Tim Mutum's Long Player Reviews
Tim Mutum is rightly regarded as the leading brass band collector of LP's
and recordings in the world and his collection, which has been built up over 30
years must take up a whole house!
He has kindly given us some details of
a couple of his favourites from a time when he was but a lad himself, Britain
still had an Empire and an English cricket team ruled the world. Yes - that long
Remember the 60s? Me too! It was the time of 'pirate
radio', Carnaby Street, long hot summers - well we can dream can't we - Harold
Wilson and the launch of Marble Arch records. This was the Pye Records budget
label - 19/11d rings a bell.
I hadn't started collecting LPs during this
decade but when I got hooked in the year Ted Heath came to power these were some
of the of the records I sought out. Cheap you see and a fair few band records
to grab hold of. The best known Marble Arch album is almost certainly The Virtuoso
Band - Black Dyke Mills Band (they should never have dropped that word 'Mills'
in my view) on MALS 1248, later to be reissued on Pye Golden Guinea Top Brass
Series when Dyke won the BBC Band of the Year 1967 - yes sirree a time when the
BBC were interested in banding rather than the lip service they pay now to meet
their duty of providing something for everyone. And of course if you are a true
collector you have both issues. Mad I know but that's collecting for you.
gone are the Mirrlees Works Band from Hazelgrove, Stockport. Formed in August
1949 they ceased to function in 1980 a year after their second LP release and
10 years from the first which came towards the end of the life of Marble Arch
records. Their contribution to this piece of banding history was Mirrlees Makes
Music (MALS 1317) and it holds the accolade as the worst piece of type setting
and proof reading ever for a band LP sleeve. The band personnel make interesting
reading because one suspects this could have been the feeding ground for their
more illustrious neighbours, Faireys, as one Brian Taylor is assistant principal
cornet and Roy Mattocks (solo horn) went onto the famous engineering band. And
there is John Clough on Eb bass who later moved over the hills to Brighouse and
Rastrick. But I digress.
Some band this Mirrlees. The sleeve says, it achieved
"Championship status in 1965 by winning the National Second Section Final
at Kensington Town Hall in1966,67, 68 and 69." Then there is "since
the reception of brass bands" and a cornet solo with "hand accompaniment".
The music. First up is some chap called William Runner. Well, we know who they
meant but they were nothing if not consistent at Marble Arch in those days. Yep,
Drake Runner and his 'big work' Venus and Adonis. I gave this a spin and it confirmed
my view that I was never a great fan of Drake's Shakespearean efforts. But that's
not to knock the band and conductor, the late great Jack Atherton - shown on the
sleeve as Eric Pinkerton (band manager) who is Jack Atherton. I'm sure you get
I spoke to Eric Pinkerton at Mirrlees Works ten or so years
ago when I was researching my book on brass band recordings. He was rightly enormously
defensive of the band and I assured him that I had no intention of ridiculing
them in any way in the book. Like many a band secretary who have been loyal servants,
Eric Pinkerton was Mr Mirrlees who 'made it happen'.
Marble Arch was a bit
of a scratch label at times and no better illustrated than in the sleeve to the
Mirrlees disc. Seek it out. I listened to most of it again. Most of the programme
isn't at all bad. Eddie Huckridge's Polovtsiennes Dances by Borodin would have
been a significant contribution 30 or so years ago and Johnny Greenwood's arrangement
of L'Italiana in Algiers is well worth a listen. Jack Atherton had drilled a fair
band and his is a name you won't find on many LPs so there is a little piece of
banding nostalgia here.
BLACK DYKE MILLS BAND - MUSIC
I reckon the two most talked about winning performances
at the National Brass Band Championships since 1945 have to be those of Black
Dyke Mills Band (Major George Willcocks) in 1959 and the CWS (Manchester) Band
(Alex Mortimer) in 1962. Both bands went on to record the chosen test piece in
the studio and these recordings are collectors items. 'Live' winning performances
are all very well, but no substitute for a studio recording as well. However,
many a band now sees no point in carrying on a tradition that I think started
in the days of the 78rpm.
So, to Black Dyke and that epic performance of
1959. One assumes that the band tried to faithfully reproduce that performance
when they committed Le Roi d'Ys to a 7" EP which was released the following
year on the Paxton label under the number PEP 111. This was Dyke's first modern
day recording. Before that everything was on 78rpm so this was quite a momentous
occasion. To play it now is an enormous exertion and one wonders how we made the
effort years ago (well I cheated as soon as those tape players became the rage).
The problem is that just as you are about to wallow in that famous soaring euphonium
solo you have to get up to turn the disc over! Talk about ruining the atmosphere
and the moment. Thankfully, Paxton later on released it on a 10" LP with
Fodens on side 2 playing Eric Ball's Devon Fantasy. If you have a copy with the
blue sleeve then it is the original but if you have a pink one then it is a later
pressing - get searching! Better still read on and I'll give you some good news.
seems so right on this recording from the soloists to that piece of history so
carefully pointed out in the cover of the score and I quote - "Another unusual
feature is the reiteration of passages in the Presto, the speed of which calls
for triple tonguing on the part of every member of the band." The use of
the tremelo was also noted as an uncommon feature in brass band writing. Technically
we have moved on! And talking of soloists here are the corner men - Tom Waterman
(soprano), Maurice Murphy (principal cornet), Sam Smith (flugel horn), Gordon
Sutcliffe (solo horn), Geoffrey Whitham (solo euphonium) and Grenville Richmond
(solo trombone). And of course it is the wonderful playing of Geoff Whitham that
is still talked about to this day. Le Roi d'Ys - The King of Ys - has been recorded
many a time since and most recently the chance to hear the electric performance
of Sun Life winning the 1990 British Open has become a reality with the release
of a 3 disc set of some of the band's best recordings.
So, you want to hear
Black Dyke's 1960 recording on Paxton and have no intention of sifting through
piles of old recordings in charity shops - amazing how many copies of The Sound
of Music you will find if you do. Well, it has been reissued on a CD called Around
the Paxton Years Volume 1 and can be obtained from R Smith and Co on Freephone
0800 137 817. On that CD you can also hear The Judges of the Secret Court conducted
by Jack Emmott, Maurice Murphy playing Will O' The Wisp written by Major Willcocks
and a never before released performance by Geoff Whitham playing For You Alone
by Henry Geehl. There's loads more and a Volume 2 as well.