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THE ORIGINAL MR MICK (DAP 103CD) [1976-2000]



THE KORGIS (Edsel EDCD 621) [1979]

DUMB WAITERS (Edsel EDCD 622) [1980]

STICKY GEORGE (Edsel EDCD 623) [1981]

Stackridge are enjoying a revival, and I’m delighted to see it. (Please read, if you have not done so already, my review elsewhere here of Stackridge’s six 1970s albums.) Edsel has reissued the three Korgis albums, and the reformed Stackridge have recorded and released a new album on their own DAP label.

And that’s not all.   The band has revised and reissued their last studio recording of the ‘70s, MR MICK. In my original review I quoted Andy Davis: MR. MICK “had been devised as a true ‘concept album,’ but Rocket hacked the tapes to pieces, rendered the whole thing unintelligible and precipitated the band's demise.” As I pointed out, the delivered album was edited and resequenced by Rocket Records, which stuck a single on the opening track, a reggae version of the Beatles’ “Hold Me Tight,” and cut much of the connective material (and one of the songs) from the original album. To quote from the notes of the newly reissued album, “Unhappy with the conception of the master tapes they received, Rocket Records attempted to reorganise it into a pop LP. The result? A strange, incomprehensible hybrid was released upon an unsuspecting public and instantly dived into obscurity.” Whereupon Stackridge broke up.

Jennie Evans (Mike Evans’ wife) in her notes for the album, says, “This album was conceived as a single piece of music and should be listened to as such. … ‘Mr Mick’ is not a pop album. It is an ambitious attempt to identify a new art-form and, as such, it is ahead of its time.   It cries out for additional visualization.”

THE ORIGINAL MR MICK is the restored version of thealbum – the version originally delivered to Rocket, before Rocket changed it about. How different is it? Well, it’s longer.   The Rocket version runs 38 minutes 25 seconds. The restored version runs one second shy of 45 minutes – an additional 6 minutes and 34 seconds of running time. This despite the removal of their version of the Beatles’ “Hold Me Tight,” which itself runs 3:37 – meaning there is in fact slightly over 10 minutes of added material.   The new (restored) song, “Can Inspiration Save the Nation,” takes up only 2:15 of those 10 minutes – the rest of the added material consists of longer narrative segments and some new bridge and instrumental music.

And how does this compare with the Rocket Records version?   Well, “Hey! Good-looking” replaces “Hold Me Tight” (with Alan Freeman’s deejay intro transferred to it), to open the album. This song occupied the next-to-last position in the Rocket version (where it had seemed to fit into the story, oddly enough). Here, it serves to introduce Mr. Mick himself, when – after a very retro song which mentions Bing Crosby – “The Girls” sing, “Mr Mick, don’t walk away from me. You can stay here if you’re nice to me.” The song ends with a knock and a summons to breakfast, implying perhaps that he had been asleep, dreaming in “a Home for the Elderly in Yatton.”

This is followed by the powerful instrumental, “Breakfast With Werner Von Braun,” which sets Keith Gemmell’s near-eastern wails against a Stackridgean melody line to excellent effect – and occupies the same position it did on the Rocket version.   But immediately thereafter the albums diverge again. The narration which followed “Breakfast” on the Rocket version – in which Mr. Mick strolls unheeded to the dump – is replaced by far more extensive narration (which takes several verses to even get Mr. Mick out of the Home) in the course of which he picks the dump as his destination by accident (by closing his eyes and turning around and pointing his stick) and finally gets to it. This is included in “Mr Mick’s Walk” a section which runs around 4 minutes. It is followed by “Mr Mick’s Dream,” which incorporates “The Dump” (on the Rocket version), with added narration.  

Once at the dump, Mr. Mick’s encounters with the Cotton-reel and the Steam Radio are now reversed. In Rocket’s version the Steam Radio came first. Here it’s the Cotton-reel, and “Save A Red Face” has become “The Cotton-reel Song.” “The Steam Radio Song” now follows. Then, as on the Rocket version, “The Slater’s Waltz” with the ballet shoes. But this is followed by an expansion of the narration (into “Hazy Dazy Holiday”) which leads into “Coniston Water.” As with the Rocket version, “Coniston Water” is a very powerful instrumental piece over which Keith Gemmell soars beautifully.   It is followed by the newly restored “Can Inspiration Save The Nation?” which is sparsely voiced (organ and acoustic guitar) and seems to be suggesting obliquely that Mr. Mick did something with the landlord’s daughter, on Coniston Water, forty years earlier. How this relates to the story of the objects coming to life in the dump is anyone’s guess. But in the new “Mr Mick’s New Home” (which includes the new instrumental, “Happy Ending Music”) Mr. Mick finds purpose in helping reorganize the dump.

“Fish In A Glass” still provides a powerful ending. And the story line which leads to that ending remains as surreally confusing as it ever was, despite the added narrative segments (mostly unnecessary, as it turns out).   The story about an old man exploring the local dump and finding castoffs (much like himself) still ends in a whirlwind of unexplained superstardom: “So you’re the Top of the Pops now, they want your autograph, but underneath the cheers they’ve started to laugh.” And I still feel that something important has been omitted in reaching that startling conclusion.

