Tag Archive | "The Miracle Legion"

Greenman Festival – August 2016

Tags: ,

Greenman Festival – August 2016

Posted on 30 August 2016 by Joe

If you go north toward Winterfell then take the second left at Hobbiton you will eventually come across a sleepy Welsh town called Crickhillow,  on the outskirts of which is a large natural mountainous basin surrounded by lush verdant trees and grasses, with a topping of seemingly permanent hill mist.

Every year in August many tribes of music loving humanoids converge upon this site  for four days. It is called Greenman and this year marks its 14th year since inception. It is here that the assembled thousands gather to listen to various music, laugh, sing, drink beer and generally go bonkers whilst dressed in the traditional garb of silver glitter, green face paint and  horse masks.

This year you could revel in the subversive sleek synth pop of the Wild Beasts, luxuriate in the glow of Laura Marling’s beautiful songs or even get down to some council estate rock with the Fat White Family. The Greenman is always eclectic, this year even more so.

Friday

We adopt the let’s just have a wander and see what transpires approach. First band of note were The Miracle Legion, American underground REM types from back in the day. Lead singer Mark Mulcahy, despite looking like an extra from The Revanant, proved to be a focal point. They provided a bouyant set of likable rock-lite.

Miracle Legion

The Miracle Legion

The always ridiculously rammed Chai Wallah tent played host, as always, to some of the most diverse music of the weekend. On the Friday we enjoyed Sam Green and the midnight heist, who blew everyone away and at one point dropped a version of Cream’s Crossroads, which was stunning.

Ex-Drive By Truckers guitarist Jason Isbell gave us some Neil Young-esque guitar soloing and Floating Points were superb in the Far Out tent with a set of clinical beats and effective use of lighting.

Jazz sensation Kamasi Washington, despite an overlong soundcheck, played more notes in his first number than everyone else all weekend. This was an intense sax improv overload that left people stunned. Early 1990s indie royalty Lush brought us back to reality with some lovely dark pop, and yes of course they did Ladykillers. Miki still gorgeous alert.

You know you wonder sometime about Sound and Vision? Well, tonight you shouldn’t because we had a hugely popular midnight Bowie disco. We danced the blues under the moonlight, the serious Welsh moonlight.

Not to be outdone, down the hill local hero Charlotte Church was shaking her booty with her band and ripping up the walled garden with a set of covers. The home crowd loved it. Almost catatonic now I curse myself for missing Vessels.

Saturday

Saturday roars in like a  sexy dragon and proves to be a day of wonders. First and foremost a new band called Fews were awesome, so full of energy with their dynamic in-your-face guitar abuse. They were  emotionally taken aback by the crowd’s love.

Fews

In an effort to chill out, an hour in the presence of Ryley Walker was called for. Walker seems to channel those west coast vibes, as previously witnessed here last year by Jonathon Wilson, but he has his demons. You sense them just below the surface of his lovely music, his voice reminiscent at times of Tim Buckley and even a little of the late John Martyn. Breathtakingly emotional songs each hung drawn and quartered. He was astonishing.

Jagwar Ma on the other hand just want to take you higher, in their case with a set of uplifting, delerious dance music. If floating points are the ying of disco, Jagwar Ma are the yang.

Michael Rother was a real coup for Greenman. This man and his late friend, Klaus Dinger, were a German duo who  under the moniker Neu ! radically changed the course of recorded music. Their early recordings were primitive, thrilling experiments in relentless rhythm and textured sound that slowly drip fed through into the mainstream, influencing Kraftwerk, Bowie, Eno, and probably half the bands here this weekend. He was adored by a crowd whose jaws were were in dropped mode for the entire set.

John Shuttleworth

John Shuttleworth

From the sublime to the slightly ramshackle with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Their set was wonderful, especially their version of John Lennon’s Instant Karma, and their most well known tune, Home.

Sheffield’s finest top light entertainer, the ever dependable John Shuttleworth provided Saturday’s chuckle quotient. His track, I Can’t Go Back To Savory Now, will live long in the memory (unfortunately!)

Sunday

Sunday and the weather calms down to a mere gale but the party continues apace. It is not all music at Greenman so a visit to Einstein’s garden is a must. A whole field of fun science for kids of all ages. I am now an expert in Neolithic burial rites.

Margaret Glaspy is my new favourite singer-songwriter, with nothing more than a broken heart, a well struck guitar and a sweet voice, she wowed those present. Her new album Emotion and Math was covered most beautifully and the encore of Somebody To Anybody sent chills down the spine.

Chills down the spine would also cover sets from a virtuoso performance from Unknown Mortal Orchestra and a joyful, crazy Songhoy Blues.

Swedish musician and all round cool looking dude Daniel Norgren, with his  back catalogue of gentle Americana didn’t prepare us for the guitar solos. We were expecting laid back but got Stevie Ray Vaughan and we were definitely not complaining.

The Chai Wallah tent provided Sunday’s highlight, a set from Gypsies of Bohemia, a sickeningly talented band who do the most outrageous cover versions you’ll ever hear. We we went nuts for 7 Nation Army, William It Was Really Nothing and the icing on the cake was the most fantastic version of House of Pain’s Jump Around, which put the crowd in the throes of delerium.

