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Wilde Flowers - Wilde Flowers

  by Adrian Janes

published: 5 / 2 / 2016

Wilde Flowers - Wilde Flowers
Label: Floating World Records
Format: CD


Fascinating and sometimes moving collection from budding hopefuls of the Canterbury Scene the Wilde Flowers before they blossomed into Soft Machine, Caravan and other bands

In comparison with such places as London, Manchester and Liverpool, one of the seemingly more unlikely places to nurture musical talent in the 1960s was Canterbury. Yet it’s now credited with ultimately bringing to light bands like Soft Machine, Caravan, Hatfield and the North and Gong, a list which itself suggests how the scene was somewhat off the beaten track musically as well as geographically. This compilation of various studio and home recordings (almost entirely from the period in question, apart from a couple of collaborations made early in this century), gives a real sense of the initial questing and development which brought at least some of the participants (chiefly future Soft Machine members Robert Wyatt, Mike Ratledge and Hugh Hopper) to the brink of something special. Brian Hopper, Hugh’s equally multi-instrumental brother and another mainstay, contributes a detailed and engaging insider’s history. It has to be said that the ordering over the two discs is confusing. Disc One begins with a version of ‘Impotence’ recorded in 1969, to be followed by two songs from spring 1966 and then by recordings from 1965. Disc Two, meanwhile, is bookended by rambling 2003 versions by Robert Wyatt and Brian Hopper of ‘The Pieman Cometh’ and ‘Hope for Happiness’, but largely consists of rudimentary efforts in blues and jazz from the early 1960s which, for all their archaeological value, musically put the lo in fi. The guiding logic seems to be that the material of most promise, and the instances of full realisation, are concentrated on the first disc. So there are three versions, including an instrumental, of Hugh Hopper’s ‘Memories’: while that from 1966 is a sort of beat group ballad distinguished by a keening Robert Wyatt vocal, by 1969 he is plaintively exposed while rich, dark piano from Mike Ratledge and sympathetic bass and drums gently surge around him. Hopper as songwriter is in fact this compilation’s main revelation, contributing a number of songs which, if clearly of their time, are good enough and performed with enough conviction to make you think that - with better production - the Wilde Flowers might have had hits. They have little lyrical and musical twists that suggest a band that was not just part of the contemporary pack. ’No Game When You Lose’ is one of the best, Wyatt singing with bitter honesty about disappointed love as Brian Hopper delivers a nagging guitar figure, while Hugh’s playing has an almost double-bass depth. Apart from the core members already mentioned, the set also includes tracks featuring those who were in the band for a period (e.g. Kevin Ayers, whose vocal contributions on both covers like ‘Parchman Farm’ and originals like ‘She’s Gone’ can only be of interest to committed fans) and Julian “Pye” Hastings (later of Caravan), who plays intricate guitar and effectively shares vocal duties with Wyatt on ‘She Loves to Hurt’: indeed, here his style is strikingly like the latter’s. Unsurprisingly, given the variety in personnel, dates and recording circumstances, there are some wild variations in the standard of these tracks. There is also an uncomfortable feeling of padding, or at least the inclusion of material that only a few will find of genuine interest. But nonetheless, with Wyatt finding his own voice early on, Hugh Hopper’s compositional talents and the musical striving of all concerned, there is on balance enough to justify this set’s release, glimpses of something that is sometimes tangled in undergrowth but at others breaks into the light.

Track Listing:-
1 Impotence
2 Those Words They Say
3 Memories
4 Don't Try to Change Me
5 Parchman Farm
6 Almost Grown
7 She's Gone
8 Slow Walkin' Talk, Pt. 1
9 He's Bad for You
10 It's What I Feel (A Certain Kind)
11 Memories (Instrumental)
12 Never Leave Me
13 Time After Time
14 Just Where I Want
15 No Game When You Lose
16 Impotence (Alternate Version)
17 Why Do You Care
18 The Pie Man Cometh
19 Summer Spirit
20 She Loves to Hurt
21 The Big Show
22 Memories (Alternate Version)
23 The Pieman Cometh
24 Mummie
25 That's Alright Mama
26 Orientasian
27 Frenetica
28 3/4 Blues Thing in F
29 Slow Walkin' Talk, Pt. 2
30 Man in a Deaf Corner
31 Summertime
32 Belsize Parked
33 Where but for Caravan Would I
34 Hope for Happiness

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