The River/The Englishman


These are the last recordings of Mick Stevens, originally released in 1977 (The River) and 1979 (The Englishman), respectively. Mick Stevens arrived on the music scene and then disappeared, seemingly without anybody noticing. Two sublime, inventive, and beautifully-crafted homemade albums in the early 1970s -- See The Morning and No Savage Word -- (previously reissued by Shadoks, SHAD 038CD) were evidence of the superior songwriting and arranging skills that he possessed. Though highly personalized, the performances, the songs, the musicianship, and the painstaking (low-budget and homespun) production of these first two records gave them a sound and a feel that suggested that here was a real talent on the launch-pad of a musical career of some substance. By 1977, and with no record contract in sight, Mick took a group of musician friends into Spaceward Studios in Cambridge (England) and recorded the tracks for The River, the first CD in this 2CD collection. The dreamy vocal layers so prevalent in the earlier albums are subservient to a much harder and "rockier" sound, while Stevens' electric guitar-playing is of the highest order. Since the '70s were a time of much creativity and wholly new approaches to sound, a number of musical influences can be heard in Stevens' music on this particular album. The opening to the lengthy "Suite (To A Seagull)" has overtones of King Crimson or Gentle Giant, developing into a Yes-like section and a middle-eight reminiscent of early Steely Dan. The album The Englishman is self-assured, confidently and beautifully played by a bunch of first-rate musicians including Ric Sanders of Soft Machine, the Albion Band and Fairport Convention, and Michael Gregory -- whose crisp drumming patterns are a real highlight. The track "The Englishman" is the clear apex of the album, with Stevens' voice and solo acoustic guitar completely filling the audio waves in a song about an Englishman overseas. The original vinyl pressings of all Mick Stevens' albums are now collector's items, all exorbitantly expensive. These songs have never sounded as good as they do on these CDs due to the care and attention of the transfer process in removing all the surface noise to be found on the original vinyl and tapes.