Lal And Mike Waterson - Bright Phoebus
The Watersons, and their extended family, were mainstays on the UK folk scene in the mid to late 60’s. Comprised of siblings Lal, Mike and Norma along with Martin Carthy and John Harrison, they largely performed traditionals with lovely, pastoral harmonies that won them many fans in the UK. After a string of exceptional LPs, the group disbanded to pursue other acclaimed projects.
Though they weren’t known for their original compositions, Lal and Mike had busied themselves with songwriting during those years and when time was freed up to try new things, it was natural that they would explore these works. However if not for Martin Carthy, these songs might’ve stayed hidden but having heard how strong they were, he stirred Fairport Convention bassist Ashley Hutchings who summoned guitarist Richard Thompson, Maddy Prior and a handful of friends from the folk world.
The eventual LP for Trailer in 1972, Bright Phoebus, is a revelation plain and simple. The songs took chances and didn’t fall prey to traditional folk norms. The performances were free-wheeling and you can practically hear the musicians essentially “hanging out”, more focused on the enjoyment of the sessions than any future successes. The sound of Bright Phoebus calls to mind the sessions that produced Music From The Big Pink or Bringing It All Back Home without necessarily aping them stylistically. There’s pieces of Fairport’s countryside beauty, moments akin to Kevin Ayers’ art-rock on acid, Nick Drake’s desperate anguish and the ambling country rock of Fotheringay. But it’s the presentation and the spirited performances that really make this LP a revered stunner.
The LP flopped and squandered any momentum the duo had from their Watersons days. To make matters worse, the Trailer label mispressed some of the stock so it’s rumoured only 1000 copies made it out into the world.
Since its release it’s developed into a singular classic of the genre with some even calling it the Sgt Pepper’s of folk. Unbelievably, it has yet to be reissued, save the CD only version in 2000 by Bill Leader. Until now that is. Domino Records has stepped out of their lane to rescue this buried landmark. Their new version is not only remastered, but also includes an 8pg booklet with extensive notes. Longtime fan and admirer of the LP M.C. Taylor (Hiss Golden Messenger), recently stated that this new remaster sounds much better than his original copy so rest assured you’re hearing Bright Phoebus as it was meant to be heard.
Find what why artists like Stephen Malkmus, Billy Bragg, Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley have swooned over this LP. Truly an important piece of folk music, now finally widely available. (Dom)
Check out a track here.