|Expanded and remastered 2002|
Ed's liner notes
This album came about, almost by accident, after a few shows I'ddone as a duo with Mark Dawson, who'd been playing drums for me in The Yard Goes On Forever. The Yard had been touring for about four years in one form or another and had completed a fairly exhausting world tour that'd left me feeling a bit disillusioned and frustrated. We'd been touring in support of Everybody's Got To for eighteen months or so and I think everyone was fairly sick of it and worn out and so I felt it was time to call it quits.
Early in 1990 it was suggested that I could go out and do some solo acoustic shows after the band was laid to rest. The idea didn't appeal at first as I didn't want it to sound like the usual "doing the greatest hits acoustically" routine ...and I reckoned that when other people did it there was a sense of mystery, something -- however intangible -- missing. I agree that a good song will always work with a minimum of embellishment but it was the overall ambience, the sound, that was really important to me. Playing through the kind of PA systems available in pubs and clubs usually meant that the exciting acoustic qualities and transients of the instruments completely disappeared, with no possibility of harnessing the sheer energy and volume that a good rock and roll band could use to overcome such restrictions. The drums were pivotal in achieving what I was after but it meant a different way of playing for Mark, largely because everything was so much quieter on stage. There was a lot more space and all the smaller things we did took on much more significance. We also did a number of things that I felt were important psychologically: applying modified capos; tuning the guitar differently; using non-standard drum sticks; substituting a cardboard snare case for the bass drum; and buying a new green suit, etc. Mark's initial scepticism was soon overcome by generally positive comments, not only on the sound of the customised kit but also on how fine a figure he cut behind it. To top it off, our live engineer of the time, Mitch Ross-Jones, always did a sterling job of getting across our sometimes "ambient rockabilly" sound, often against the odds.
I hadn't written much during the previous year or so and most of the songs that I'd managed to complete seemed a bit rigid in the structure and didn't suit the new set-up. This, in a way, gave us an opportunity to start from scratch and so I began working on new material that would suit the looser, more improvisational feel we were after. To make up the rest of the set, I gravitated to fragments of songs that I'd liked as a kid and we treated these with equal but non-reverential affection.
The shows worked pretty well and my manager, Martin Jennings, suggested we record some of the songs. One Sunday, we went into the old shoebox-size Electric Avenue Studio in Rozelle, Sydney with engineer Adam Chapman with whom I'd worked previously on a couple of other things, liking his polite, gentlemanly manner and open-to-experiment approach. He also seemed genuinely enthusiastic about what we were trying to do... which helped, as there wasn't much money around.
The first lot of recordings were encouraging but didn't quite work. Luckily, we were able to book the studio for the next weekend and try it again while the idea was still fresh. This time, everything ran smoothly and we recorded and mixed an album over those two days, doing everything live to two-track without overdubs. The only regret I have is that I couldn't use my specially-designed gold string-striker on the final take of Horse Under Water. For some reason we couldn't get it to sound right, even though it works really well live.
Martin felt the recording was strong enough to release in its own right and proceeded to shop the tapes around and Alex Geshos at Sydney-based Survival Records took up the offer to release the album in Australia, where it originally came out in October, 1990. He also had an arrangement with Normal Records in Germany who put it out at the same time. A tour was hastily arranged on the back of a number of enthusiastic reviews and we spent a large part of the next year and a half touring Northern Europe on the back of it. The extra tracks are from a session we were asked to do for a Dutch radio station during this time. It was the done thing to be given a two-hour slot to set up, soundcheck and play the new single. However, because we were such a finely-oiled machine by then and didn't actually have a single to promote, we set up quickly and recorded our live set, a large slab of which is presented here.
The great remastering job by Don Bartley has, for the first time, brought out the clarity and dynamics of recordings that sounded a bit blurred and muted to me on the original CD release.
Thanks to all involved and to those that wished us well.
Ed Kuepper -- March, 2002