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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bob Theil - So Far... (1973-82 uk, gorgeous progressive folk rock)

Scottish born Bob Theil is a singer-songwriter guitarist very much in the tradition of British exponents, such as Roy Harper, AI Stewart, Michael Chapman and Bert Jansch who filled the folk clubs and concert halls in the early seventies.

Entirely self-taught as a guitarist, he has developed his own distinct style on twelve-string acoustic guitar. His music, most of which originates from the 12 string acoustic/electric guitar is an evocative mixture of Celtic atmospheres and intense lyrical images, sometimes with a folk flavour, at other times with a strong rock sound.

Incredible 12string-guitars and the addition of great musicians (by Bill Power, Jimmy Litherland -I noticed Jimmy Litherand also played with Marian Segal-, Jim Covington, Jed Marchant, Mark Brezicki (Big Country, Fish), Steve Hall), creating great indepth songs. The music reminded a bit in mood at Roy Harper's from around the 'Stormcock' period, but much more sparsly arranged. Steve Hall was the producer for this album. He definitely had his share in making the sound so wonderful. Cutting engineer Nick Webb (credited on the Stormcock album of Roy Harper) also was one of those people who knew the value of the music involved. 

I realize now there aren’t too many skilled 12-string guitarists who also are good songwriters. As an introduction to people I prefer to compare and desribe the music of Bob Theil as a combination of the better Roy Harper, the first Perry Leopold album, and some earlier Al Stewart. Bob Theil, knowing the best English literature, having an eye for the world and having an awareness of social & philosophical patterns that people tend to follow, it’s no wonder Bob Theil’s texts have some deep connections. I guess this has evolved through the years. 

Hearing back the remastered CD version now, I realize even more what made the production so successful. Also the band gave a wonderful contribution.  Just hear the electric guitar solo from James Litherland (Coloseum/Mogul Trash/Marian Segal and Jade/Leo Sayer) on “One Day, today or tomorrow”, or Jim Covington on “So Far”. The complexity of Bob’s 12 string guitar picking can be heard on songs like “Moments lost” and on one of my favourites of the album, the instrumental 12-string track, “Wind in the Wires””. 

Another incredible beauty for me is “Who are we now?” with Bob’s voice first in more bass registers, then also with high pitched peeks, again with his 12 string-accompaniment. This kind of relaxed singing in such songs, letting his voice express the underlying, also being emotionally moved by the values of the content, is something Bob Theil will develop even more throughout the years, with various similar beautiful compositions like this one. The instrumental ending on it, is also another example of the fine production. A true highlight ! Also from the last 8’28” track, “December 1918” I can say very similar things, recalling the best Roy Harper.

As bonus track the EP directly recorded from the single is added. I didn’t have much interest in the early days for it, but now when I hear it back I still think especially “Post Mortem Blues”, “Moments Lost” & “Westway” are worth as much investigation. PS. the single was recorded shortly before the LP.

1. Yesterdays - 6:01
2. Lady - 3:41
3. One Day, Today Or Tomorrow - 3:56
4. Moments Lost - 2:05
5. So Far - 5:05
6. Westway - 0:05
7. Reflections - 3:03
8. Wind In The Wires - 4:01
9. Who Are We Now? - 5:02
10.December 1918 - 8:04
11.Post Mortem Blues - 3:02
12.Moments Lost - 2:05
13.Reflections - 3:01
14.Another Flight - 4:01
15.Westway - 1:00
All compostions by Bob Theil

*Bob Theil - Vocals, 12 String, Acoustic Guitars, Synth
*Bill Power  - Bass Guitar
*Mark Brzezicki  - Drums, Percussion
*Jed Marchant  - Electric Guitar
*Steve Hall - Synth,  Keyboards
*Jimmy Litherland - Electric Guitar
*Jim Covington - Electric, Acoustic Guitar
*Walter Mets - Drums, Keyboards

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