Friday, 26 November 2010

Sounds of Salvation An interview with Rob Cox

SOUNDS OF SALVATION - An exploration in worship LP (Reflection RL 310)

For those who know me well there's no suprise at my obsession with the Sounds of Salvation album. It's a beguiling album, once heard never forgotten.
I'm very grateful indeed to Rob Cox for the interview he agreed to do regarding the album. Rob co-produced the album and i'm sure that Rob's answers will be of interest to fans of the album; they were certainly enlightening for me and i'd like to thank Rob for sharing this influential moment from his musical past.

An Interview with Rob Cox, November 2010.

Was the Reflection label a collective of Christian Musicians and
how did you first become involved with the label. I assume that the
Sounds of Salvation were not a band as such.

Reflection was a Christian Arts Group comprising musicians, poets, writers, theorists, administrators, lyricists, actors, etc. A more full history can be found at That website was set up by one of
the two Reflection founders, Mike Lehr. Mike sadly died earlier this year as reported in
my blog which
also describes how I became involved. SOS were not a band - just a name given to the
group of Reflection members and non-Reflection members (like John Aldington) who
contributed to the album.

Did the Methodist Missionary Society, who commisioned the album,
give you a strong idea of what they wanted or was it a far looser
arrangement. Were they happy with the results, especially considering
the darker moments.

I don't think the MMS had any idea of what they wanted. 'Salvation' was the theme of a
conference held by (I think) The Council of Churches and the MMS wanted to respond to
that in some way. They expected an album of hymns and songs related to the 'Salvation'
theme and asked Reflection to produce it because they wanted something 'more modern'. My
co-producer, Martin Colley, had no interest in negotiating in committees so I was the guy
who liaised with them on progress at regular intervals. They loved the 'Salvation Hymn'
and pretty much hated everything else!! But because they had no clear idea of what they
collectively wanted they went along with what we were doing. I was also careful to keep
from them some of the more 'extreme' (in those days) elements.

Some of the subjects dealt with on the album seem very Catholic to
me. Were the group of Christians behind the album a mix of different
Christian faiths, or were they predominantly of one Christian faith.

I doubt that any similar organisation has embraced such a wide range of 'christian'
beliefs and views. From evangelicals to free-church to C of E to high church - all were
represented. We embraced views from 'All non-believers go to hell' to 'God is Dead'.
Reflection also included some agnostics and non-believers for good measure!! The fact
that we all got on well, respected each other's views and could work to a common goal was
a great strength.

How many people were involved with the album and did some people
take on multiple roles within the group.

There was a 64-page booklet included with the album and a different group of members
worked on that. It's a pretty wild guess (because I was not involved heavily in the
booklet apart from writing a few things for it) but I would say around 30 - 40 people
were involved. I'm not sure what you mean by 'multiple roles'. I co-produced the album,
wrote some of the songs, played guitar, sang on one track and contributed to the booklet
as well as liaising with the MMS. That felt multiple enough to me!!

Was there any one person who controlled the project or could
everyone contribute equally.

Everyone was encouraged to contribute but not everyone did. Martin and I were in charge
of the recording and a member called Richard Seel was in charge of the booklet.

What do you think makes the Sounds of Salvation album so popular
with a new generation.

I really don't know. Maybe it is just - different - in an age where everything tries to
conform with the latest sound or fad? There was such a conflict between the long-haired
rockers (of which I was one in those days) and the suits and ties of the MMS that what
emerged was a strange (and unsatisfying to both parties at the time) mix. But maybe it
sort of works. Re-visiting it is difficult for me because each track throws up memories
some of which are painful and some of which are frustrating. I'm probably not the person
to answer that question.

How would you describe the album to someone who had never heard it.

Difficult in a few words. As an eclectic mix of sound, song, music and poetry designed to
promote thought and reflection on the world. But if you ask me again tomorrow I will
probably come out with something completely different.

Are many of the musicians involved with the album still in touch
with each other.

