Angel Air SJPCD054.
Running time: 65m 42s
1 MOTT: The Gooseberry Demos
2 MOTT: The Gooseberry Auditions
3 The Papers Bags: Kristmas Kollection - 1976
4 At Pipe - The Solo Years
This CD effectively bridges the gaps between Mott The Hoople, Mott and British Lions. With Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson gone, the remaining threesome were informed they no longer had a contract. A few weeks later they laid down some demos in Gooseberry Studios and they had a contract. Next was the small matter of recruiting a guitarist and a vocalist. A couple of auditions later, and they were ready to carry on as MOTT until MOTT's demise when Nigel left, when they (again as a four-peice) recorded some jazzy Christmas tunes just for fun. And finally, when the Lions disbanded, Morgan Fisher recorded some more tunes in his home studio, just for fun.
OK, that's the precis. Nothing big enough for an album of its own, effectively four albums rolled into one. Not that this was ever the intention, since none of the material here was ever seriously intended for commercial release. However, as a historical document it certainly is a fascinating CD that fans will certainly find themselves returning to.
The Gooseberry Demos find MOTT recording as a three-piece, with Overend Watts handling lead guitars as well as bass and vocals (with Dale on drums and Morgan on keyboards, of course). What strikes this reviewer is not just the strength of the material but just what a great lead guitar player Overend Watts was. The songs here are mostly in their familiar arrangements (Hey! There Annie is better known as Collision Course, while !GYP! - odd title - is the instrumental section they put into the middle of Love Now in their live shows), although why something as tasty as The Bright Days was never developed I'll never know.
The auditions are next. Track 8 is Brian Parrish's failed audition and although the lad can sing, he lacks the power and presence needed for such a job. Compare with track 12 (Nigel's audition). "F***ing brilliant!" enthuse the band. 'Nuff said. Did I Dream Last Night? is another instrumental, this being Ray Major's audition track. Talk about being strong (why wasn't it developed further?) and if Ray's forthcoming solo album is half as good as this it'll be a killer.
Next up, The Paper Bags, with an amusing kollection of kerristmas ditties. Forget the krazy titles, you will recognise them, each and every one. Mostly instrumental, they are pleasant enough and will certainly prove popular during the festive season, although I thought The Spook... was dire, a complete contrast to Golders Green (Stomp) (which isn't Christmassy at all), with its wry, almost dry sense of humour. I'm sure the true credits have been forgotten over the course of time - it's credited to Morgan but I'd guess Overend had a hand in it somewhere. The sense of humour portrayed is similar to his very own Caribbean Hate Song.
Finally, the solo years, which is just Morgan experimenting in the studio. All instrumental, very different from the rest of the CD, and best described as "experimental". But again, Holmes On The Rage sounds like the full band, and is a jazzy arrangement of Home On The Range, a quite neat way to close the CD. Except there's a nice surprise, as there's a 23rd (hidden?) track, which I'll leave you to find and enjoy.
The CD comes with a 16-page booklet, in which Dale Griffin supplies the background to the Gooseberry demos and the auditions.
I like this CD, and I think most Mott fans will enjoy it as well. The casual fan may be put off (I'd direct them first to Mott's two official albums on CBS), but as a historical document it is quite fascinating. Certainly the first half of this CD will blow you away, both with Overend's guitar playing and the strength of material they never developed. But I do feel the second half will appeal only to the die-hards. That said, I'm sure glad it's finally seen the light of day.