The Second Disc

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Esoteric Offers Southern Comfort with Two Ian Matthews Reissues

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Ian Matthews - If You Saw Thro My EyesIan (later Iain) Matthews has had a place in the rock pantheon since his debut with Fairport Convention on the band’s very first, self-titled album.  Matthews only remained with Fairport for two albums (and one song on the group’s third effort) before departing to craft his own Matthews’ Southern Comfort.  The title of that LP soon morphed into a band name for a new Matthews-fronted outfit, and Matthews Southern Comfort (no apostrophe) released two more albums before the band splintered from the frontman.  Cherry Red’s Esoteric Records imprint picks up Matthews’ story with reissues of his first two post-Comfort albums, both of which were originally released on the Vertigo label: 1971’s If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes and 1972’s Tigers Will Survive.

Matthews Southern Comfort didn’t last long, but did leave a mark on the charts when the band’s recording of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” topped the U.K. pop chart.  (It also reached No. 5 in Canada and No. 23 in the United States.)  For his first proper solo album, Matthews contributed nine original songs alongside two from the pen of Richard Fariña and one from Jerry Burnham and Allan Jacobs.  Though Matthews planned on engaging Paul Samwell-Smith (Cat Stevens, Carly Simon) as producer, he ended up helming the sessions himself.  The cast of musicians included Fairport’s Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny, future Fairport member Gerry Conway, Keith Tippet, Pat Donaldson, Andy Roberts and Tim Renwick.  In his new liner notes written for Esoteric’s reissue, Matthews confirms that there were “no outtakes, no unfinished tracks, no abortions, just the eleven songs” that made the final LP.  But what eleven songs!  The album has a beautiful (and largely acoustic) folk-rock feel, anchored by the tight guitar interplay between Thompson, Roberts and Renwick, and naturally, it shows off Matthews’ vocals to their best advantage.

It wasn’t long before Matthews began work on a follow-up.  Hit the jump to read on!  Plus: track listings and order links!

Ian Matthews - Tigers Will SurviveTigers Will Survive wasn’t a tremendous departure from its predecessor.  Thompson again sat in, playing accordion under the name of Woolfe J. Flywheel!  Tim Renwick and Andy Roberts also returned.  The primary backing band this time, though, was Renwick’s group Quiver, which also featured John Wilson on drums, Cal Batchelor on guitar, and future Attraction Bruce Thomas on bass.    Ray Warleigh also joined in, contributing saxophone.  Matthews once again brought many of his own songs to the table, and tapped Fariña for the provocative “Un-American Activity Dream” (or “House of Un-American Activities Blues Dream”).  An a cappella cover of the Phil Spector/Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich “Da Doo Ron Ron” was much lighter, and songs also came from Eric Andersen, Pete Carr and Peter Lewis.  Though Tigers shares many of the lovely, reflective acoustic hallmarks of Thro’ My Eyes, Matthews is hard on it in his new introductory essay: “For the longest time after the release of Tigers Will Survive, I felt distanced from it.  There seemed to be a chasm between what I’d reached for and what I’d actually achieved.”  But you can decide for yourself.  Esoteric’s reissue also adds one bonus track, the 1973 non-LP single “Devil in Disguise” written by those “cosmic country” pioneers, Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons.

Following Tigers Will Survive, Matthews formed Plainsong with Dave Richards, Andy Roberts and Bob Ronga; the latter two had played on Tigers.  Despite a well-received first album, though, Plainsong wasn’t destined to last long, and Matthews continued to record for a variety of labels.  He continued to explore the country and folk-rock veins on albums such as 1973’s Michael Nesmith-produced Valley Hi.  On these recordings, Matthews blended his own compositions with those that showed off his skills as an interpretive singer.  Over the years, he’s recorded songs by Jimmy Webb, Jackson Browne, Randy Newman, Richard Thompson, Tom Waits, Gene Clark, Jesse Winchester, Neil Young, Prince, and Nesmith.  As the eighties emerged, Matthews formed the power pop band Hi-Fi, and recorded a number of albums both solo and with collaborators such as Elliott Murphy, the Nick Vernier Band, and cult hero Emmit Rhodes of Merry-Go-Round fame.  The restless artist even reunited with Matthews Southern Comfort in 2010, and still pursues a singular musical path exploring folk, rock, jazz, country and pop with friends old and new.

Both of these early Matthews albums have been remastered by Paschal Byrne from the original master tapes.  In addition to the artist’s new introductions, both booklets have full credits; If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes also contains lyrics.  If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes and Tigers Will Survive are available in stores now, and can be ordered below!

Ian Matthews, If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes (Vertigo LP 6360 034, 1971 – reissued Esoteric ECLEC 2360, 2012) (Amazon U.K.)

  1. Desert Inn
  2. Hearts
  3. Never Ending
  4. Reno Nevada
  5. Little Known
  6. Hinge (Part One)
  7. Hinge (Part Two)
  8. Southern Wind
  9. It Came Without Warning
  10. You Couldn’t Lose
  11. Morgan the Pirate
  12. Thro’ My Eyes

Ian Matthews, Tigers Will Survive (Vertigo LP 6360 056, 1972 – reissued Esoteric ECLEC 2361, 2012) (Amazon U.K.)

  1. Never Again
  2. Close the Door Lightly When You Go
  3. Un-American Activity Dream
  4. Morning Song
  5. The Only Dancer
  6. Tigers Will Survive
  7. Midnight on the Water
  8. Right Before My Eyes
  9. Da Doo Ron Ron
  10. Hope You Know
  11. Please Be My Friend
  12. Devil in Disguise (Vertigo single 6059 081, 1973)

Written by Joe Marchese

February 12, 2013 at 10:02

Posted in Ian Matthews, News, Reissues

One Response

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  1. Always a favorite of mine, “Morgan the Pirate’ is worth the price of admission. Don’t forget his album of Jules Shear songs ‘Walking a Changing Line’, fantastic as well is the live ‘Nights in Manhattan’, ‘Some Days You Eat the Bear’……


    February 12, 2013 at 12:49

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