Riada – Tabhair Dom Do Lamh
  3. Ceathrar – Faoilean
  4. Albert Fry – Trathnona Beag Areir
  5. Caitriona Yeats – Carrickfergus
  6. MacMurrough – Cuan Bhaile Na Cuirte
  7. Clannad – An Bealach Seo Ta Romham
  8. Patricia Cahill – A Ballynure Ballad
  9. Emmet Spiceland – Baidin Fheidhlimi
  10. Albert Fry – Ur-Chnoc Chein Mhic Cainte
  11. Golden Dawn – Ar Bhruach Loch Lein
  12. Sean O’Riada – Rhapsody Of The River Lee

See Also:

April 28, 2018 / rockroots

Jonathan Kelly

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Sad news from the world of Jonathan Kelly, one of Ireland’s best and most under-appreciated musical exports; Jonathan has been suffering from “a very aggressive form of dementia” for some time and no longer recognises some of his closest friends. See/Hear my take on the music and complicated character of Jonathan Kelly Ledingham, written as a guest post on the Cedar Lounge Revolution back in 2014, here: Jonathan Kelly – Irish folk singer.

Jonathan’s friend Gerald – the man responsible for bringing Jonathan out of prolonged retirement for a series of live dates in the mid 2000’s – isn’t enjoying good health himself these days, and is seeking genuine offers of assistance and advice for the next steps in preserving Jonathan’s legacy and raising charitable funds. These might take the form of:

  • a Jonathan Kelly supporters convention
  • a tribute concert
  • a tribute album featuring re-interpretations of his songs
  • a Jonathan Kelly box set (featuring ‘best of’ / live recordings / singles / rarities)

You can read the full statement from the official Jonathan Kelly facebook page (and offer support) here.

 

 

 

 

March 1, 2018 / rockroots

Michael O’Brien/Chris King – Éire Nua

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Michael O’Brien was born in Waterford and raised in Tipperary before emigrating to the USA. Chris King was likewise an Irish immigrant from Tipperary, and the two struck up a partnership in the Irish folk music scene of New York, forming Trinity II in 1972. They enjoyed heavy sponsorship from Guinness and their repertoire featured many traditional Irish ballads. For this 1975 record the duo opted to record under their own names rather than under the band name. This could possibly have been something to do with their Guinness deal, as songs like Merry Ploughboy reference joining the IRA and might not have been deemed politically correct for an international brand in the highly-charged political atmosphere of the 1970s. To further the point, the LP is named (‘New Ireland’) after the document proposing a federal united Ireland which was the official policy of Provisional Sinn Fein between 1972 and 1982, and is accompanied by a simple but powerful cover image suggesting liberation. The songs are sparsely arranged and highlight O’Brien’s sonorous voice with its slight American lilt.

Of note, the recording sessions also featured Pierce Turner and Larry Kirwan as backing musicians, around the time this other Irish-American duo were trying to get their first proper album released. We get to hear Turner’s recognisable keyboard work on tracks like Rosín Dubh (Mise Eire) and their interpretation of W.B. Yeats’ The Quest Of Wandering Angus, and it acts as a sampler of where that duo’s musical evolution was at in 1975.

Michael O’Brien/Chris King – Éire Nua (192kbps):

  1. Men Behind The Wire
  2. Black Velvet Band
  3. Wild Colonial Boy
  4. Nancy Whiskey
  5. Merry Ploughboy
  6. Rosín Dubh (Mise Eire)
  7. The Fiddler Of Dooney/The Quest Of Wandering Angus
  8. Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye
  9. Greensleeves Through The Ages
  10. Come By The Hills

See also:

Irish Rock Discography: Turner & Kirwan of Wexford

January 16, 2018 / rockroots

James Young – Ulster Party Pieces

A second post courtesy of WorldbyStorm, admin of the Cedar Lounge Revoultion and supporter of this site.

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Released in 1969, just as Northern Ireland was slipping into the abyss, this record from well-established Ulster comedian James Young makes no attempt to shy away from the sectarian divide. It was a routine his large fan base had come to expect and appreciate though, IMHO, the unrelenting nudge nudge, wink wink, so no more jokes about community stereotypes becomes jarring rather quickly.

