Various Artists - Separate Paths Together An Anthology Of British [Grapefruit Records/ Cherry Red - 2021]
If there’s one thing that’s synonymous with the musical landscape of the 1970’s it’s the whole singer/ songwriter scene. Here from Cherry Red’s ’60s/ 70’s focused sublabel Grapefruit Records, is Separate Paths Together- a three-CD anthology collection focusing on British male singer/ songwriters from between the years 1965 and 1975. And it’s a wonderful varied, consistent, and rewarding boxset- that moves through a fair few genres/ takes on singer/songwriter craft, taking in tracks from the known, lesser-known and decidedly obscure artists.
Before we get into the sets musical content, let’s discuss the nicely presented and classy packaging. Each of the three CD’s come presented in their own card slips- these each feature on their fronts a picture of a singer/ songwriter in moody monochrome, with purple, light green, and sandy yellow texts overlaid- on the back we get full credits and details of each disc's track. On top of these, we get a glossy forty-page inlay booklet- this features intro text to the comp, then a write about each of the sixty-six tracks on the box set, as well as tones of pics/ cover illustrations. The whole thing comes presented in a sturdy flipside box- this features on its front a picture of a solitary male figure playing acoustic guitar on a deserted and raggedly grass tufted beach, with the whole thing topped off with well placed blue, green, and darkly sandy yellow texts.
The first disc takes in twenty-one tracks- with the set/ disc kicking off in fine form with Duncan Browne's “Journey” which finds clean ‘n’ jigging blues guitar against a grooving ‘n’ revering rock bassline backing, all topped with Mr Browne self-mocking and mid-range vocalises. We have the scrubbing raw guitar strum meets rough sing-song/ to warbling falsetto singing of Kevin Coyne's “Mad Boy”. There is the felt and fragile wonkiness of Mike Heron’s “Audrey” with its musical blend of picked 'n' strummed acoustic guitars and simmering/ swirling organs, all finished off with Herons distinctive wavering-but wonderful singing. There‘s “The Bells Of St Mary’s” by Leo Sayer- with the later 80's soft rock to disco artists offering up a great mixing of rolling to bounding keys, felt to smoky rising singing, and touches of horn and string swoons.
On disc two we have another twenty-three tracks- and these move from flighty ‘n’ fresh acoustic guitar and rising buzzing horn forlornness of Steve Tilson’s “I Really wanted You”. Onto tick-tock keys, bounding bass, vibe simmers and suburbian life mocking lyrics of John Howard's “Family Man”. There are the bounding dramatic drums, tolling keys, and swooning to sing-song vocals of Patrick Campbell’s “Jesus Christ Junior” which is finished off with tamborine bash and strum along with chorus. We have the rapid string swoon meets clip-clop percussion and warbling ‘n’ wailing vocals of John William’s “She That Kind Of Woman”.
Moving onto the third and final disc in the set, and this takes in another twenty-two tracks. We go from the jaunting musical -yet lyrically unsettling “Jeffery Don’t You Touch” by Al Jones, which details the growth of sexual predator- from a creepy little boy, to hand darting teen, through to offending adult. There’s the strum ‘n’ Strick guitar, wandering bassline, and wavering vocals of Bob Bunting’s “Soliloquy”. We have the bonding-yet-muffled keys and talky vocals of Bill Fay’s “Sing Us One Of Songs, May”. We have the jaunting Cajun meets slack key blues of Jona Lewie’s “The Swan”. With the set been finished off in classic singer-songwriter form with Donovan's “Turquoise” with its steady strum and choppy acoustic guitar, whistling harmonica, and wordy-yet- emotionally hurt lyrics.
In finishing Separate Paths Together is another wonderfully compiled and curated boxset from the Cherry Red family of labels- showing scope and scale of the singer/songwriter side of things during the mid-’60s to mid-’70s. To buy a copy of this box set direct from the folks at Cherry Red head to just here. Roger Batty