05 November 2007

Songs of Praise: The Genius of Roy Wood

I have spent the last few days listening to what is quite probably my favourite reissue of the year. Boulders by former Move, ELO and Wizzard renaissance man Roy Wood has recently found its way back into the shops in remastered form with a rough mix of single 'Dear Elaine' as an added bonus. Anyone with ears that appreciate perfect pop with a twist of crazed genius should own this album. Boulders was actually recorded at Abbey Road studios in 1969 but was not released until 1973, on EMI's 'prog' off-shoot label, Harvest.

The first thing to note about Boulders (original title, Bollocks!) is that all but for the harmonium on opening track, 'Songs of Praise', Wood plays all the instruments and does all the vocals. This may make it sound like some sort of prog rock self-indulgent puff of wind but it really is nothing like that at all: the whole thing is enormous fun and, at times, rather lovely.

My first encounter with this solo masterpiece was via the second single taken from its grooves, 'Dear Elaine'. I bought it on release back in '73 (around the same time as Wizzard's 'Angel Fingers', I believe) and instantly fell in love with its baroque beauty. This song is truly incredible and has remained one of my all-time favourites ever since. I have literally been moved to tears listening to it. The b-side was 'Songs of Praise', which is almost as good in its up-beat glory. I eventually got hold of the whole LP on vinyl but I recently discovered it was no longer in my collection! What happened? Thank the Lord for CD reissues! Other album highlights include 'Miss Clarke and The Computer', which tells the story of a computer that falls in love with the engineer sent to mend it and is genuinly rather touching; 'Wake Up', which uses buckets of water as percussion(!) and the great 'Rock Down Low'. Although there are a few Move and Wizzard-like moments, Wood never really made music like this anywhere else and it's a shame he never seems to have come close to its brilliance since then. Highly recommended if you love real music.


The Purple Gooroo said...

Nice review, Bear! Been meaning to buy the "Boulders" re-issue. I wouldn't actually mind if it was a prog-rock puff of wind, but I get the feeling that Roy always kinda did his own thing (as well as keeping Jeff Lynne in check on "Message To The Country" and the first ELO album)--rather than "keep up with the Yeses".

The Purple Gooroo said...

Oop, I mean "Message From The Country"

Anonymous said...

When I can get to it, I'll copy it for you. Remind me. Hey, I didn't mean to 'dis' prog...you know I love its excesses as much as the next weirdo!