Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Nature Prance: David Thomas' solo albums 1981-1987: Vocal Performances (and Song of the Bailing Man)

Song of the Bailing Man and Vocal Performances

It was my intention to not delve into the minutiae of the solo Thomas oeuvre - b-sides, rare tracks etc - in these posts but rather to talk about individual album tracks. But things get messy, particularly as the uncovering of the tracks is something of a journey of discovery or rediscovery. I discovered the online Sound of the Sand outtakes a few weeks ago and figured I could hardly ignore them, particularly as they (now) form a legitimate release. And I had been rueing the absence of my copy of the 12" Vocal Performances until, a few days ago - I found it. Both of these recordings are missing links of differing stripes. We need them to understand the bridges and chasms between Pere Ubu and David Thomas solo, particularly given the recording release schedules involved:

June 1980 release of Pere Ubu's The Art of Walking
Jan 1981 first (?) recordings for Sound of the Sand (Atom Mind/ As Shoes Go By/Happy to See You)
March 1981 release of Pere Ubu's 390 Degrees of Simulated Stereo (archival late 70s recordings)
October 1981 release of Sound of the Sand
August 1981-Jan 1982 recording of Song of the Bailing Man 
September 1982 release of Pere Ubu's Song of the Bailing Man
1982 release of Vocal Performances 
1982 release of Winter Comes Home 

I have to concede I cobbled the above list together from the internet grabbing every month/year release date I could - which probably in the scheme of things isn't such a reliable approach. Nevertheless these records had to be made some time and plainly there's a crossover between the first David Thomas solo forays and the 'last' Pere Ubu album (last for eight years, at any rate). While Sound of the Sand and Song of the Bailing Man were released 11 months apart, the recording sessions for the two were apparently quite close together (and involved at four of the same participants, if you count Mayo Thompson - Tony Maimone must have been wondering what he'd done wrong).

I propose herewith to deal with the actual Vocal Performances tracks thus: 'Sloop John B' has been discussed a few weeks back, in its augmented incarnation as a track on Sound of the Sand. Easy. 'Petrified' I will discuss in a few weeks' time, when I talk about the inclusion of another version of a comparable 'vocal performance' of the song on the Winter Comes Home album.

Winter Comes Home is a seven-track LP (with a lot of banter), and six of the seven tracks are versions of songs from Song of the Bailing Man. Winter Comes Home is so stark and word-heavy, that one way into it is to make comparison with Song of the Bailing Man's band arrangements. Which is what I plan to do.

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