I have a CD here that not a lot of folk have got, so here's my first music review for thirty-odd years...
Poet, musician and lover of all things feathered and furred, Mick Calladine has been a feature of the Derbyshire music scene since the heady days as vocalist of I Married a Werewolf in the early nineties. From time to time Mick produces a demo of what he's up to musically and yesterday he handed me a copy of his 2015 opus "Old Rat Tabs Again'. He carefully pointed out that in Heanor, tabs are ears - which I think I could have worked out from the cover shot...
Cover Design not by Roger Dean or Hipgnosis...
So, in the car and off with the Hawkwind, on with the Rat-ears, and what do we get? Six up-tempo tracks led by insistent acoustic guitar and the sort of tunes that you feel familiar with after a few moments.
It's consistent bunch of singable songs, all marked marked by a cheerful faith that the right partner is just around the corner and probably nearer to a folk-rock feel than anything else. Opener Nightingale Nightmare owes a little inspiration to Richard Thompson and the closing track Teenage Fire is an earnest fifties-style ballad, nodding towards Leiber and Stoller, but backed with some howling (but restrained in volume) guitar.
One thing that stands out is all the songs stand or fall by their songwriting - unlike some demos, this disc isn't showcasing flash techniques or clever gimmicks - making for a result well-worth listening to more than once. The overall feel and unpretentious, wistful humour and lack of pretension across all six tracks suggests Mick Calladine might be Derbyshire's answer to John Otway. Those distorted Barrat-esque guitar breaks just strengthen that impression.
If I have any criticism of the production on 'Rat Tabs', it's that Mick's distinctive voice isn't the best one for backing his own singing and a less gritty backing vocal would help push his voice forward. That said, you can't really have different singers on a solo recording! I'd also like to hear how these songs would sound with a bass track as a counterpoint for the melodies, but the mix is rhythmically balanced, so I think drums would be redundant unless you wanted to totally change the arrangements.
This is a demo, not a big studio production, so you can excuse a few rough edges, but overall the sound is clear and well balanced. With no percussion or keyboards, the sound still feels full but not crowded.
UDATE: Check out Mick's Website for pictures and videos!