Another Road (2020)
Words scribbled on scraps of paper, stray pieces of cardboard, old envelopes, alongside shopping lists and recipes. Some are linked to snatches of melody, others already whole songs ... one of them written at the kitchen table during a half-hour coffee break.
Sometimes, these fragments of personal history are too emotionally charged to deal with immediately and are better left alone until we can look at them more objectively. My way is to throw them into the desk drawer to cool off until I am ready to form them into something more coherent.
Life is an ongoing process of sifting and sorting our scraps of experience and trying to make sense of them. A song is a reflection of this process, often involving a great deal of painful soul-searching to reveal the lessons we need to learn. This is why there is always another drawer ...
My grateful thanks go to Jessica and Christian for all their hard work and their unwavering support and guidance through some challenging times. I hope you for listening ...
(Liner Notes written in 2020)
Painting by Numbers (2013)
Recorded in a single take, with basic accompaniment and guide vocal, a newly written song often has a freshness that is lost when treated to a fully-arranged production in the studio. For this reason, I sometimes prefer to keep my original "bare bones" version, and choose to leave things as they are - flaws and all.
All but two of these songs are in their original demo form, mostly recorded at home on my pre-digital Portastudio. The master tapes have long since disappeared, these recordings taken from DAT copies and, in the case of "Incurable Romantic", rescued from a well-worn audio cassette. Any variation in sound quality is therefore inevitable and, like the hiss and crackle on vinyl, I believe it adds a certain dubious charm.
Some of the tracks are nearly naked -just me (mostly fully-clothed) and my guitar or piano with the occasional 4 or 8-bar gap for potential instrumentation. Others made it to the second level, ever so lightly dressed, and this is how they have remained. Over time, they have rather grown on me and I may never take them any further ...but who knows?
As always, my thanks to Jessica for all the prodding and hard work involved in creating and releasing this and my other albums. Thanks also to Chris for his technical support and endless patience.
(Liner Notes written in 2013)
Sand In Your Shoes: "After Rain" (1995)
This is partly an environmental song about the fact that water heals, and the relief of city streets being washed clean. I was so excited that this tune unwrapped itself that I just stuck the line "the earth smells sweeter after rain" on the end. Then I did another discipline thing , an A, B, A, B, rhyme sequence; I find they're quite difficult to sustain and retain some coherent meaning, because women do it better than men in the main - I'm always impressed by the way female writers are able to rhyme with such alacrity without losing the thread. It also has an unusual descending line against the chords, and Mary Hopkin duetted with me on that one.
(Liner Notes written in 1995)
Black & White: "Love Belongs Right Here" (1998)
In 1971 I joined Mary Hopkin as her guitarist, happily side-stepping my future as a language teacher. Throughout my career I've been privileged to play with exceptional artists, none better than my dear friend, Mary and the gifted Cathryn Craig, whom I met through Nashville producer Michael Snow.
Always having recorded as a session musician or as a Strawb, I found the hatching of a solo project very challenging, but with lashings of technical help and caffeine from Kenny and Susie Denton, Mary's guest appearance, my Dad's impressive studio debut and limitless support from Cathryn, I proudly present this collection of my songs, co-written with pals on both sides of the Atlantic.
(Liner Notes written in 1998)
Back to Bach: "Old Faces at Heaven's Gate" and "Prelude V [Heaven's Gate]" (1992)
Mary Hopkin's sublime "Heaven's Gate" is testament not only to the sensitivity and power of her voice but also to her insight and depth as a lyricist.
(Liner Notes written in 1992)
When Mary Hopkin was a little girl her great delight was singing along to a record of "Ave Maria" - played on her grandfather's wind-up gramophone! Those wonderfully poignant memories have stayed with her through the years and sparked the inspiration that produced "Spirit".
Mary's beautiful voice soars to new heights and the peacefulness and purity of the sound creates an album of great feeling and serenity.
