Beauty Is The Ultimate Protest
I am anything but a marketing person, but I am intrigued about what makes people buy records nowadays. Myself, itís rarely as a result of overt advertising. So what is it? What about the last two CDs I indulged in?

Well, one was The Last Word by Chuck and Mary Perrin, through the grace of the great genial genie Joe Foster and his Rev-ola imprint. I would love to say this was bought as a result of brand loyalty. In an ideal world I would religiously buy every Rev-ola release. There is an argument for Joe setting up some sort of direct debit subscription club. So I automatically get sent each salvaged gem, the money comes out of my account, and I donít have to tear myself apart about whether I should take a chance on some lost baroque pop/country rock almost-classic.

Alas I confess I have not bought as many Rev-ola reissues as I perhaps should have, and quite possibly would have passed on the Chuck and Mary Perrin set if our own Tangents editor had not written so passionately about the beauty of this duoís music. So thereís one reason for buying records. Reviews. It happens less and less, but a writer getting carried away about a record can still be enough to have me Ö Well, I guess these days it can be enough to get me whipping out my laptop and whacking off an order, waiting impatiently for the postman to deliver, and struggling with the ever elaborate packaging when itís waiting twinkingly alluring when I get home from work.

Except our Alistair understated enormously the exceptional beauty of this duoís music. Letís put it like this! Itís been one of those weeks, when you feel that your sanity is slowly slipping away, that you are wading through treacle, that the world is conspiring against you, and time is being stolen. And, apart from the support of friends and loved ones, it is this gorgeous collection that has pulled me through. Memorably I was stuck on a crowded commuter train, trying to get home, delayed due to some fool who decided to walk off the platform at London Bridge and bring the eveningís trains to a halt, and the Perrinís cleansing, spiritual folk/pop soothed my soul. Perhaps someone should have passed a copy on to that poor troubled soul who went walkabout at the peak of the evening rush hour.

The Rev-ola set collects together the duoís first two LPs. The second of these, Next of Kin from 1970, is a bolder pop set, and is an absolute must for fans of everything from the Free Design, Fifth Dimension & Wendy & Bonnie, through to Broadcast and the Sea & Cake. Itís so uplifting that even when one is feeling slightly more stable the tears will flow freely for no real reason other than what Phil Ochs once said about beauty being the ultimate protest.

And the genial Joe tempts us further by drawing connections to the godlike Carpenters, and teasing us with a yet-to-be salvaged third LP. Well, I am finding myself becoming obsessed with hearing this Life is A Stream set, and hope all the paperwork and negotiations and budgets can be signed off to make this possible as soon as Ö as I have a feeling I am going to love it so much. Ah but all that paperwork, the negotiations, the budget implications. How can they stand in the way of such beauty? Probably the same as they stand in the way of so many things, but donít start me on that!!

Now the other record I bought this week is the Salute Your Soul set by Future Pilot AKA. I could be shameless and say I only bought this one because it features Vic Godard and James Kirk, two of thee gods in my pop pantheon, together singing a protest song. And in some ways you canít ask for more from life than that.

Yet there are plenty of reasons for never buying a Future Pilot record if youíre an unforgiving soul. The Future Pilot himself, Sushil K Dade, was after all a Soup Dragon. I am proud that on hearing a demo of theirs 20 odd years ago I suggested they go and buy some Blue Orchids records and get some proper jobs. They didnít like it, and sadly didnít take my advice. But then nor did The Pastels, and they still persist in pestering us occasionally.

Anyway old Stephen Pastelís Geographic label has put out this Future Pilot record, and I have to confess itís got some lovely moments on. And yes, the great eccentric genii Vic and James singing 'The Love Of The Land' is worth the price of entry alone. Sorry to be predictable, but this old codgerís heart is warmed by the presence of the Postcard inner circle (the record also features Sound of Young Scotland survivors from the Bluebells and Article 58) singing out in the name of peace! Why hasnít someone bundled this out as a single, so we can make it number one from now until eternity ends?

While the Future Pilot flits from one thing to another, less effectively than it could, there are other moments of great beauty. I mean little can match Vic Godard and James Kirk singing a soulful song and making a joyous noise, but the cover of the Staplesí 'If Youíre Ready' is surprisingly gorgeous. And anyway that was one of the songs that the Postcard inner circle always cited as something to aspire to. Itís an aside but shouldnít every day start by mass public screenings of the Staples and The Band performing 'The Weight'? Yes!!

And I applaud the ambition of the eleven-minute 'Heaven Celebrated On Earth', which aspires to Alice Coltrane-like spirituality, and doesnít fall that short of the mark. I wholeheartedly approve of the choral passages, though they really or rarely reach the peaks achieved by Electrelane recently and certainly do not trouble the perfection of Donald Byrdís Cristo Redentor. But itís still great stuff, and better than other moments like the horribly obvious Dammers or Czukay? And the Mikey Dread contribution continues a tradition of missed opportunities when collaborating with reggae greats. Poor Junior Reid! I doubt if he ever recovered!

And hereís a joke to finish off. The Soup Dragons were associated with the worst wave of Scottish pop groups ever, along with people like the Shop Assistants. Well, at one show by the Shoppies in sunny Sarf London genial Slaughter Joe suggested he should get himself together an all-girl group. And running through my mind were a couple of names I dared not think anymore of, like Slaughter and the Cats, or worse still other household pets. Well it was funny at the time.

© 2004 John Carney

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