Winter’s here. The sun stood still at the shortest day. And now the days grow cold. I’m wearing a scarf in the house. Shit is getting frio. Here’s some winter music.
This is from Mike Heron’s 1971 record Smiling Men With Bad Reputations. This is yet another from the vault of Alan Bisbort. Heron was a member of the Incredible String Band, and this record has a pretty amazing list of players – Richard Thompson makes an appearance, John Cale plays on a few tunes, and the Who (minus Roger Daltrey) play under the name of Tommy and the Bijoux on one track. The whole affair was overseen by legendary folkrock producer Joe Boyd (who also produced everyone from Pink Floyd, Fairport Convention, and Nick Drake to 10,000 Maniacs and one by R.E.M., Fables of the Reconstruction, always one of my favorites). But despite all the heavy-hitters and the trail of big associations, Smiling Men is a bit of a letdown. At its best it evokes B-grade Nick Drake, but the whole thing, with its Indian wanks, droning wanks, and heroic rock wanks, doesn’t really cohere.
"Feast of Stephen" has catchy "shalalalas" and some nice, almost obnoxious, muscular drumming. It reminds me a bit of the sad stoner-hobbit North Country vibe of Lindesfarne’s lovely "Winter Song." All this stuff treads pretty dangerously into Thistle and Shamrock territory, but I’ve been rocking the forthcoming Alasdair Roberts disc, The Amber Gatherers, and the wife and I have been watching some of Simon Schama’s History of Britain that he did for BBC (that’s where the war-themed "Sloth," with its amazing meandering extended borderline psychedelic guitar solo that dances around the curls of fiddle, fits in), and I just finished re-reading Jane Austen’s Emma, so I’ve got my anglophilic standing stone on.