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Eddie Baird – Exposed (2009) review

June 28, 2016

Eddie Baird – Exposed (2009) review

          
Eddie Baird – Exposed
(Talking Elephant TECD 146; 26.56)
Eddie Baird is most well-known
for his first (and only) recording band, Amazing Blondel, although he was also
a session musician (e.g. on Paul Kossoff’s solo album) and auditioned for Dire
Straits to replace Knopfler in the late ’70s. By then Amazing Blondel, one of
the foremost exponents of what’s now called prog-folk (when superlatives like
Amazing and Incredible String Band were legitimate not hype), were fragmented
by the leaving of their principal song-writer after three Island
albums. On many tours that included St.
Paul’s Cathedral (on a bill with Cliff Richard!), they
forged their own distinctive style that was as outside folk as it was any
mainstream.
    Forty instruments for medieval-style ballads
mixed with bawdy humour. Tuning the final lute, the first would be out of tune
in the hot concert hall, until they had built 7-string guitars tuned to them with
internal amplification, to play alongside 12 and 6 strings, crumhorn, cittern,
theorbo, flutes, ocarina (also used by Dr. Strangely Strange), glockenspiel,
and assorted keyboards and percussion. Group harmonies also required specific
tunings: these guys knew their stuff! Shades of Jethro Tull’s and Forest’s
whimsy from periods of yore, ISB’s inventiveness, and Dr. Strangely Strange’s
uniqueness, with more breadth than Gryphon or Third Ear Band who, sadly, rarely
went into the realm of comparable beauty.
    An early influence for Baird were The
Shadows and Everly Brothers while in a school band that gigged for £2.10
shillings shared five ways (Spangles and Squash presumably rather than Whisky
Macs). Typical school-leaving manual jobs then photographer on the Scunthorpe
Evening Telegraph, the locale of Blondel, didn’t interrupt gigging as far
afield as Brigg, which attracted the attention of two professional musicians:
John Gladwin and Terry Wincott. They had recorded an album with Methuselah,
heavy prog rockers whose acoustic interlude live prompted their own band in
’69. Baird and a friend were invited to their house then a bit later he was invited
to join them, after the debut Amazing Blondel album had been finished for Bell
Records in late 1969. Four of the most beautiful band albums of the whole era appeared
via Island Records from 1970-73: Evensong,
Fantasia Lindum, England,
and Blondel.
    John Gladwin left immediately after a
three-week US tour in 1973, gigs with Genesis in Germany, and when a tour with
Traffic was in the pipeline. Years of non-stop touring and recording (which the
band loved most) had taken its toll. Baird had contributed to the song-writing
but most were written by Gladwin. Island then rang for a new album, with a
deadline of six weeks. Baird wrote all Blondel
in five weeks, known as the purple album (they hadn’t dropped the full name, as
the LP’s back cover proves), which includes Simon Kirke and Paul Rodgers both
of Free, plus Steve Winwood on bass and top session singers (Jim Capaldi had
guested on an earlier album continuing the Island link). Most of the songs would
grace later concerts. Three studio albums as a duo for DJM followed in 1974-76
(Mulgrave Street, Inspiration, Bad Dreams), sadly declining a little after the
first that had some strong material. The label issued Live in Japan in ’77, actually recorded live in Europe
though easier for the marketeers during glam then punk and disco.
    Eddie Baird did session work and moved to Cornwall, when the
well-known producer Tony Cox invited him to his Sawmills studio for a solo
album. It was earmarked for Island but their
A&R man left and the platter was shelved. It’s recently been available as a
download, with It Don’t Feel Right on some reissues of Inspiration. Then Baird released the more jazz-influenced Hard Graft for DJM in ’76, a hard to
find vinyl and even rarer CD of 1998. In 1993 Demon Records, under their Edsel
imprint, started to release the original Island
albums, more recently taken up as great twofers via BGO. A limited edition of
Baird’s Also…was released around
2000. Due to Talking Elephant Records, originally under their HTD moniker, the
band reformed in 1997and issued Restoration
to which Baird contributed Aubaird and Edagio. Tours of England, Italy and
Scandinavia followed, as did The Amazing
Elsie Emerald
(Talking Elephant, 2010), a modern-style collection by Baird
which features John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, also once associated with Free and
latterly with The Who. They recorded some material together as Bundrick/Baird
in 2010 which is a download issue.
    The label also issued live material by
Amazing Blondel as a trio the following year, living up to an early review in
the ’70s describing their ‘frequently stunning results’. On Youtube is an
evocative Runaway (2008), from Abbey
Cottage
(2003) with Terry Wincott on 7-string who also put archive
photographs there after the album was recorded in his studio. Blondel, co-produced by them, signalled
wider styles and this is still adhered to today. The band now need someone to
update their website, inactive since the turn of the century, to reflect this
ever-interesting career. Since a CD issue in 2004 (Space to Hula), Baird has been working live and in the studio with
Darryl Ebbatson alongside film projects. Ebbatson produced, engineered and
sleeve-designed Exposed, recorded
partly at SmallCog Studios during two years.
    Exposed
(2009) is a good example of Baird’s solo material, stripped back from the
bigger arrangements the group was always noted for as well as his
multi-instrumental work. Nine songs (plus Amazing Blondel live in 2004: Sailing/Young
Man’s Fancy from the purple album) as usual catch attention for their guitar
dexterity and atmosphere. These are his key features, the songs evoke a place as
a complete album experience that also overlaps in listeners’ imagination. Baird
has that rare ability to create what other musicians need the big arrangement
for. Never self-indulgent with echoes for most people, as the titles suggest
(as on …Emerald: Fools Gold, Maybe,
Don’t Turn Your Back, High Time, Here At Last etc).
    Four tracks are live: Lovebite opens in
almost calypso style, as does …Elsie
Emerald
about a cool cocktail, but here ‘in a special kind of pain’. Friend Of Mine on what friendship means
after a gap while waiting to see each other again, the passage of time too on Memory
Lane from Abbey Cottage, while the
short Tramp is about being free and neither tied nor cut out to follow
another’s dream. Whilst current this could have appeared on any of Amazing
Blondel’s albums depending on instrumentation. Shame refers to regret about
behaviour (crying shame surfaces on Slip Away too about who to rely on), while
Almost Gone is about what is done and needed in a relationship. Compromised ups
the pace, but still the thoughtfulness is continued. A standout is Funny Old
Life, with a familiar hook via capo on the second fret that I can’t quite pin
down from where. Its musing on aging shows how Baird’s songs surface from deep
reflections.
    There are nice lyrical touches, a
conciseness about experience that lingers in the head afterwards, like a book
carefully written rather than an isolated page. The modest Baird notes ‘I’ve
had a remarkable song-writing career for over 35 years; to manage to avoid any
commercial success in all that time is, I think you’ll agree, quite remarkable’.
Some are just destined for deeper things. Varied guitar styles, rather like
John Martyn or Bridget St. John, highlight a consummate master musician sharing
life’s rich tapestry.
Review by Brian R. Banks/2016
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2016
One Comment
  1. Unknown

    Fantastic musician to under rated buy his solo albums if you can find them you'll never look back

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