Since tentative beginnings at the start of 2014 with a bare-but-warm vinyl reissue of Jackson C. Frank’s eponymous 1965 LP, the London-based Earth Recordings has fast become a go-to archival enterprise with its increasingly close-to-essential spread of releases. Co-founded by Fire Records’ latter-day main-man James Nicholls, designer Alex Hornsby and label manager Kyle Lonsdale, Earth’s enthusiasm for serving-up gourmet vinyl-odysseys (such as the sublime Shirley Inspired compilation from earlier this year), fuss-free ‘every-home-should-have-one’ reissues of vintage masterworks (as with parts of Bert Jansch’s labyrinthine catalogue) and rediscoveries of lost esoteric private-press nuggets (like Howard Eynon’s charmingly eccentric grammar-scholar-baiting So What If Im Standing in Apricot Jam) is as infectious as it is benevolently bank-breaking.
In an email to this writer, Lonsdale explains more on the imprint’s modus operandi, “Earth was formed as a response to the niche and (sometimes!) snobby attitude of smaller labels primarily concerned with limited editions. We believe that the music we offer should not only be delivered as a premium product but also be available to anyone who wants it, without compromising on aesthetics or design.”
High-end quality control – especially in the curatorial design and manufacturing processes – is certainly something that the label prides itself on, contrasting against some of the creeping ‘repress-it-cheap-and-sling-out’ reissue culture that is sadly being built-up around the vinyl revival. This is something Lonsdale elucidates further on by saying, “I think what sets Earth apart from other reissue labels is the level of involvement we have at every step of the way – from conception to design to production – everything is considered in detail. Couple that with the fact that there isn’t an artist we speak for that we’re not an enormous fan of and I think we bring something pretty special to the table. Every one of our releases is a tribute to the wonderful musicians we feel lucky enough to represent.”
With a future schedule already mapped-out to include the rediscovered intriguing self-titled 1979 one-off LP from Australian Steve Warner and a lavish packaging-connoisseurs relaunch of Bert Jansch’s 1978 album Avocet – alongside more still-top secret projects – the retroactive future life on Earth is bright and almost subscription-worthy. In the interim though, Earth closes off a successful 2015 with three strong and very different epicurean artefacts as detailed below…
Bert Jansch – Moonshine
Arriving as another step on Earth’s Bert Jansch reissue trail, after this summer’s resurrection of the mid-’90s Live At The 12 Bar, 1972’s Moonshine returns on picture disc, black vinyl and CD. Sat between his 1965-1971 run of earthy solo troubadour releases and 1974’s luxuriant Mike Nesmith-aided L.A. Turnaround, this somewhat overlooked Jansch LP packs in a stellar supporting cast (including producer Tony Visconti, Pentangle bandmate Danny Thompson on double-bass, early-Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks and vocalist Mary Hopkin) to deliver a collection that finds a comfortable middle – but not middling – ground between the ascetic and the ornate sides of his canon.
Hence, Moonshine shifts seamlessly through balmy flute-infused medievalist storytelling (“Yarrow”), bluesy harmonica-marinated rambling (“Brought The Rain”), elliptical harp-adorned chamber-folk (“January Man”), yearning violin-drone-soaked sprawling (“Night Time Blues”), a refreshingly unpredictable rustic-jazz duet run through Ewan McColl’s oft-covered “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, stripped-back voice-and-picking (“Twa Corbies”) and oxymoronic languid edginess (for the electric guitar-enhanced skittering shuffle of the closing “Oh My Father”). As a diverse yet cohesive document of focused arrangements and empathic collaboration, Moonshine glows as one of the best and most accessible albums in the Bert Jansch studio repertoire. It’s good to have it back.
Judy Dyble – Anthology: Part One
Carrying-on from the recent Earth reissue of 1970’s Morning Way, her sole album as one-half of Trader Horne, Judy Dyble’s wider body of work now gets a re-distillation as a three-part Anthology series. Although in itself a refashioning of the extremely limited self-released Gathering The Threads (Fifty Years Of Stuff) boxset from earlier in 2015, the more widely available Earth reincarnating should mean that Dyble’s creativity within and without Fairport Convention should finally gain the recognition it deserves. This beautifully designed first volume – documenting Dyble’s early activities between 1964 and 1982 – will certainly be hard to top for sheer allure, range, warmth and consistency.
Sequenced in helpful chronologically order, Anthology: Part One traces the arc of Dyble’s formative times as a solo artist and as a keen team-player through key discography extracts, rarities and previously unreleased demos. This means we can plot Dyble’s heartening career as a Joan Baez/Peggy Seeger-inspired folk chanteuse (with two primitively home-taped 1964 tracks as Judy & The Folkmen), a psych-rock siren (with two unreleased 1967 cuts vocally leading Fairport Convention, the highlight being a sublime take on Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”), an adaptable female vocal foil for the free-wheeling explorations of Giles, Giles & Fripp (across four ear-opening tracks gathered here that veer from jazz-pop and raga-rock to pastoral exotica and lysergic murder balladry), a harmony-coating accomplice for the lesser-known wares of G.P. Fitzgerald (with one cut from 1970’s Mouseproof album) and a blooming solo songstress (across four lush rare recordings from 1972, 1973 and 1974 and on a curiously lo-tech synth-led 1982 cover of Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play”).
Naturally, not quite everything is a top-drawer selection – with some 1964 musique concrete-like instrumental doodling with then beau Richard Thompson (the too-long “Improvisation”) and a peculiar cassette tape-demonstration advertising piece (the bizarre Bob Harris-featuring “Mirror Master”) perhaps only included for historical value – but overall Anthology: Part One is a remarkable redress for Judy Dyble’s misplaced position in music historical and a delightfully well-rounded listen in its own right.
Tariverdiev – Film Music
This 3CD/3LP collection from departed Russian film score composer Mikael Tariverdiev is potentially the bravest as well as biggest coup for the Earth catalogue to date. Although still a renowned musical figure in the former-USSR, it took the campaigning and compiling passion of The Real Tuesday Weld’s Stephen Coates to find a sympathetic portal for non-Western ears to hear Tariverdiev (a journey which part-began in these very pages back in 2011). Scooping-up career highlights and a handful of previously unheard pieces from recordings put to tape between 1960 and 1989, from amongst the 130 or so soundtracks he scored during his life, Film Music covers an astonishing breadth of genres, moods and configurations that somehow managed to germinate beneath, above and beyond the political restrictions of the Soviet era.
Amongst the 51 gathered tracks you can feast on a banquet of – deep breath – lush big band epics, slinky beatnik jazz, choral chamber music explorations, intimate solo piano meditations, smoky cabaret, accordion-soaked waltzes, vintage Disney-indebted fantasias, John Barry-like widescreen orchestrations, sparse yet snug folk balladry laden with purring romantic Russian voices, quasi-operatic polkas, poetry adaptations and vast tracts of twinkling autumn-drenched atmospheric scene-setters that members of the Tindersticks must surely have heard before Coates.
Whilst covering such scope could have succumbed to parody or dilettantism in lesser-hands, much of the Tariverdiev material amassed here comes with a distinctive yet impalpably transcendent sense of open-heartedness that gives it characterful charm. In short, Film Music is one of this year’s most revealing and rewarding backwards-glancing discoveries that seems destined to become a sleeper hit sensation of sorts.