Many of us are still in touch although we tend to get together, sadly, at funerals and
60th birthdays and similar!!! I don't get to see Martin as much as I should but I still
regard him as one of my best friends and, when we do meet, we just click as if we'd never
been apart.

How do you, or the others, feel about the album being so popular
with fans who are not Christians.

I'm really cool with that and I think the vast majority of the others would agree!

I know you are very proud of the Sounds of Salvation album. What
part, or aspect, of the album would you hold up with the most pride
and why?

Actually both Martin and I were very disappointed with the album. It was a compromise;
not what we wanted to make; not understood by those who commissioned it. In retrospect I
can appreciate that there are some nice ideas within the album delivered in a powerful
way and that is satisfying. I particularly like the start of the album through the trite
'Jesus is the Rock' into 'Overseers'. Also John's 'Freedom' song which is brilliant!

After SOS, Martin and I got immersed in another project together with another friend of
ours, Chris May. This resulted in the album 'Thursday's Child' which was released on the
Grapevine label. - it
involved a load of Reflection members but the production costs were too high to be born
by Reflection Records.

Monday, 11 October 2010

John Sase - Aessence

JOHN SASE - Aessence (Private Press. USA. 1975/85)

Obscure USA private press folk album that's already got interest in the world of bloggers. However, i think it's worth adding as previous blogs have missed what could be a different fan base for this album. It was recorded around 1975 but not released until 1985. Despite the 1970's recording this album has tracks that i feel are closer to the Neo Folk style of the late 1980's onwards, than the Acid Folk tag other bloggers use. Listening to Industrial Age is for me akin to the Death In June sound from the All Pigs Must Die album. Artists like Nurse with Wound and Current 93 have always been open in their love of Folk, especially artists like Shirley Collins and Comus.

The album was released in a limited edition of 300 autographed and hand numbered copies with two inserts, housed in a plain sleeve with screen printed title and pasted picture. John Sase was based in Detroit, hardly well known for producing Folk music. There are a wealth of instruments on the album which are played well enough to lift it above the usual private pressing. If i was to have a criticism of the album then it would be that the tempo seems to remain pretty much the same through the entire album. The songs themselves are strong so keeping it interesting.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Joshua - Joshua

JOSHUA - Joshua (Key Records KL 014. UK. 1973)

I really do wish i could tell you more about this album, but even the record label state on the liner notes they know nothing of this band! The band were a three piece from Texas, who entered Athena Studios in Texas, laid down this monstrous Acid/Fuzz album & then promptly dissapeared into the desert to pray and were never heard from again. The drums were added later in one long session. By the time Key Records in the UK released the album the band were no more.

A solid album that is right up there in the Acid & Fuzz guitar stakes. The guitar work is incredible, it just screams in from nowhere & just lifts the whole album. Most tracks are uptempo & the guitarist takes every opportunity possible to crank up the Acid & Fuzz licks.
If there was to be any criticism of the album, the songs do veer towards Country Psych, sometimes sounding a little like a harder edged, three piece Eagles. Not necessarily a bad thing, just not always to my taste.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Meic Stevens - Mwg

MEIC STEVENS - Mwg EP (Wren Records WRE 1073)

How could i resist adding some Meic Stevens to the Acid Folk section?

No longer what you could describe as an obscure artist, Meic has been an important & well loved figure in Wales for many decades. Not only did he produce some of the most wonderful music to come out of Wales, he was also the inspiration, catalyst & vehicle for many Welsh bands to make & release music.

Mwg is my favourite Meic Stevens ep & this track is the most "Acid" from this particular release. I do belive that Meic Stevens is best listened to in Welsh. Although most people will not understand the words, there is an interplay between the Welsh language, Meics' delivery & the interplay with his guitar playing that just isn't present on Outlander, his English language album.

There is plenty of information on Meic on the web & there are also two compilation albums that bring together all his EP tracks including this one.

