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Medicine Head - New Bottles Old Medicine [Cherry Red - 2020]

New Bottles Old Medicine is a striped-back, often mellow, sometimes passionate, but always charming record that brings together blues, acoustic rock, and folksy traces. Itís the first album form Stafford based Medicine Head, who at this point were just a duo, and it was originally released back in 1970 on John Peels Dandelion label. Here from Cherry Red, to celebrate the albums fiftieth anniversary is a recently released double CD edition of the album- with the first CD taking in the original album, and the second taking in single tracks, live recordings, etc.

The reissue is presented in a mini gatefold- with each of the CDís having its own card slip sleeve. In the centre of the gatefold we have sixteen-page colour inlay booklet- this features a new six-page write-up about the album/band in this early period. Thereís also a good selection of single cover reproductions, press clippings, band pictures, full lyrics & credits too. So another very nicely presented Cherry Red release.

The origins of Medicine Head go back to when John Fiddler(vocals, guitar, piano, drummers) and Peter Hope-Evans (harmonica, Jew's harp, guitar, mouth bow)- met at  Wolverhampton Grammar School, later going onto attend Stafford Art School, but they fairly soon quit and began performing together on an informal basis. In or around 1968, the pair starting performing blues, and rock Ďní roll songs in pubs and clubs in and around the  Birmingham area. John Peel saw the pair perform at the Lafayette Club and later shared their music with John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend.  And it was on Lennon's insistence, the duo got signed Dandelion Records.  The band went onto release seven albums in total between the years 1970 & 1976, bringing in other players to help on the later albums, but this debut was just the two of them playing everything.


New Bottles Old Medicine is a fourteen track album- and it was recorded & mixed with no overdubs in just four hours, and understandable itís been seen as one of the first lo-fi records, before the term existed. The album features a great blend of lulling-yet-earthy ballads, down Ďní dirty but stripped boogie rock , and passionate/ raw blues. Musically we find a blend of acoustic & electric guitar, basic percussion, harmonica & some might fine Jew harp playing. Vocally Fiddler has rich & naturally tuneful voice, on the slower tracks I guess sounds a little like a more laid back Phil Lynott, and on the more rough blues/ boogie tracks it takes on more a wailing classic blues quality. As far as I can gather all of the tracks are original compositions by the pair- and they certainly knew how to write honest, at times fairly memorable & felt songcraft. The only criticism I did have, is at just five minutes sly of the hour mark- the album does feel a little too long/ baggy in places, and maybe if one or two tracks had been cut it might have flowed better.

The second disc entitled Singles, Sessions, and live- takes in twenty-two tracks, with a total playtime of seventy-seven minutes. And we get a good selection of original single versions(which are even more lo-fi), live tracks, session recordings, and a few unreleased tracks. So really a bumper selection of bonus stuff, making it worthwhile picking this new version up even if you already have the album.


I can see this new CD release New Bottles Old Medicine really appealing to anyone who enjoys down-to-earth & lo-fi music- be it blues, folk-rock, or boogie bound rock-outs.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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