Sadly with the heart rending chorus of Shuttleworth’s Can’t Go Back to Savory now echoing around our frazzled brains we head back to life, back to reality already looking forward to next year by which time it might have stopped raining.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

Share

Comments (0)

Miracle Legion – Portrait Of A Damaged Family

Tags: ,

Miracle Legion – Portrait Of A Damaged Family

Posted on 18 May 2016 by Dorian

I first encountered Miracle Legion in 1989 or 1990 when a friend played me the 12″ of ‘You’re The One Lee’, a beautiful piece of chiming acoustic pop that immediately became a firm favourite. The band were presented to me as a rival to REM’s crown (the next REM was a big thing at that time) and I expected great things from them. Despite the quality of album that spawned the single (Me & Mr.Ray) and the full-band follow-up (Drenched) the breakthrough success of the band never came, and their more esoteric side was not embraced by the wider public.

portrait of a damaged family

I wasn’t even aware that they released any other albums, so limited was the release of their final album, and I only picked up on the band again some time later when discovering the solo works of singer Mark Mulcahy. His most recent solo album (Dear Mark J Mulcahy I Love You) showed that he is an artist at the top of his game, but also demands that people revisit his legacy. With that in mind it is great news that Miracle Legion’s final album, Portrait Of A Damaged Family, has been reissued and is now getting some of the attention it deserves.

The comparisons to REM have some validity, the jangle pop of ‘You’re My Blessing’ certainly has parallels, as does the low key acoustic sound of ‘Homer’. This certainly isn’t the whole picture though with the band demonstrating a lot of depth to their sound and some real personality that is badly served by their status as a foot-note in the career of a more successful act.

The album succeeds through a mixture of consistency and variety that gets the balance pretty spot on. This is a guitar pop album that could only have been released in the 1990s, and sounds like a unified whole. Within that template however the style, feel and tone is nicely varied and it feels like a band at the start, not end, of their career.

There is some sadness from the fact that the album has been neglected for nearly two decades, with the band’s profile shrinking over the intervening years. This is tempered somewhat by the happiness that the album is available again and a new generation can enjoy the band’s distinctive voice.

Further happiness can come from the good news that the whole of the band’s back catalogue is available via the Miracle Legion Bandcamp which brings all the bands albums (and some EPs) together in one place for the first time. Add to this a string of UK live dates in June and August (we’ll be at the Brighton gig on August 16th) and it is a pretty good time to (re)discover one of the great lost bands.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

Share

Comments (1)

Mark Mulcahy – Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You

Tags: ,

Mark Mulcahy – Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You

Posted on 15 June 2013 by Dorian

When one of your favourite artists returns to recording music after an extended break it is pretty exciting, when the product of that comeback turns out to be the equal of any of their past records it is something a little bit special.

Mark Mulcahy spent the 80s and 90s as the singer with the band The Miracle Legion achieving critical acclaim and moderate sales before they split and he went on to a solo career where further critical acclaim and even more modest sales followed. In 2008, after the sudden death of his wife, he stepped away from music to concentrate on looking after his twin daughters. It is a mark of the respect that the music community have for his work that the likes of Thom Yorke, The National, Michael Stipe and Mercury Rev recorded and released a tribute album, Ciao My Shining Star, in order to raise money so that he was able to continue recording music.

Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You

It is my pessimistic expectation that Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You will yet again fall into the critically acclaimed, largely ignored by the recording buying public camp yet again. It is a pretty exceptional album from start to finish, filled with great tunes, thoughtful lyrics and a typically excellent vocal performance. On balance it could be his most consistent set of songs to date.

This is a classic guitar pop album, other than  some nice flutes and a few keyboards (well, a lot of keyboards on the lovely ‘Bailing Out On Everything Again’)  it sticks pretty close to the bass, drums, guitar and vocals formula that Mulcahy has perfected through his career. This is no reinvention of the artist, this is a first rate musician doing what he does best and seeming more relaxed and comfortable in his performance than ever.

Some reviewers have pointed to a dark undercurrent in the songs, something that has always been present on his recordings, but if anything this seems to be a pretty positive and confident recording. Mulcahy states that the sings were recorded one at a time, going in to the studio one Saturday a month over an extended period to capture the eleven tracks for the album. The songs were perfected one by one, leaving the studio when they were happy with the song being recorded that day. This certainly seems to have worked as each of the songs seems fully realised and complete, there is no filler on this record. They were also mixed by 90s alt-rock legend Paul Q. Kolderie and the songs sound great, crisp and clean with no hint of over-production.

The album contains some of the poppiest tunes that Mulchay has recorded, with ‘Poison Candy Heart’ being top 10 in my alternative universe chart run-down and ‘She Makes The World Turn Backwards’ should be available in every karaoke booth round the country (for the call and response moments at east).

Mulcahy is an excellent singer, with a distinctive and emotional voice, a voice that is capable of drama and theatrics when he he wants to. He is too clever a performer to overdo things though, no Mariah Carey histrionics for him, and it is only on the wonderful ‘Let The Fireflies Fly Away’ that he really lets his vocal chords go. There is so much personality in his songs and performances throughout that he doesn’t need to fall back on any vocal tricks to get the listeners attention.

Mark Mulcahy makes a rare visit to the UK this August for a handful of gigs. My advice is to buy this album and get tickets to those gigs. Join a small but happy group that knows that Mark Mulcahy is one of the best songwriters around, and hopefully help to pursuade him to take less than eight years to come back with more  music.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

Share

Comments (0)

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here

Charts