There was a time, my children, when druids and sprites, sea-goddesses and bards of the old tongue, walked the mountains and shores of Wales. There was also a time when there were musicians, older than the oldest oaks and yews and they were NOT called Super Furry Animals, Manic Street Preachers or Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. Among these ancients there were two of which I shall speak today and they were called Man and John Cale.
A new compilation has just been released called Keep On Crinting: The Liberty/UA Anthology. It features choice tracks by the awesome Man, who I consider to be the greatest band to ever come out of Wales, bar none. Covering the ground from their self-titled third album to their final UA recording, the live Maximum Darkness, this double disc set shows Man at the peak of their powers. Heavy on live, extended tracks, we are reminded that Man were incredible improvisers, with such extended work-outs as 'C'mon'(with male voice choir!) and 'Many Are Called But Few Get Up'. The inter-play between the guitars of the various members (there were a few line-up changes) is truly thrilling but the star of the show for me is Mickey Jones who was an ever-present until illness made him go into semi-retirement just a few years ago. Mickey is the Welsh Jerry Garcia, only better! There often seems to be a creative tension between the band's 'space-rock' tendencies and their commercial sense which gave birth to the finest achievement, the Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics album in 1974. The whole of the second side of this album is featured here, along with Malcolm Morley's lovely 'California Silks & Satins' (they really should have come from SF). Man brought the West Coast to Wales and gave much back of their own take on psych-tinged rock. Buy this (or get someone to give it to you!)
John Cale is another Welsh giant. Even if he is connected far more with the Velvet Underground and the avant-garde NY scene, he never lost his sense of Welshness even if this Welsh in a wider Euro context. His classic 1973 album, Paris 1919 has recently been reissued with bonus tracks and proves that this is one of THE great records of the 70's. In the studio with a handful of Little Feat players, Cale still manages to create an utterly European album that seems to fill the air with a sense of fading glory. The arrangements on every track are impeccable, my particular favourites being 'Andalucia' and 'Paris 1919'. The bonus tracks are well worth having too as the different arrangements and simpler mixes really bring something new to the record. Celtic genius.