So how different is the restored version? Not very.   It remains somewhat “incomprehensible” in its story line, as if material is still missing. Is it better? Certainly it is truer to the band’s point of view. And it is musically more complete. But this restoration is hardly revolutionary and it reveals that Rocket did not really butcher the album in the changes it made. Some of the shortening and tightening Rocket did made sense, from the label’s point of view – which was not hospitable to tedious introspective ruminations. And it appears that the band cooperated with the changes to some extent, since some of the narration on the Rocket version is not simply shorter (edited) but entirely different, and must have been re-recorded at the label’s behest.

In either version, this album contains some of Stackridge’s best and most “progressive” music. It should be heard.

MR MICK was Stackridge’s last studio album. As mentioned in my previous review, Andy Davis and James Warren subsequently formed The Korgis (supposedly not named after the breed of dog, but for their Korg synthesizers) which released three albums. I was previously aware of only the first two, which had American releases (on Warner Bros. and Asylum, a WEA subsidiary) and missed the third, STICKY GEORGE, until Edsel released it on CD.

Edsel did the same thorough job on these Korgis CDs as was done on the first three Stackridge albums – but without any bonus tracks. Val Jennings provides essays for each of the albums, the first giving a brief potted history of Stackridge as well.   All three Korgis albums were originally released in Britain by the Rialto label, and engineered by David Lord. Jennings mentions subsequent singles by The Korgis and James Warren released on Polygram and Sonet, and a 1986 album on Sonet (a Scandinavian label) called BURNING QUESTIONS. In 1990 Warren and Davis (who had dropped out of the group as of the third album) reformed The Korgis and released THIS WORLD’S FOR EVERYONE in 1992.

Listening to these Korgis albums again (and STICKY GEORGE for the first time) I’m impressed by them. They were very much in the post-punk, New Wave/super-pop mold of the very late ‘70s and early ‘80s, with sequencers and synthesizers. They sound in places like the first Metro album (an underrated classic).   But there are still touches of Stackridge on the first Korgis album – Davis’s “Dirty Postcards” is very much in the Stackridge vein of whimsy.

Still, the look, the sound and indeed the basic approach of The Korgis was very different from that of Stackridge.   The eccentricities and rough edges had been polished into a high production gloss, suitable for the times. Stackridge appeared to have been consigned to the dustbin.

Thus it was with surprise and pleasure that I found at my local Tower and grabbed up the new Stackridge album, SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND, recorded in late 1997 and 1998 and released in May, 1999.  

According to Stackridge, the revival of the band began with Mike Evans’ daughter Ruth, who discovered the old albums when she was 15 and began demanding that they “Do it again!” This led to a “re-gathering of the Stackridge clans,” and, “perhaps not surprisingly, in the final analysis, not everyone wished to or was able to be involved.” The three original members of Stackridge who did want to be involved in the newly reformed group were guitarist James Warren, violinist Mike Evans and bassist Crun Walter. They are joined by keyboardists John Miller and Richard Stubbings, and drummer Tim Robinson.

A correspondent, Elessar Tetramariner, tells me, “Mutter & Billy Sparkle (now Blake) were both approached to play with the new band, and declined. Andy Davis & Warren developed several songs in '96/'97 for a potential reunion band, but had a falling out that has yet to be patched up – that's why Andy was not involved with the current band.”

Once again Warren does the lion’s share of the music, writing or cowriting 10 of the 14 pieces on the album. However, Evans supplies in “Five-Poster Bedlam” a fiddler’s raveup, and Crun Walter’s “The Vegan’s Hatred of Fish” is fully as offbeat and bizarre as anything from Stackridge’s heyday.   Warren pays lyrical debts to both the Beatles and the Beach Boys in “Something About the Beatles” (“But I know something about the Beatles”) and “Someday They’ll Find Out” (“Could this be another Beach Boys interlude? Brian Wilson at the piano in the nude?”), and his musical debt to the Beatles is more than obvious in “It’s A Fascinating World.” Indeed, Warren’s voice has a very Lennonish cast to it and he sings the lead on much of the album.

If the material alternates between a more Korgis-ish, post-Beatles poppishness and the older Stackridge eccentricity, the production is definitely modern and well-burnished. The keyboards fill in the cracks and lend a full, rich sound. What is missing is the mini-symphony which used to be found on every Stackridge album – that and a more ambitious, dare I say “progressive,” approach.   The 48 minute 27 second album is, with the sole exception of Mike Evans’ fiddling extravaganza, all songs.

The band is once again playing live gigs in Britain – the official debut of the new band was May 5, 1999 at the Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth and they played at Glastonbury on June 25th – and have been working on a follow-up album. Although they have been playing some of their ‘70s songs in their live sets, they appear committed to continuing to develop new repertoire, which is good news for those of us in their wider audience.

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND is more narrowly focussed than Stackridge’s ‘70s albums, and much more the work of a single man.   And Andy Davis is the odd man out this time – his contributions to the ‘70s Stackridge were considerable. But Stackridge’s revival bodes well and I look forward to the next album.

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