(Liner Notes written in 1989)
These wonderful melodies evoke many happy childhood pictures of singing along with my grandfather's gramophone, standing at the piano while my mother played the great old songs, singing duets in chapel and being enchanted by the music of the great composers.
Most of this collection was in our school chair repertoire and so these were the melodies I sang around the house
No aspirations to classical accuracy here.... just me and my memories....
(Loner Notes written in 2011)
Home/In My Time (1982)
"Home" the earlier album, is mainly gently paced folky rock, orchestrated in places ......'In My Time' treads a similar path......but with a very obvious Country slant to many of the songs......
It is, however, the two bonus tracks which are the real gems of this release. Recorded in 1982 by the short-lived band Sundance, which featured Mike Hurst and Mary Hopkin (of 'Those Were The Days' fame) they are excellent Nicks era Fleetwood Mac style rockers and really showcase Hopkins' wonderful voice.
(Review published in Wondrous Stories, December 2001)
Bad Reputation: "Dear Lord" (1977)
"Dear Lord" features a 16-voice women's choir sung by my then wife Mary Hopkin. Mary and the kids (Morgan, 4, and Jessica, a few months old) were visiting me. Mary has the voice of an angel. Her cumulative voices here sound divinely unreal! Phil (Mr. Rock and Roll) couldn't believe Mary Hopkin (Ms. "Those Were The Days") was singing on a Lizzy track -- and it worked!!!!! Again, another spiritual track: "Dear Lord, give me dignity, restore my sanity/My vanity is killing me". (We needed to thank the dear Lord for returning our son Morgan to us after he ran off to play with a thousand other kids at Ontario Place playground one Sunday afternoon. It took my visiting parents, Mary and myself two hours to find him in the swarming crowd.)
Bad Reputation reached #4 on the British album charts.
(Review copied from Tony Visconti's Web Site in 2000)
Pestered by fans on the web, producer Tony Visconti has finally relented and made available his much whispered-about solo album from 1977. "Inventory," a title that suggests the broad range of styles he packs into it, really does exist, and here is it -- now with some pretty tasty bonus tracks.
Having worked with the best, including Bolan and Bowie, since the late 60's, Visconti returned to his prime passions for his privately produced solo record -- namely his wife (Mary Hopkin) and family, including imminent son, Delaney, his birthplace, Brooklyn, and his Buddhist teacher Chime Rinpochie. The album sounds not unlike the kind of thing Brian Wilson might have some up with -- had he not been busy building sandcastles at the time. Visconti is best when he's giving it a bit of attitude as on "Let Me Cast Your Chart" or "Dance Children Dance," though "The Cabaret is Over," his funky Tom Jones parody is fun.
Now, an album's worth of stuff could be a great find.
(Review published in Record Collector, December 1998)
Inventory was recorded in 1977, so listener beware! It was a collection of 13 songs (mostly mine) and styles that I felt fluent in, dating back to the '50s. It is probably one of the first "vanity" albums ever recorded, since no one signed me to make it and I paid for it myself.
I'm a producer with a strong and diverse musical background, and I felt compelled to show it off on my debut solo album. It didn't make a big impression when it was first released and I was subsequently hopeful that it would just fade away. In the '90s, with the advent of the Web, I have been contacted by many who wondered if the album even existed, and others who actually wanted a copy. So here it is, digitally remastered and sounding less embarrassing than I remembered.
Since this is a re-release I decided to include some bonus tracks to make it all worthwhile. I've selected some Inventory outtakes that are tracks 14 through 17. The rest are mostly demos that I've made in my home studios over the years.
(Liner Notes written in January 1998)
Moonshine - one of the most finely crafted albums of Bert Jansch - was recorded in May 1972 and released in February 1973. It was widely reviewed at the time. To Bert's mind it was "an album that never surfaced - I don't think anyone knows it exists". He could say that in 1975, and perhaps that very obscurity has added to the excitement, for the latter-day Jansch devotee, of actually finding and possessing an original copy and hearing its extraordinary music for the first time. This reissue of Moonshine presents perhaps the best opportunity yet for Bert's following at large to acquire and appreciate one of his greatest and most neglected works!
