Richard Sinclair - Live Tracks
If there is one quintessentially English voice that has endeared thousands of Canterbury and prog fans over four decades, it has to be that of Richard Sinclair. From before the seminal Caravan album, In The Land Of Grey And Pink, through to the legendary Hatfield And The North, Camel and many other bands, Richard has enchanted audiences of all ages. Also renowned for his warm and jazz-oriented bass playing, it will come as a surprise to many that his ‘first’ instrument is guitar which he played in his Wilde Flowers days (well he started playing ukulele at the age of three, the first of many stringed instruments). After playing a major role in kick-starting Caravan in 1990, Richard went on to form Richard Sinclair’s Caravan of Dreams, R.S.V.P. and various solo projects featuring much loved and respected musicians such as Andy Ward, Pip Pyle, David Rees Williams, Tony Coe, Patrice Meyer, Ric Troll and David Cohen. Performing versions of songs from his Caravan and Hatfield days as well as new compositions, demand for Richard both solo and with band has taken him all over the world in the last ten years, most recently to Holland where the gig was broadcast live on Dutch radio and The Progman Cometh festival in Seattle.
Live Tracks is a compilation of nine live pieces from four gigs during the 90’s, digitally recorded directly from the PA desk mix at the different venues, plus a bonus ‘bogus Caravan’ track recorded in a studio in Rye in 1976.
First track on the album is part of a Dave Sinclair epic from an album that, to my knowledge, has never been out of print since it was release back in 1971. Disassociation, from Nine Feet Underground off In The Land Of Grey And Pink, is that wonderfully wistful and emotionally nostalgic song with the opening line ‘There’s a place where I can go…’ that appears around the half-way point on the original album. This version features Richard on vocal and acoustic guitar approaching the song in a minimalist and slightly jazzy style highlighting its delicate nature. (It almost seemed a crime to sing along whilst listening to this track, but alone and in the privacy of my home I think I got away with it.)
Next up is Land Of Grey And Pink featuring some terrific intricate meandering on acoustic guitar by Richard accompanied by Ric Troll on hand drums; Delicate and simplistic in its complexity. How does he make those dry gargling noises?
What’s Rattlin’?, originally on Richard’s R.S.V.P. album, the lyrics written by Pip Pyle paint an amusing picture of Canterbury mythology. Joined by pianist David Rees Williams, Pip Pyle and Tony Coe, whose virtuosity on clarinet has to be heard (it almost sounds like the great Jimmy Hastings on sax!), Richard leads the jazzy quartet on vocals and bass. The same line-up performs Barefoot; again from the R.S.V.P. album, which is… can I coin the term ‘Canterbury Jazz’? An instrumental lasting an all too short nine minutes, it begs the question why (for those of us in the UK) Jools Holland has never had Richard on his show? As a jazz aficionado I’m sure if he were aware of Richard’s music he would sell his piano to get him to do a one-off special show.
What In The World, which will appear on the forthcoming album of the same name, has a hymn-like quality with David Rees Williams at the helm of a c1760 church organ. A song of despair at the conflict in the world, is it too simplistic to think that, to quote from The Beatles, that all you need is love? Maybe, but the lyrics would prompt pause for thought by all who hear the song.
Remember the classic cartoons of The Flintstones? Meeting The Flintstones starts with what seams like improv jazz (which is the beauty of jazz – just when you think the thread or ‘Fred’ has been lost, yabadabadoo!) it falls in and out of place finishing with the closing lyric from The Flintstones theme.
Over From Dover features the aforementioned band members with the addition of Patrice Meyer on lead guitar. Written by RS, David Rees Williams, Tony Coe and Pip Pyle this cohesive jazz instrumental (with minimal vocals towards the end) is reminiscent of a tune played by Richard with the specially resurrected Hatfield for the one-off show in 1990, but can be found on the R.S.V.P. album. Deliciously tight and engaging. Marvellous.
Raga Of D Pieces is a delicate instrumental with RS on vocals and acoustic guitar accompanied once again by Ric Troll on hand drums resulting in a piece that is mellow and full of warmth, almost a lullaby.
Enter Andy Ward on motor horn and percussion and David Cohen on drums. Three Go Wilde (a reference to the Wilde Flowers rather than the three trials of Oscar Wilde I imagine) is a witty piece which with RS on bass has a deep tonal quality overall.
Bonus track, Uncle’s Farm, is a ‘bogus Caravan’ song (the forerunner of Camel’s and Richard’s Down On The Farm perhaps?) recorded, as previously mentioned, in 1976 and features Richard, Pye Hastings, Richard Coughlan and Jan Schelhaas (who has recently re-joined Caravan on keys) and is a must for Caravan fans.
Richard Sinclair is, I would argue, a national treasure. His seemingly simplistic but actually very sophisticated approach to music, mellow vocal, often whimsical lyrics and jazz orientation is not only accessible to the casual listener but also beholds the serious music lover. Listen to this album and you’ll want to go and see a live performance.
Details of how to order Live Tracks are available on Richard’s web site (see below for link). Call it an early (or late) Christmas present. To yourself, naturally!
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