Tag Archives: Anna McGarrigle

Kate and Anna McGarrigle

9 Apr


Unless/until any Amazon lawyers tell me I’ve transgressed their ┬áterms and conditions, I’m posting a review I contributed to their site back in 2006 about one of my all-time favourite albums:

This album first appeared on the Warner label in 1976. Prog rock was at it’s most pretentious, the first stirrings of punk were registering in the UK music press. And then this album by a pair of Canadian sisters appeared out of the blue. One had been married to Loudon Wainwright and their stuff had been covered by Maria Mulduar and Linda Rondstadt – but hey, not a lot of street cred in that at the time in the commuter towns to the north west of London!

There was a cracking review of this album in ZigZag magazine – so, as a 17 year old, I bought it from Record House in Amersham, Buckinghamshire.

(Bless ’em, they were enlightened enough in their marketing to give spotty youth, like me, who used their shop as a convenient rendezvous and heated shelter, a 10% discount card so that when we had enough to buy stuff, we went to them – thus making us feel like privileged customers, which ensured our puppy-like loyalty and ensured that the store was full so that casual browsers thought it was a happening and go-to place – which, of course, it became!).

I can remember playing this at school (probably in between others who were into Gong or Eddie and the Hot Rods (it was that kind of year – you could watch the Clash one week and Stackridge the next!) – and can remember the stunned silence. People who would shortly be clad in bondage trousers and safety pins and others wearing tea-cosy hats and kaftans united in listening to banjo, fiddle and accordion music – and those stunning harmonies.

More than thirty years on, this remains one of the best debut recordings ever. The simplicity and authenticity of the production by Joe Boyd focus attention on the songs which are quite simply awesome: ‘Heart Like a Wheel’ and ‘Talk to Me of Mendocino’ are definitive versions while ‘Kiss and say Goodbye’ and ‘Go Leave’ are warm, humane, touching and emotionally direct.

Even the covers of the traditional ‘Travellin’ on for Jesus’ and Wainwright’s ‘Swimming Song’ are better than many artists achieve in their whole career.

I have yet to meet anyone who’s listened to this album and found it anything other than great! The McGarrigles have never appeared to take the blindest bit of notice of musical fashion – and this attitude has clearly set up kate’s kids Martha and Rufus to have musical wisdom beyond their years!

You will not regret owning this album.

I stand by what I wrote then. If you don’t own this, go out and buy it.



9 Apr


It’d be a shame if the only lasting memory of the late Kirsty MacColl were as guest vocalist on the Pogues’ Fairy Tale of New York’. There was so much more to her than that.

Kite (1989, Virgin records catalogue CD KM1) was the first thing by by her that I ever bought. I’d enjoyed those of her early singles which I’d heard (especially the wonderfully titled ‘There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis’ and a great cover of Billy Bragg’s New England’). I also I knew she’d written ‘They Don’t Know’, a single which charted for comedienne/actress Tracey Ullman.

I suppose the things that clinched it as a purchase though were (1) that it featured guitar and co-writing credits for Johnny Marr fairly shortly after The Smiths, (2) because it contained a cover of the Ray Davies song ‘Days’ which is so damn good it’s better than the original by The Kinks and (3) it also covered the French-language song ‘Complainte Pour Ste. Catherine’ by Anna McGarrigle – a sure sign of good taste in my book!

This is one classy album. Fifteen tracks, produced by then-husband Steve Lillywhite and not a turkey among them. While ‘Days’ is the outstanding track it’s a close run thing with the opener ‘Innocence’ and the poignant ‘Don’t Come The Cowboy With Me Sonny Jim’ in contention also with ‘You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby'(a Morrissey/Marr cover) which, again, is as good as the original.

Apparently, Ms MacColl suffered from stage fright and didn’t perform live very often – which makes me treasure even more the fact that I managed to see her play a few years later (at what was then Northampton’s Irish Centre and is now a lapdancing club) before her untimely death stopped the music.