Beau - Creation

BEAU - Creation LP (Dandelion DAN 8006)

Certainly not the most obscure offering on this blog, but it is in my mind a criminally overlooked album. Infact it's inclusion is more to do with the fact that this is still an affordable album, something that will probably change as time goes by. There is plenty of information on Beau to be found on the web.

It was Beau's second album for John Peel's Dandellion label, released in 1971. What sets this apart from his first album is the fact that Tractor are his backing band for this outing.

It's a strange mix; the Folk songs of a renowned folk songwriter with the twisted rock musings of Tractor. For me the song where this works best is "Silence Returns", which has a undercurrent of darkness that is just about kept in check until the end when all hell breaks loose through an incredible acid guitar piece until the song eventually fades out.

It's nowhere near as "Acid" as the first Comus album for example, but as a whole the album does work, although sometimes it does feel like the mix isn't quite right. Some songs are more traditional, some far more twisted.

All in all though, still an album i would recommend picking up before prices inevitably rise.

Sharon People - Inside Looking Out LP

SHARON PEOPLE - Inside looking out LP (Indigo Sound Studios IRS 5510)

Here's the first Xian Psych/Folk album i bought. Got a call about it last year from a fellow digger. I'd never heard of it, but he assured me that i'd like it & if not that i'd easily move it on.

Well, the first few needle drops were anything but positive, but once again, it's the arrangements that set this apart from other LP's. Once i'd sat down to listen in it's entirity it made complete sense to me. Maybe that's the thing with private pressings, once you "get it"; the strange arrangements, the throwing out of the rule book; then you're hooked.

I could never hope to explain the music here. The only thing that came to mind was a Cabaret band playing songs written by Ennio Morricone, arranged by Bryan MacLeane, with Sterling Morrisson guesting on guitar. OK, so that's a bit strong, but how do you compare this to anything else you've ever heard?

Side one is much stronger than side two here, there's a passion throughout side one that seems to be lacking on the other side.

I've come up gainst a complete brick wall on researching this album. It's on the Indigo Sound Studios label out of the Republic of Ireland with a very home made looking sleeve. I originally thought this was a subsiduary of EMI, but i now think it was probably recorded in the EMI studio in the Republic of Ireland that happened to be called Indigo Sound Studios.

I've tried researching the members' names as well, but once again drew a complete blank. Two other diggers i've spoken too said they owned or had seen the Sharon People album, but it seems they are talking about a second album i've seen listed on a Japanese website which appears to be some kind of a stage play using some of the songs & music from this album.

If anyone can throw some light on this album please get in touch, as i am particulary obsessed by it. Who wouldn't be, you just need to hear the passion in the vocals of I'm in Love......if that's what being in love with Jesus Christ is all about, well......

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Sounds of Salvation - An exploration in worship

SOUNDS OF SALVATION - An exploration in worship LP (Reflection RL 310)

This is the album that has inspired this blog (obvious from the title really!). What they call a blind punt, quite literally picked up off the floor of a local flea market where someone had unceremoniously dropped it.
This is one difficult album to explain.

Released in 1974 by a Christian group from Cambridge University, it ranges from a long introduction of sound collages depicting everyday life (strangely akin to the KLF's Chill out album), through a very dark Psychedelic track "Overseers", then through prayers, acid folk & twisted rock.

It really does need to be listened to in it's entirity as it does flow despite the strange marrying of styles.

The female voices are particulary strong, along with some superb guitar work, especially in the more acid moments. What manages to really make this work for me are the arrangements, they are very different from traditional arrangements, and that makes for a refreshing listen.

I don't feel that the soundfiles i've uploaded are representative of the album as a whole, but they are an introduction to a strange world; a world where people ask the Lord what it is like to burn & where peoples eyes are scratched out so we can see through them.

As a foot note, the stamps on my copy show that it once belonged to a hospital radio station. Now there's a thought!

Although inactive for many years the group behind Refection records have now come back together & are releasing the albums on CD.
I hope i have inspired at least one or two of you to buy the CD.

If anyone connected with this album is reading, we would love to hear your recollections.