Thursday, 26 July 2012

Mabel Joy - Sylvan Road

I've been really into this song today after discovering it this morning.  At first it reminded me a bit of Gol Gappas' lovely West 14 but now it's a little more like the gorgeous slower Go-Betweens numbers.  I've also always loved the name Mabel.

I was going through my iTunes wish list, looking for something new to listen to, when I came across The Palace Of Light's Beginning Here & Travelling Outward. I can't quite remember why I had put it in my wish list in the first place, possibly something to do with Nick Haeffner, but I was intrigued and glad I bought it.  Opening song, Safer:

I can't find out much info about either band, except that they were both on Bam Caruso.  And this, posted on the Spring Records blog, and written by Bam Caruso founder Phil Smee:

The Palace of Light were one of our best kept secrets. A group of like-minded guys who worshiped at the feet of Cyrus Faryar, Fred Neil, Scott Walker and Mickey Newbury and boasted a singer with an amazing voice. Their debut album contains musical tales of epic proportions and should really be made available once more.” Far from the excess that marked the 80’s, “Beginning Here and Travelling Outward” (1987) was, again in Mr. Smee’s words “light years ahead, in terms of content and production of virtually any other band´s first offering... textures of sound , woven like a complex web, overlay the songs, (all originlas) and turn each and every one into a mini-symphony...It’s 1988 and the art of music making is alive and well in the hearts of at least four young people called The Palace of Light”. Mark Brendguitarist of the band recalls: “We got some good reviews and played a few gigs inLondon, then gave up for nearly a year. In the summer of 1988 we decided to have another go, and reconvened to record three songs at Cold Storage in Brixton, South London, … One of the tracks we recorded was Books, which you can hear on this single. …. there’s a string trio led by Marcus Holdaway, who later joined the High Llamas. We’d circulated the three newly recorded songs to some record companies, and I remember some A&R men coming to see us, though we didn’t get any offers. Then in 1989 we recorded two sessions in a studio in Stoke NewingtonNorth London. One of the songs we recorded there was Catherine, the other track on this single” When the drummer left, the group started playing live as a trio and decided to change their name and press a promo single, drawing on the material recorded since the Palace Of Light album. They settled on Mabel Joy as the band name (after the Mickey Newbury song, “Frisco Mabel Joy”), chose Catherine and Books for the single, and decided to call their label Hummingbird. It was 1991. Some 7 incheswere pressed up. But the single was never properly released. Some copies were sent out for review, and to radio stations, but there was no distribution and it was never sold in shops. So, the record you now have in your hands is something of an anomaly, as it is a reissue of something that wasn’t really issued in the first place. The single got a couple of reviews, and maybe even some radio play, but it didn’t really achieve anything. Mabel Joy pressed on, and in 1994 returned to Bam Caruso for an album, Wish I Was, before splitting up. 

The Palace of Light were a band completely out of step with the times. They had obscurity in their genes, so perhaps it is fitting that this – the first Palace of Light reissue – should be of their most obscure record, one that was never really released in the first place. But a true lost gem of a record, indeed!!

A very nice find today.

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