Re: Notes to "Friend of Mine" album

JOHN DAWSON READ's first album for Christalis, "A Friend of Mine", brims with more abiding optimism and love of life than any LP to make the rounds in a long time. The title track "A Friend of Mine (Tommy Davidson)" also released as a single, contains a line about a friend going blind. The reason it is not grim -- although it is real -- is that approaching blindness has heightened Tommy's awareness of the beauty of the world. And John's song in turn celebrates the the beauty of this consolation. It is typical of the response to positive values that characterises all of John's material -- remembering the good in a rainy day, a broken , a drunken party or a family outing.

Most musicians aren't turning out this sort of stuff. It isn't hip. If John hung out in London he would probably write differently. But instead he lives sequestered in rural Berkshire and barely knows anyone in the business. His recent recording is a kind of Walter Mitty dream made good.

He had a fling with music years ago, but then settled down to work as a graphic designer with tunes as an avocation . The advantage of his isolation from the contemporary music scene is that it enabled him to write with real spontaneity. The result is an unusual collection of ballads that are all the more affecting for their ingenuousness.

"I like writing about things as they are -- just putting them down as I see them. The melody and the line come together at the same time. I know what the song is to be about . All this is usually at about two in the morning .... The biggest thing I've not got is time!"

Certainly, time is the pervasive theme in many of John's lyrics. "My Time" is a pleasing example -- an ode to evening steeped in feeling and almost tangible atmosphere. "All The Time In The World" is a love song -- one where time is on his side. He passes along the lesson of making your time your own in It's Been A Long Long Day", warns that "You loive just to give to a company spiv" and concludes with a near nursery-rhyme parody of urban servitude.

Pastoral pleasures are another of John's recurring themes, "Rain" is a convincing little hymn with enormous presence, inclining the listener also to "Go/Where the patterned rivers flow". But he does not always take refuge in Nature with a capital N. He tackles the more challenging human nature as well. "Brief Relationship" clings tenaciously to the high points of a deceased romance. "An Hour's So Long When You're Dying" explores the innermost fears of the performing artist on stage. Equally devestating in their own different ways are the classic family outing, vividly snapped in "Sallyally Sunday" and "Superficial Things". "Good Living", emphasises the importance of being answerable to yourself in order to find contentment. Daydreams are perfectly good currency where John's concerned. After all, his own furnished this album.

Four years ago John was in a semi-pro group that broke up, so to speak, when he did. (He fell out of a tree and was in plaster for three months unable to play). When he took up the guitar again as therapy, he became intrigued with writing for himself, and comments, "as you get better, it's more difficult".

A while back he did a demo and when a major record company expressed interest, John sought advice from his only music biz contact, Guy Fletcher. Guy assumed responsiblity for the project, got a strong response from several quarters and elected to sign with Chrysalis.

"A Friend of Mine" was recorded mostly out of town, voice and guitar put down in intimate surroundings with plenty of that precious commodity -- time. Strings were overdubbed in town and arranged by Chris Gunning with Guy Fletcher. Additional personnel include: Alan Hodge on electric guitar, B.J Cole on steel guitar, Les Hurdle on bass guitar, Terry Cox on drums and Guy Fletcher on keyboards.

That's it - these notes came with a booklet insert with CHR 1075. I heard this in a reference library, so I'd love to get a recording of this myself - if anyone can help let me know:)

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