Andy White

Rare (2001) b sides & other songs 1986-1999

Hypertension 1207 HYP

Although drawn from a relatively short time-span there seem to be 2 distinct Andy Whites on "Rare".

There's early, angry, Dylan-inflected (but not derivative) Andy spitting acrimony & venom about the troubles in Ireland & religious intolerance ("Walking Wounded", a re-recorded "Religious Persuasion").

Then there's mature, smart, quiet Andy writing songs so simple & effective that you might miss their power at first listening ("I Wouldn't Lie for You").

Both Andys display a characteristic wry wit, most notable in the blackly humourous tale of a postman jailed for running down his partner "2nd Class Deliverance" & the exceptional, poignant "England Died with Bobby Moore".

Despite being a collection of b-sides, demos & outtakes "Rare" hangs together as a reasonably cohesive whole. A few songs don't work or needed further work but that's the nature of the beast; the reason why the collection is so fascinating. Comprehensive sleeve notes enhance this experience.

The effectiveness of White's approach to songs & arrangements & his occasionally almost deadpan, half-spoken delivery is particularly evident on the 2 covers here, Lennon & McCartney's "Cry Baby Cry" & a live recording of "There Were Roses" by Tommy Sands.

The White neophyte might be wiser to start with angry Andy's debut "Rave on Andy White" or mature Andy's sublimely understated "Destination Beautiful" but even so, there is plenty here for any aficionado of fine songwriting.

James Hibbins.

September 2001

Pat Orchard – Shabby Road

It’s unfair to consider a performer as the sum of their influences. However, if you imagine an amalgam of late 70’s John Martyn, all surging echoes & dirty sound processing, The Edge’s chiming guitar on early U2 records & later, Roger Waters driven Pink Floyd, you will have a notion of how Pat Orchard sounds on Shabby Road.

Primarily performed live on open tuned acoustic guitar & a barrage of effects, this is Orchard’s first concerted effort at recording the one-man-band approach of his live performances.

An old fashioned concept album, it takes the form of a tour around a bleak London peopled by pitiful broken ghosts of characters. The tone is earnest & heartfelt & there is nothing here of the uplifting nature of the earlier "Clearwater Days".

On form, Orchard is very impressive indeed; such as when his weathered voice enswathed in atmospheric, swirling guitars on "Night Train", with its gear shifting dynamics & mood changes.

In other places he has an unfortunate tendency for songs to be contrived around the cleverer word plays & an occasional reliance on clichéd phrases or images, to a certain extent inevitably because of the subject matter.

Overall the album might have benefited from a bigger budget production & its impact, while considerable, heightened by a little judicious editing & the input of an external producer. Perhaps this is a price you pay for operating independently at the uncommercial end of the music industry?

On this recording Orchard is at his best when the songs are slightly understated, with more breathing room as in the opening "Shabby Road" or the lush, more lyrically measured "Poorman’s Earth". The highlight is the delicate, plaintive vignette "Sunday Parade" Beautifully played in 3:4 time & a semi-classical style, it is only song on the album with a glimmer of hope. These three songs alone are worth the price of admission to Orchard’s dour world.

James Hibbins

October 2001.