Ah, those early 90s summer Saturday afternoons, when it was all about Duffer clobber, sounds via Gilles and trying to hide from ‘normal’ life, whether it was in Soho, Portobello or down in Brighton. One day seemed to last for two (not sure why, but it all seems so much slower in my memories) as we lazed about, drinking, smoking and talking about ‘stuff’ that seemed so important, and then forgetting what you had said an hour later and so started all over again.
If one album evokes that time for me , it is this one. It seemed to perfectly capture the musical vibes we were latched onto, but with that all important contemporary twist. To be honest, you just knew you’d enjoy this album, from seeing what the band were wearing in the cover photo, taken incidentally by the legendary photographer (and trust me I don’t use that word lightly) Gered Mankowitz .
On display was a fine array and mixture of old and neo mod/hippy-chic schmutter complete with a fine example of face furniture sported by front man and singer Matt Deighton. The rest of the band, Bryn Barklam on Hammond, Chris White on drums and Neil Corcoran on bass, compliment that with a mixture of styles which nodded to the influences, you were about to hear on the record when released in 1993. Produced by Acid Jazz supremo Edward ‘Best record I ever made’ Piller, over 12 months or so. They also had a very decent list of featured guest artistes, with the likes of Snowboy, Simon Bartholomew of The Brand New Heavies, James Taylor of JTQ, trumpeter Gerard Presencer and Paul Weller and DC Lee, among them.
Word went quickly round my little piece of the world, that this album was something special and all these years later it is still spoken of in revered tones whenever that era comes up in conversation.
So, let me show you round my very own vinyl copy, complete with price sticker which reminds me I purchased from it HMV Oxford Street for the price of £8.49.
Side one – Track One
Setting the scene for what was about to hit your ears, is ‘Institution Man.’ A laid back, to the point of horizontal, lead vocal and a fierce clash of guitars and Hammond organ, gets one’s head nodding nicely . Deighton’s voice fits the mix very perfectly, as do the backing vocals from Meryl. Listening back to it today, it still takes me on a journey, that ends at a flashing sign ‘relax pal, easy now’ and I was most certainly taking that advice back then.
Next up, and perhaps the standout track for many, is ‘Jesse.’ At my now advanced age, I can now hear all sorts of influences in there, but I’d be lying (and a few out there, do that far better than me) if I claimed to have known of them back then. Once again, Matt’s vocals of and their interplay with the BV’s supplied by Meryl, Obe, Destry and DC Lee drive this along very nicely. This lovely old tune would have been heard all over the place at the time and still sounds as good today as it did then.
Funky from the kick-off, ‘Stardust Bubblegum’ chugs along nicely, with a sweet bass line from Neil Corcoran rumbling into the immortal line ‘Stardust Bubblegum, make my tummy come’ on repeat. I could hazard a guess as to the meaning, but as Art Gallery is a family company, I’ll leave that for the plain brown paper bag version of this blog.
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Choppy guitars lead to Bryn firing up his Hammond organ to power the next tune, ‘Mr Freedom,’ along at a fair pace . Backing vocals from Sherine and Mr Weller, the usual high-end percussion from Snowboy and brass stabs from the aforementioned Gerard with Dennis Rollins, and Michael Smith, all dovetail very nicely into this stomping old number . I’d like to think this is a musical tribute to the one and only, larger than life, Tommy Roberts. Tommy opened the clothing boutique ‘Mr Freedom’ at number 430 Kings Road in 1969, the very shop that Malcolm and Vivienne then took over, first with ‘Let It Rock’ and then ‘Sex’ from which the whole Sex Pistols movement emerged of course.
I love the band Free, and they always come to mind when I hear ‘Dragster and I hope the Mother Earth boys, if they ever read this, take that as the big compliment, it is intended as. This might, quite possibly, be part of the soundtrack I heard in my head as I minced about from Soho shop to bar to shop to club to SE5, back in that glorious period mentioned earlier.
A stand out track for me is ‘Find it.’ Written by Bryn, we find his Hammond up front and leading the charge. Positive lyrical content , sitting on a wonderful sound bed of all four members bouncing off each other with a guitar led wig out of the highest order at the end. A proper belter!
The sublime ‘People Tree’ is the next cab on the rank, with the simple message that we are all one human family, a lovely sentiment which is simply forgotten by far too many on far too many occasions. ‘Everybody’s someone in the people tree.’ Amen.
I chose ‘Apple Green’ as one of my Friday Red Wine Three (whaddya mean, never heard of it?) tracks the other week, inspired by listening to the album again in prep for this blog. The reaction to the song and the band in general, on my social media was heart-warming to see and read. Fair to say then that this album has become the same fondly remembered memory, for many others as it has me. The summery vibe conjured up as you close your eyes to drink it all in, is one I search for every year. Make the most of those days if you find them, they don’t come round too often.
A slight change of pace heralds ‘Time of the Future’ which contains a superb bass line from the songs co-author Neil Corcoran . The interplay between Neil and Matt on guitar really weaves some lovely lines.
The whole band combined to write ‘Saturation 70’ which meanders along nicely on the overall vibe that has been conjured on the previous tunes. And ‘Everybody s Got to Vote’ is a point worth reiterating if ever there was one.
Back to the funk groove for ‘Illusions,’ very much a comment on the corruption and the lining of pockets within governments and big business as the line ‘Spend money on guns, sending rockets to the sun’ nicely puts it. Nothing changed there then in 30 years.
What an ending they serve up here with ‘A Trip Down Brian Lane.’ A relaxed head nodding feel which includes (I hazard a guess) a comment on the prevalent homeless situation back then, with cardboard villages all over the streets . Meryl on vocal cuts nicely through a funk laden soundscape, which includes my old mate Greg Boraman on a Moog. Proper tune.
Selling in excess of 100,000 copies worldwide, was evidence that enough people heard and got the message portrayed by Mother Earth. I was certainly one of them. Listening to it all again recently, I’m now taken on a journey of those influences I mentioned earlier, of Traffic, Free, Nick Drake, Santana and The Small Faces. (Very apt that the album is dedicated to ‘Top groover Steve Marriott.’)
Mother Earth managed to capture all that influential magic and put their own personal stamp on it all, and I, and many others, thank them for it.
The Mumper of SE5
THE SPEAKEASY VOLUME 2 – AVAILABLE NOW
THE SPEAKEASY Volume Two by Mark Baxter (The Mumper)
Illustrations by Lewis Wharton
Foreword by Rhoda Dakar
Available to ORDER here
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