One of the things I’ve been trying to do with Old Man’s River is to stay away from the big hits, try and introduce people to stuff they wouldn’t have come across easily.
Recommendation 3: (Album)
When I was in my mid-to-late teens, one of my favourite pastimes was to take a gentle wander down Free School St, stopping at the second-hand shops, loitering with intent and going through each shop’s stock of used books, comics and, occasionally, vinyl.
An aside. For people like me, “Western” music was limited in supply those days: there were only four ways of getting it. One, you waited for the then local monopoly, Gramophone Company of India, to issue it. Because they believed in traditional forms of marketing and distribution, they were driven towards a hit culture, which meant I could buy Boney M but not Blind Faith. So if you waited for them you could be waiting a long time. A second route was to go to the Kidderpore Docks, where there was an active and open smuggler’s market straight out of Dickens. Dark and dank, ill-lit and illicit. There, amongst the t-shirts and the watches and colognes, you would occasionally come across a “Japanese” or “Singapore” copy: these had covers which were obvious photocopies of the originals, with a poor cut-and-paste of the vernacular titles over the English original, laminated in thin polythene. A third way was “taping”, when you made a copy of someone else’s album (something I didn’t like doing even then). And the fourth was the most productive: you waited for some passing hippie to sell his stash of records for drugs, and, if you were lucky, you had first dibs on his erstwhile possessions….. the Calcutta 1970s variant of the pawnshop.
Actually there was a fifth way: you had someone go abroad and bring something back for you. But in those days this was so rare it wasn’t worth counting: the number of people you knew who were going abroad roughly equalled the number of divorced people you knew. Counted on the fingers of one hand.
I digress. On the Road to Freedom. An album I bought in a second-hand store, probably as a result of hippie bartering. Absolutely fantastic. A soft and gentle album, one that grows on you the first time you listen to it. Guest musicians include Steve Winwood, George Harrison, Jim Capaldi, “Rebop” Kwaku Baah, Mick Fleetwood, Ron Wood and Boz Burrell.
By the time I heard the first four tracks I was toast. This is such a one-off album; it’s not a supergroup, it’s not cult, it’s not anything I can describe easily. Alvin Love-Like-A-Man Ten Years After Lee meets Mylon Holy Smoke Doo Dah Lefevre; friends join in, and some wonderful music was made.
It’s only recently been released on CD, four or five years ago. One of my favourite albums.