A Cloudberry release I didn't mention before is the ep from The Vermont Sugar House. Not because it is undeserving but because their recent album has been on my list of things to rave about for some time. As The Desert Wolves (pictured above) is one of the bands I'm most fond of, I was delighted to find out last year that Martin King and David Platten are still recording. I picked up the single "Braveheart" that Firestation, ever the faithful servants of ageing pop musicians, put out as early as 1999. It wasn't as jangly as 1989, but the songs were great and King's voice is still (un)cool.
The album Carlton Gardens came out in March, but actually it's a collection of recordings spanning their whole 'career', including both single-sides and the three songs released by Cloudberry. Seeing as Indie-mp3's review wasn't very favourable I'd like to point out straight away that it's good. The problem, that everyone I've spoken to keeps coming back to, is of course that four of the songs are included twice - differently mixed. Surely nothing but a case of indecision, they could have asked anyone's advice and cut it down to the ten songs and 39 minutes it ought to have been. In fact listening to it again, skipping the versions, it sounds so much stronger!
I really love the sparse, acoustic songs like "Just Wandering Around" and "Solo Living" that happily offer themselves up for compositional dissection. Ally Boo contributes some great vocals to "Walking Distance" and "Technicolour Memories" and it's easy to sing along to "I Only Ever", half forgetting they're not The Desert Wolves anymore. "You took my world, now take the rest of me" and then a stolen guitar solo. That's the strongest song here, along with the gloriously melodious old b-side "Absolutely". But now I'm forgetting the epic (as in six minutes long) "Vanishing Point", referencing the film of the same name. Let's be honest, they could have done so much worse. And you can do better than just listening to these songs. It's simply a matter of how many songs you want - three or ten?
Earlier this year Uwe from Firestation told me there's a retrospective coming out soon with the near-mythical Men of Westenesse. I can't wait to hear this as "The Coldest Water" is such a perfect song (included on that momentous tape called A Sandwich and a Sweater). After I mentioned that two years ago, Guy (wonder if it's the same Guy being thanked in the Carlton Gardens sleeve?) from the band got in touch and said there were some more songs lying around, so I hope that had something to do with the release. Actually that post got comments from members of The Pooh Sticks and The Williams as well!