The back of the LP is at pains to explain that Young is an equal opportunities joker – his humour takes pot-shots at both militant Catholic Republicans and staunch Protestant Unionists – and that he encourages both communities to laugh at themselves. And anecdotally, it’s said that he retained a cross-community appeal even at the height of the conflict. It does, however, point to an over-riding obsession with religious differences among Northern Ireland society in 1969, and the listener would have to be intimately familiar with the insinuations and innuendos used throughout, like knowing what districts were occupied by which religion, which football team was aligned to which side of the divide, and which 1960s politicians championed which side. The unfortunate thing is that much of the basic premises would still apply to the institutionally-divided Northern Ireland of today, and the likes of the Hole in the Wall Gang are proof of the enduring fixation with the Protestant/Catholic stereotypes.

The most irritating moment for me was when I realised I was getting into a similar mindset and trying to pigeon-hole Young’s comedy as coming from one perspective or the other; which side was he more vitriolic about? So, OK, I’m deliberately going to avoid finding that out, because it shouldn’t be remotely relevant. What I do know about James Young is that he was gay, which in fact probably helped him view the divide from an outsider’s point of view, I know he died of a heart attack at a relatively young age in 1974, and I know there have been accusations of child-abuse made against him in more recent years. Again, none of this is particularly relevant to the content of the record.

Generally accompanied by a traditional-style accordion music, the songs joke about such implausibilities as a Catholic playing for Linfield, a Protestant going on a shopping trip to Dublin, the hilarious notion of a Non Sectarian Football Team and what absurdities would ensue, and an Ireland of the future (1987) where religious differences have come full circle. Most songs are credited to ‘Allen’, including the one serious song, Me Da, in which the narrator, over maudlin piano, reminisces about his deceased father marching in the 12th July Orange parade.

James Young – Ulster Party Pieces (192 kbps)

  1. Clyde Valley
  2. Gerry’s Walls
  3. Me Da
  4. Non Sectarian Football Team
  5. I’m The Only Catholic (On The Linfield Team)
  6. Changed Times
  7. We’re All Ecumenical Now
  8. I Protest
  9. Civil Rioteers
  10. Jimmie, The Belfast Folk Singer
  11. The Wrong Fut
  12. Big Aggie’s Man
January 15, 2018 / rockroots

The Fontanas – Songs Of The Irish Rebellion

The first of two posts facilitated by friend of the site WorldbyStorm, of the Cedar Lounge Revolution.

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Arguably the most interesting thing about The Fontanas is that they had included a young Rory Gallagher in their ranks in the mid-1960s. This record, however is about as far from blues rock as you can get. The Cork showband found a niche in 1967/1968 recording the sentimental ballads and pub tunes of Ireland’s past, both as The Fontanas and as The Irish Freedom Fighters, though, as the Irish Rock Discography notes, in doing so they set a template for the much more successful Wolfe Tones. The same website considers this album “poorly recorded and with clumsy arrangements”, and it’s hard to disagree, especially on painfully out-of-tune renditions of Upton Ambush and Johnson’s Motor Car. Kelly Of Killane has a decent pop arrangement, while the LP opens with a version of Dominic Behan’s The Patriot Game, a song which, as Behan himself noticed, bore more than a passing resemblance to Bob Dylan’s later With God On Our Side.

What’s probably worth noting is the timing of this album. In the brief window between the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising and the outbreak of serious violence in Northern Ireland, recording a collection of very old songs about the exploits of the IRA and Sinn Fein during the independence struggle was probably regarded as fairly innocent and innocuous, but in the context of the next few decades, plagued by sectarian conflict, such an LP would have been considered much more contentious and provocative by many. When fighting erupted, the band found their music unwelcome in most venues across Northern Ireland and Britain.

 

The Fontanas – Songs Of The Irish Rebellion (192 kbps)

  1. The Patriot Game
  2. The Rising Of The Moon
  3. The Three Flowers
  4. The Foggy Dew
  5. Upton Ambush
  6. The Men Of The West
  7. Kelly Of Killane
  8. Dan O’Hara
  9. The Minstrel Boy
  10. Johnson’s Motor Car
  11. Shall My Soul Pass Through Old Ireland