Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A-Austr - 1970 - Musics From Holy Ground

Musics From Holy Ground

01. Bird
02. Judy
03. Mini
04. Prelude To Change For Arthur
05. Thumbquake & Earthscrew
06. Change For Athur
07. Between The Road
08. Hawaiian War Chant
09. It’s Alright
10. Continuum
11. Essex Queen (She Dances)
12. D Minor Minuet
13. A Curse On You
14. What Did You Go
15. Grail Search
16. Essex Queen (She Dances) (First Version)
17. Grail Search (First Version)
18. Judy (Fragment Of First Version)
19. It’s Alright (Later Version, Remixed)
20. Aren’t You Glad You Stayed (Early Vocal Version)

Brian Calvert — lead guitar, vocals, guitar, lute, horn, trombone
Chris Coombs — lead guitar, vocals, guitar, piano, organ, glockenspiel, horn, harmonica, recorder, percussion
Brian Wilson [aka Pete Taylor] — bass, vocals, guitar, organ, mandolin, harp, glockenspiel, clarinet
Ted Hepworth — drums
Mike Levon — triangle, effects, electronics
Bill Nelson — guitar, hawaiian guitar
Mike Gould — trumpet
John Perfect — tenor sax
Lyn Cavell — alto sax
George Mabon — flute
Gill Green — cello
Al Green — organ
Dave Wood — goüd
Yvonne Carrodus — vocals, triangle
Denise Calvert — vocal, piano, harpsichord
Gill Maudsley — spoken vocal
Cath Wood — raspberry saw
Shirley Levon – recorder

Most session musicians were from nearby Bretton Hall college. John Perfect, a lecturer there, later appeared in Fleetwood Mac with his sister Christine McVie. A to Austr was also Bill Nelson’s recording debut. Chris Heinitz, (French horn on the Walker Brothers’ The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine’), supervised the original brass.

Label Notes:
One of the rarest albums from the British Isles. Pressed in tiny quantities (only 99 copies) with hand-made covers/inserts and released by one of the most collectable UK independent labels, the Holyground in 1970. A-Austr was the brainchild of Mike Levon, owner of Holyground studios and label. It's one of the finest examples of the british psychedelic movement. A do-it-yourself project with the participation of many friends -musicians and vocalists- which experiments with certain doses of psych, mellow rock, baroque pop, eastern folk and revolutionary sounds and effects. It's impossible to describe the songs one by one. Thoughtful, dreamy and wonderful stuff and a one of a kind "must hear" album. A-AUSTR is the first title in our Holyground series. Unfortunately, Mike died peacefully on 4th September 2011, so we have to dedicate this release to his dream. This is an official reissue. And it's the first reissue that comes with a reproduction, as close as possible, of the original cover and labels. Printed on vintage (real 70's-made paper; we tried very hard to find it) one-sided bronze carton. Inside the gatefold cover is the paste-on white vinyl-case. Like the original issue, it includes, 17 A4-sized paper sheets with lyrics, credits and sketches. Extra is a 4-pages coloured insert with photos and notes written and designed by Mike. Yet, there is a reproduction of a seldom seen A-Austr A4 poster and 3 A-Austr business-cards (!). Limited to 300 black and 200 coloured copies. 180gr vinyl as usual. PVC protective outer sleeve.

Released in a limited batch of 99 in 1970, A to Austr's one-off masterwork Musics from Holyground takes the psych-pop aesthetic to an entirely new level. A behemoth (and fun) journey through psychedelia, Musics from Holyground touches on everything from psych-pop and eastern influenced folk to pub ready saxophone jams and vaudevillian break downs, with a ton of other sounds I have no business describing thrown in the mix. The Penguin Guide to Rare Records calls A to Austr's only record "the most sacred UK LP there is," which sort of makes sense considering only 99 folks in the world have an original copy, and it wasn't given the reissue treatment until 1989. Apparently the initial goal was "to write about King Arthur who lies sleeping with his knights of the Round Table until England needs him." This was news to me, as the record in no way, shape or form feels like a treaty on Renaissance knights, rather an exploration of an entire genre, gleaming back and forth from the nuanced psych pop of "Birds" to "Hawaiian War Chant" (which sounds exactly like its title suggests) to "It's Alright", which is basically the Incredible String Band-Love-Zombies collaboration I've been dreaming about for years. I could go on and on about this record, but it wouldn't do any good, mostly because its impossible to describe. Even after listening to it about twenty five times over the past six months, I still have trouble wrapping my head around it, as if its not supposed to be chewed on, merely experienced, over and over again, sort of like life (and psychedelic experiences in general). If this spiked your interest, even just a little bit, I highly recommend heading over to Holy Ground's website and peeping their extremely thorough and insightful history of the recording session, the album itself, and its little known legacy.

A track by track description plus lyrics can be found here:

1 comment: