The Lilac Time: The Lilac Time (Original Swordfish Version)


I’ve posted this because of this post on one of my favourite music blogs. That post has the remixed, polished version of this album released by Fontana, whereas what we have here is the original release on Swordfish (2 blokes with a record shop in Brum). It’s less polished than the Fontana version, and in my view all the better for it.

The creative force behind The Lilac Time is Stephen Duffy, whose career is nothing if not improbable. He was a founder member of Duran Duran, but left before their major label deal and subsequent fame. He had a commercially fairly successful phase as Tintin, which I best remember for the song Kiss. I remember the buzz that created – friends who were really not much into music were persuaded to part with vast sums of money for the first and last time in their lives for this single which was initially only available on import. What the fuss was about escaped me. He also co-wrote and produced Robbie Williams’ most successful album, Intensive Care. However most of his recorded output has been with his own band The Lilac Time, which despite periods of inactivity is still around 26 years after the release of this album.

The album itself is mostly whimsical, folkish songs with more than a passing resemblance to Nick Drake. It’s a little bland for my taste, but saved by the strength of the songwriting. It clearly sold poorly in this format – apparently only 1000 Cds were pressed and before long Swordfish were more-or-less giving them away, which is how I came to acquire my copy. Maybe in 1987 the Duran Duran connection stopped Indie kids parting with their cash.

I can’t really recommend any further listening because this is the only Lilac Time I have, but according to their web site they have a new album out shortly. This album is currently available in its remixed Fontana version with an extra disc of radio sessions and the like.

Mighty Mighty: At The BBC


Vinyl Japan 2001. ASKCD 123 (Recorded 1986-7)


Back in the 80s I had a phase when I was into jangly indiepop.  There’s a lot to be said for simple music with a decent tune to put a smile on your face, and Mighty Mighty certainly delivered on that score during their short career.  Being a local (to me) band I saw them, maybe 20 or 30 times, so this album brings back good memories of those years.   It’s easy to assume that bands like Mighty Mighty didn’t play particularly well, but by the end they were actually a pretty slick outfit which this album shows.

While they were fairly successful for an indie band of the time, they became disillusioned by a lack of mainstream recognition and split in 1988, just after their only album Sharks was released.

More than 20 years after they split, they’re perhaps best remembered for contributing a track (Law) to the legendary NME C86 compilation cassette, a defining moment for UK indie music.  By the late 90s the Japanese had latched on to Mighty Mighty at a time when they were long forgotten at home which led to a flurry of re-issues from Vinyl Japan.  The band seemed to be more baffled by this than anyone.

Cherry Red have just released a 2 CD retrospective of everything they released in the UK, so I’ve had to rethink my original plan to post their album Sharks here.  Instead, we have the Vinyl Japan BBC Sessions album which is more or less impossible to find now. The performances and sound are less polished than the officially released versions, but it’s still classy indiepop.

The band have also issued their “lost” second album which I haven’t heard, but since it was recorded at a time when they were just getting better and better, I’m sure it’s great.

Felt: Box1


There’s been a resurgence of interest in Felt lately, partly because they were brilliant, but also because of the Lawrence biopic Lawrence Of Belgravia.  Lawrence, for the uninitiated was Felt’s brilliantly eccentric frontman, writer, and and svengali-like presence.  The film is well made, but because I never saw Felt live, or Lawrence in any other capacity for that matter, I found the whole experience hard to take.  It’s not just that Felt’s music is beautiful, although it is, it’s that Lawrence’s keen, even overdeveloped sense of aesthetics is stamped all over everything they did, so to see him in the film painfully emaciated, wearing a baseball cap he’s barely taken off for the last decade was difficult to take.  The man himself did a Q&A session afterwards, but his tragic presence and thick Brummy accent meant I could hardly bear to stay in the room, never mind ask him a question.

Cherry Red are doing a belated re-issue of Felt’s back catalogue; particularly welcome is the later Creation stuff which disappeared when Alan McGee closed the label down. I’m not into posting commercially available music at the best of times, much less when the musician in question is more-or-less destitute, so the 10 albums and 10 singles he delivered as promised in 10 years will remain on my hard drive, for my ears only. However Cherry Red haven’t been as thorough as they might have been with Felt – they’ve done the ten albums and a few compilations, but that misses a few bits and pieces which are well worth having. Felt justifies one of those lavish boxed sets people like me tend to buy, but no sign of that yet.

