Lindisfarne were a British folk rock group established in 1970 in Newcastle and fronted by the late singer-songwriter Alan Hull. Their music combined a strong sense of yearning with an even stronger sense of fun. The original line-up consisted of Alan Hull (vocals, guitar, piano), Ray Jackson (vocals, mandolin, harmonica), Simon Cowe (guitar, mandolin, banjo), Rod Clements (bass guitar, violin) and Ray Laidlaw (drums). They're best known for the albums Nicely Out Of Tune (1970), Fog On The Tyne (1971) and Back And Fourth (1978), but also for the success of songs as Meet Me On The Corner, Lady Eleanor, Run For Home and We Can Swing Together.
The release of The Charisma Years 1970-1973 brings the band back in the spotlight. In the seventies Lindisfarne recorded for the same label as prog rock bands as Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator and String Driven Thing. Therefore many people got the idea that Lindisfarne made the same kind of music. In general, this isn't the case as I found out after listening to this compilation. People who want to know a bit more about this legendary folk band I would like to give some historical facts that might be important.
In June 1970 the band were signed to the Charisma record label, making a debut appearance at the Newcastle City Hall in July. Their first album Nicely Out Of Tune was released in November. You'll find this release on CD1 with some additional bonus tracks and US-mixes. The album contains a blend of bright harmony and up-tempo folk rock. Clear White Light and Lady Eleanor were taken as singles from this album, but failed to chart just as the album did at first. In 1971 the band started touring and they appeared to be a popular band at festivals. The famous producer Bob Johnston collaborated on their second album Fog On The Tyne. The single Meet Me On The Corner, penned by Rod Clements, entered the top-5 and the album was 'album of the year' in Great Britain. You'll find the integral album on CD2 together with the band's next release. As bonus stuff some B-sides from two singles and an extended version of January Song have been added. After two US-tours a third album Dingly Dell was released in September 1972. A re-release of the single Lady Eleanor became a hit now, while it had little impact a year earlier.
Dingly Dell stayed for ten weeks in the UK-album charts, entering at number 5, but never reached a higher position. All Fall Down and Court In The Act were released as singles. The first one was a minor success charting at #34 in the UK, while the latter failed to chart. In 1973 it proves to be all too much and after intensive touring abroad they decided to call it a day. The band disbanded and split up: Simon Cowe, Rod Clements and Ray Laidlaw formed Jack The Lad. A second line-up of Lindisfarne was formed featuring Ray Jackson and Alan Hull joined by Kenny Craddock (keyboards, vocals), Charlie Harcourt (guitar, keyboard), Tommy Duffy (bass, vocals) and Paul Nichols (drums).
Lindisfarne 'mark II' released the new album Roll On Ruby (1973). However, in the same year a live album appeared from the original line-up. You'll find this album on CD3. The recordings are rather good and they give a good overview of how the band sounded on stage in those days. All the well-known songs are featured such as Meet Me On The Corner, Lady Eleanor and We Can Swing Together. Some songs get a real live treat; due to improvisations songs like Can Swing Together and Clear White Light, last longer than on the original album versions. T he discovery of the original multi-track recordings of the concert combined with the extended playing time of CDs made it possible to remaster the entire historic Newcastle City Hall concert of December 1971. The CD-version includes six previously unreleased tracks. You'll find the complete gig on CD3.
You'll find all tracks from Roll On Ruby on CD4, the last disc of this collection, and as bonus tracks three US-mixes have been added. Compared to the first line-up the sound of the band didn't change that much. The harmony vocals are still very strong and the obvious connections with folk music remained. Above all I would like to mention the tracks When The War Is Over and Roll On River. Music wise these tracks move in the direction of progressive rock due to the use of some heavy string arrangements and strong playing on the acoustic piano.
Lindisfarne MKII released their second album Happy Daze in 1974, but no longer on the famous Charisma-label. The second line-up disbanded in early 1975, but reformed in 1978 with the release of a brand-new album: Back And Fourth. Then on November 17, 1995 the sudden death of James Alan Hull had been announced. The decision to continue as a band was taken almost immediately and permanent member Billy Mitchell replaced him on vocals and strings. But all good things come to an end. During the 2003 autumn tour, the band announced that Lindisfarne would cease on short notice. Their final concert was given in a packed Newcastle Opera House on the first of November. It was captured on video, DVD and CD and released as Time Gentlemen Please.
For me, listening to this four-disc CD-set containing the Charisma-years was a real pleasure. Although I didn't hear that much progressive rock I still enjoyed listening. I'm sure that more readers will enjoy the music made by Lindisfarne and therefore this review is in place on this prog rock website. However, it wasn't easy to rate this release, since it can't be compared to the prog rock reviews we did, but anyway this release deserves a positive judgment!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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