Monday, November 9, 2015

Claire Hamill - 1971 - One House Left Standing

Claire Hamill
One House Left Standing


01. Baseball Blues
02. The Man Who Cannot See Tomorrow's Sunshine
03. Consummation
04. The River Song
05. Where Are Your Smiles At
06. When I Was a Child
07. Urge for Going
08. Flowers for Grandma
09. The Phoenix
10. Smile Your Blues Away

Claire Hamill- vocals, guitar, keyboards, writer
David Lindley- guitar
John Martyn- guitar
Terry Reid- guitar, vocals
John "Rabbit" Bundrick- keyboards
John Hawken- keyboards
Jack Emblow- accordion
Phil Bates- bass
Tetsu Yamauchi- bass
Simon Kirke- drums
Ray Warleigh- flute
Aubrey Johnson- oboe
Alex Walsh- trumpet
John Pigneguey- French horn
Paul Buckmaster- cello

Chris Blackwell- producer
John McCoy- producer

With a stark black and white sleeve photo of Clare taken on the outskirts of her home town of Middlesborough,looking like a downtrodden wife  in the 30s,the deserted landscape around her with cranes and a transporter bridge,decay and industrial gloom.A photo deserving of an award surely,if Pink Floyd could get one for something as unimaginative as a cow,the theme of this album is set.And that's poverty,unemployment,childhood and eventual death.
One House Left Standing is Claire's "social comment" album

The industrial backdrop permeates this album, indeed it is infused throughout. In the first song, Baseball Shoes, Claire laments her loved one's desire for baseball shoes that she has. Today, an ordinary pair costs about five pounds but a brand like converse charges upwards of eighteen! What is clear is the image of poverty that this song represents. Wanting even a pair of baseball shoes comes higher up the priority list than love which comes free. But even so the singer would give up her shoes in return for his love.

Whilst the songs themselves carry images aplenty of a simplicity of life they also carry messages of hope and inspiration. Two of my favourites in this regard are When I was A Child, which marks the transition from an age of innocence into adult life after meeting a significant other. The other, Smile Your Blues Away, offers the benefits of a positive attitude and could almost have been written for the Dalai Lama!

What is remarkable about this album is firstly Claire's voice, clear and pur with a good range. The second thing is more of a complimentarity and that is the sheer breadth of the music contained within the album, with the exquisite orchestration, masterful guitar playing of John Martyn the maestro, a country and western style song to name just three. Guests abound including the aforesaid Martyn but also David Lindley, Terry Reid and others but they supplement Claire's vocals and playing rather than supplant them.

This is a powerful introduction to Claire Hamill and an outstanding first album. She may have disappeared off the map a little these days but she is still around and with albums like this deserves a little more acclaim.

Try it, you'll like it!