Lindisfarne joined an already in decline UK folk-rock scene in the early ‘70s, recording five albums for UK’s Charisma Records (Elektra in the US). That label was a fanciful home to notable bands like early Genesis (Gabriel years), Peter Gabriel, and, amongst others, the comedy troupe of Monty Python. Lindisfarne did well, leaving a legacy behind although their output is really measured in several original line-up recordings that include their first three, Nicely Out of Tune, Fog on the Tyne, and Dingly Dells. Their other two, Roll On Ruby, and Happy Daze failed to entice the ears and capture the hearts of fans. The then existing band decided the time was right to call it quits even as some essential members had already exited earlier.
Their first LP release, Nicely out of Tune, was an engaging effort with some strong tunes that combined a cheerful mix of non-conventional instruments, in addition to the more acceptable rock instruments, and excellent harmonies from the band. From the gorgeous and thoughtful “Winter Song,” to the musically fun and harmonic “Clear White Light (Part 2), and including the perfect and hopeful “We Can Swing Together,” their first album is a beautiful debut effort from a band that have everything to be proud of. On this release, there are two bonus tracks that include “Knackers Yard Blues, and “Nothing But the Marvellous is Beautiful.” “Knackers Yard Blues” is actually a great little rock song, reminiscent of later Beatles, while “Nothing But the Marvellous is Beautiful” is an excellent add.
The next album was the Number 1 charting classic, Fog on the Tyne, which was released in 1971. It is clear on these recordings that the band is very satisfied with their successful sound and had already matured immeasurably. With all the screws tightened, Lindisfarne delivered 10 songs that are great. In fact, as is on the first, Lindisfarne’s influence on future bands is easily recognized by hearing these songs. You’ll hear things that you’ve heard from other, more recognizable bands arriving later. “City Song” is one of the album’s masterpieces (if you pay attention, you can hear the same style of play in Jane’s Addiction’s “I Would For You”). The bonus tracks on this album are “Scotch Mist,” and “No Time to Lose,” both charmingly, effective pieces.
By 1972, the band issued their third release, Dingly Dell. The album didn’t chart as well or for as long as the previous releases although it did produce a charting single in “All Fall Down.” Subsequent charting attempts did not succeed but this does not impact the strength of the album. Parts of it exude a Pogues-like bar band atmosphere, and it is still a hell of an album to enjoy. On this reissue, the album is expanded with a live rendition of the excellent “We Can Swing Together” originally heard on Lindisfarne’s debut release.
Disarray had set in and the band had splintered. On the band’s next release, Roll On, Ruby, there is only Alan Hull and Ray Jackson from the original entourage to carry the torch. Because of internal strife and frustrations, some members opted to reform under another name while the two remaining vocalists decided to push on as Lindisfarne. As happens with so many bands who insist on carrying on with a name after an immense break-up, the audience did not recognize Lindisfarne. The album is not a bad one, but is definitely from a different band heading in a different direction. This expanded remaster interestingly contains an 8-page booklet that includes a cool look at both sides of the Charisma Mad Hatter LP label, along with four bonus tracks. All of the unused bonus cuts extend from the 1974 Bob Harris session. “You Put the Laff on Me,” is a song that was robbed a spot on the original album as it is musically good enough to have been included. It also fits a style that was strong in American Top Forty. It might have enjoyed some charting but this is something that we’ll never know at this point.
Even now, a run through the catalogue shows easily why Lindisfarne was an attractive band to fall in with. With songs that bring back the late-sixties in sound, their albums are classically genuine to enjoy. These reissues contain the 2003 remasters with the above mentioned bonus track inclusions. The only disappointment is the lackluster booklets, most 4-page affairs that neglect the opportunity to boost the historical elements of the band and albums they extend from. But it is nice to see that someone is paying attention to important second-tier bands of past times, keeping their albums in print for those of us who care. If you love folk-rock from the late sixties, then these Limited run of reissues are an essential add to your library. However, young listeners have a lot to gain from these as well as the older fan.
Recommended! In limited release, so don't wait until they're all gone again.