The album was produced by Bert's Pentangle colleague Danny Thompson and featured smoulderingly sparse musical arrangements by Tony Visconti - noted for his work with Marc Bolan and David Bowie. As producer, Danny Thompson's influence on the album's richly textured sound was considerable. Many of the contributors were also his contacts: Tony Visconti, who played bass, percussion and recorder as well as arranging three of the songs, had crossed Thompson's path on the recording session scene. Mary Hopkin duetted with Bert on one number, a beautiful and imaginative interpretation of Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face". She had chart success in her own right as a protégé of The Beatles, and although she never again recorded commercially with Bert, the pair did perform a number of live shows together towards the end of the seventies.
(Liner Notes written in December 2000)
Not till Tomorrow (1972)
I was pleased to be working with Tony Visconti again, as we had just recently finished his Mary Hopkin's album "Earth Song Ocean Song". I was ready for Tony's stripped down ideas for "Not till Tomorrow". Some tracks were done at "Air Studios London" and the rest were recorded and mixed at the old "Sound Techniques Studio" in Chelsea. All the tracks with drums were recorded live with Laurie Allen and me the only two musicians in the studio. Danny Thompson added his double bass parts later. That was the basic section and everything else was provided by Tony including sitar and Hammond organ. Mary Hopkin and Tony sang on "Zimmerman Blues". Tony sings the high part!
(Liner Notes written in 1972)
Live at The Royal Festival Hall 1972
Listening for the first time in so many years to those shy, childlike introductions, I remember that other life......
You might describe this as a 'farewell' concert, since it marked my determination to give up 'the music biz' into which I had been thrust barely three years before. One or two later projects only served to strengthen my resolve. This left me free to explore and experiment with different styles of music and to begin writing my own songs. In my attic there are recordings which have never seen the light of day but, with the kind encouragement of friends and relatives, they may yet be released from their dusty boxes.
This concert is a tribute to those truly talented musicians with whom I shared the stage, and to those whose beautiful songs I love to sing. Brian, Danny, Benny and Ralph remain my dearest friends. My thanks to them for their constant encouragement and nagging which form time to time succeeded in coaxing me out of my shell and back onto the stage.
This album is dedicated to Pat Richmond and others for their unwavering faith and patience.
(Liner Notes written in 2005)
Original Motion Picture Soundtracks "Where's Jack?" (1969) & "Kidnapped" (1972)
In addition to the proximity of time and content linking the two films, it should be noted that the title music of both productions was interpreted by one of the most popular English pop singers of the day. Mary Hopkin had just one of her greatest world-wide hits with the title "Those Were The Days" and both film productions attempted to boost the films' attractiveness with the star's popularity or, conversely, to lure the public into the cinemas with a hoped-for chart success (á la Bond). This attempt failed. What remains are three wonderful pop ballads ("Where's Jack?", "Last Moments" and "For All My Days") which even today have lost nothing of their freshness and beauty."
(Liner Notes written in 1998)
The early recordings (1968)
This new collection of the first recordings made by the great Welsh singer Mary Hopkin is a treasure indeed. She emerged during the late 60's as a Pontardawe schoolgirl with a crystal voice and natural talent. To the accompaniment of her own guitar, and with Welsh words written for her by one of her school-teachers, she breathed new life into familiar songs and stamped them with her own unique style. From appearances on BBC Wales television, she soon found herself in the studio recording these songs for the Pontardawe-based company Cambrian.
Her fame spread with ease, and her voice captured the hearts of no less than the Beatles, which led to recording sessions at the famous Abbey Road studios, and the world-wide hit "Those Were The Days". But it is on these early recordings that the true voice of Mary Hopkin can be heard in its natural glory, a voice unrivalled in its effortless beauty.
Dafydd Iwan, Recordiau Sain.
(Liner Notes written in 1996)