27 December 2008

Bobak Jons Malone - Motherlight

Bobak Jons Malone - Motherlight

Label: Morgan Blue Town
Year of Release: 1969 (re-issued in 2001 by Edsel)

As this blog has suffered from some Christmas downtime and it's been awhile since the last update, I thought I'd return with something more substantial than the last piece of seven inch vinyl I found in a local second hand store.

The history behind this album is somewhat fishy. It would seem that music business entrepreneur Monty Babson had decided to expand his interests beyond his existing Morgan Studios (sometime home to the Rolling Stones amongst lesser sixties stars) and its damp squib of a record label, and into the area of serious, "progressive" artists on a new outlet called "Morgan Blue Town". Sensing that the musical talent probably lay right under his nose with the numerous session boys who beavered away in the studio at all hours, he asked three of them, Wil Malone, Andy Johns (younger brother of Stones producer Glyn Johns, whose name was bizarrely changed to Jons for the sleeve credit) and engineer Mike Bobak to come up with something suitably forward-thinking for the album market. Babson's deal was not the stuff many would be envious of - he asked them to work late at night during studio dead time, and made them sign an agreement which stated that they lost the rights to their work as soon as they created them. Mike Bobak has since gone on record as saying that he didn't mind this arrangement as "it was never going to sell a million", and perhaps the ad-hoc band also used the duff contract as an excuse to indulge artistic tendencies which might otherwise have been reigned in.

The resulting "Motherlight" album is not without its flaws. "Wanna Make A Star, Sam" smacks of filler, even if it does lyrically predate Pink Floyd's "Have A Cigar", and "Burning The Weed" is a novelty track only worthy of a few listens before the joke wears thin - although astonishingly, it was supposedly the inspiration for DJ Dee Kline's 2000 hit "I Don't Smoke". Beyond those slip ups, however, lie six other tracks which utilise eerie lyrics, dissonance, and adventurous use of studio technology to create one of the more unsettling albums of the era. In particular, "House of Many Windows" is a triumph of the pre-prog, post-psych period, using some strangely effective (rather than outright pretentious) surreal lyrics in tandem with wobbly, giddy piano work and doomy organ passages. "High on A Meadow Lea" is another prime example of bad trip psychedelia, the undercurrent of something threatening and nasty continually tugging at the song's good melodic intentions.

For an album issued in 1969, "Motherlight" is actually an enormously forward-thinking piece of work, stylistically predating a lot of material which other bands would bring out in the seventies, but excusing itself of pompous excess which many other acts would fail to do. Clocking in at just over half an hour long, the album makes its point without outstaying its welcome, and doesn't bash ideas to an early death with tedious long, repetitive instrumental passages which add little to the experience. It's a finely balanced and interesting piece of work, and not for no reason is it frequently talked about amongst collectors.

In fact, "Motherlight" would always have been a dead cert for this blog were it not for the fact that it's been frequently written about on just about every other psychedelic and progressive website in the entire world, but as none of the old uploads for it seem to be available anymore, this seems like a good time to put it out in the public domain again.

As for the people involved, Bobak, Jo(h)ns and Malone all went on to successful careers in the music industry as session players, engineers and producers - Wil Malone, in particular, has worked on arrangements with Massive Attack and The Verve, whilst Andy Johns co-produced Television's "Marquee Moon". This album may have only sold cultishly well in Holland and been largely ignored elsewhere, but the talent working behind it was enough to set the individuals involved up for life.

Track listing

1. Motherlight
2. On A Meadow-Lea
3. Mona Lose
4. Wanna Make A Star, Sam
5. House of Many Windows
6. Chant
7. Burning The Weed
8. The Lens

Now commercially available again and therefore unavailable for download here - so please don't ask!


FeedbackReport said...

Fantastic! I adore House Of Many Windows and can't wait to hear what else they got up to...

Toby said...

This is gorgeous!