Meastoso – was the name that Woolly Wolstenholme used when he returned to making music after many years away. He was a founder member of Barclay James Harvest (see B), probably my second favourite group of all time, but he left around 1980 citing musical differences. And in some ways he was right; the band had started with orchestral and electric instruments, the orchestra was soon replaced by Mellotron which Woolly played along with keyboards. However, slowly the group was moving into more synthesiser-based music (to a diminishing audience I must admit) and so Woolly left. He released 2 solo albums which sold poorly (see W) and then retired to his farm. Much later when BJH finally split he was encouraged to play again with John Lees (see L). He then started writing again, or maybe he had lots of pieces already and he released them under the name Maestoso (the name of his first album). Much more like the first few BJH albums these are quite joyful and varied albums, tinged with a touch of humour. The first was 2004’s One Drop In A Dry World. Some lovely lyrical tracks here – best are ‘Blood and Bones’ and ‘it’s U’. But not a bad record. Amazingly, the same year he released Fiddling Meanly, a live album of early BJH songs and a few from his first 3 records. Okay, but nit brilliant. Better was Grim (2005) – the title being a dig at Southerners who think the North of England is a poor place to live. I think on this record he excelled himself; much more like an early BJH album. Some great orchestral arrangements (no doubt synthesised) and some lovely singing. Fave songs ‘Love Is’ and ‘Hebden Bridge’. It may just be possible that these were originally old songs which were rejected for BJH albums, who knows. Lastly, he released in 2007 Caterwauling, sadly he took his own life in 2010. A slightly disappointing album, maybe running out of ideas, who knows. Best song ‘Shoes’ and ‘Matilda Yarrow. He was a complex character and suffered terrible bouts of depression all his life, which probably contributed to his leaving the band in the 80’s. He had often re-joined John Lees (see L) for concert appearances during this late flourishing period. In many ways he was the heart of BJH, always bringing them down from their excesses, but in a similar way to George in The Beatles, he was early on excluded in the choice of songs by the two stronger writers and possibly personalities in John Lees and Les Holroyd, often relegated to just one or maybe two songs per album. A great loss.
The Magic Numbers – This was another of those highly recommended new bands where I bought the album and was not really impressed. This was their 2005 self-titled debut, and the songs are okay, the vocals and harmonies are very good; in fact, there is nothing to not like, but equally nothing to rave about either. The album starts and you think…okay, not bad – but then the record ends and you cannot recall a single song. Oh well.
Magnetic Fields This is the name of a band, founded by and basically only an American called Stephen Merritt. Only the one album i (this is a 2004 album, but they had made records since the early 90s and beyond). Actually this is a delightful record – the novelty being that every track begins with the letter i; all are sung by Stephen and are quite varied in style and production. No songs really stand out though.
The Mamas and The Papas – While in Britain The Beatles were wowing us all with their ever changing style, over in California a whole other revolution was happening, led by The Byrds (see B) and Papa John Phillips and Mama Cass Elliot. A gentle harmonious sound melding old-fashioned melodies with modern beats and original songs; a delightful blend. Here, we only heard the singles ‘California Dreaming’ and ‘Monday Monday’. I have The Best Of…and sometimes that is all you need. All their hit singles are here and a few other tracks which showcase Mama Cass’s lovely voice. Fave track is ‘Creque Alley’.
Mandalaband – This was a strange one. I have always been a big fan of Barclay James Harvest (see B), and the band apparently played on a few tracks of this strange little album, a real prog-rock medieval tale set to music. Actually a pretty unremarkable record.