So, in the meantime, here’s a bit of a curio. In 1993 Cherry Red issued a boxed set of all Felt’s albums for the label, imaginatively titled Box. It came with a short bonus disc of non-album tracks. Box was deleted long ago and is now quite rare. As far as I can tell, none of the tracks have been re-issued, so here it is.

The tracks are:
1  Something Sends Me To Sleep (Single: Cherry26 – 3:07)
2  My Face Is On Fire (Single: Cherry45 – 3:05)
3  Sunlight Bathed The Golden Glow (Single Version – 3:13)
4  Sunlight Strings (B-2 of Single – 3:14)
5  Red Indians (Single Version – 1:50)

Further listening: well obviously you should buy everything Cherry Red have re-issued, but if you don’t want that much Felt, Ignite The Seven Cannons is a favourite, and I have a particular soft spot for Poem Of The River which is worth getting just for the wonderfully uplifting Riding On The Equator.  Felt also worked well as a singles band, so any of the compilations are worth a go, especially Stains On A Decade which is the only one covering all the labels they recorded for.

Micky Greaney: And Now It’s All That


Well this is an odd one to start with.  Firstly it’s not even a vinyl rip because my phono stage is making an annoying humming noise, so until it’s fixed, I’ll have to stick to CDs.  Secondly, this album has never been released, and it has no artwork or even track titles.  So why bother?

Micky is one of music’s great underachievers.  He’s been called Birmingham’s greatest ever songwriter.  In the 90s he had residencies at Ronnie Scott’s in Birmingham and London.  He recorded an album with John Leckie at Abbey Road.   Despite this he’s released nothing at all, at least not officially, and rarely performs.  Plagued by health problems, a lack of confidence, maybe alcoholism and a general lack of organisation, things never really got moving for Micky, and after the Leckie recording, he disappeared completely for many years.

Various figures on the local music scene have tried to take him under their wing and kick start some sort of comeback, believing that if only someone took care of everything so that all Micky had to do was turn up and sing, all would be well.  All attempts failed after a few low key gigs and Micky fell back into obscurity.

I’ve seen him live quite a few times.  Mostly just Micky and an acoustic guitar, as often as not in a tiny cafe in a garden centre, always with a small, but enthusiastic audience.  His material is mostly superb, and his delivery absolutely gut wrenching.  His intensity puts me in mind of Bonnie “Prince” Billy, although his style is completely different.  Given half a chance Micky goes for big jazz influenced arrangements, but really he’s at his best alone with an acoustic guitar.  All the extras tend to drown out much of what makes him worth listening to in the first place.

His debut album, “Little Symphonies For The Kids” was self released, and as far as I can tell was never available other than from Micky himself.  I bought my copy from Micky after a gig.  I may post that at some point in the future since it’s no longer available.

The Leckie album was recorded in 1996 but never saw the light of day for reasons that were never really clear, although it was at about that time that Micky’s health took a dive and he disappeared from the scene.

A couple of years ago he recorded a particularly intense acoustic gigs, promising to release it as a live album.  True to form though it never materialised.

He’s currently in the midst of his latest comeback, which is rather more organised than anything I’ve seen before.  He has a band, great new material, and is gigging, albeit very rarely. The band is great and it’s easy to see why Micky enjoys playing that way, but I much prefer him solo. He’s even shot a video of some of the new material, but still nothing has appeared officially and the gigs are as rare as ever.

At the start of this particular comeback, at a free gig in the bar of Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, something astonishing happened. Mickey was selling CDRs of the legendary John Leckie album. I’d long since given up hope of ever hearing it, but here it was, and in two versions no less: normal and extended. Both were just folded up in a sheet of A4 paper with no tracklisting or artwork. After that there were no more CDs for sale, at least not at any of the gigs I went to.

So here it is, the long lost Leckie album in its extended form. It’s overproduced of course and as a result a bit blanded out, but Mickey’s superb material and delivery are there. If anyone has a tracklisting for this, please get in touch.

At this point I’d like to direct you somewhere to buy Micky’s music, but since there’s none available, all you can do is watch out for gigs (rarely outside Birmingham though) and do a search on youtube