What does it sound like?:
Given the title Cape Wrath, (the most northwesterly point of the British mainland) and the cover art image of a body stranded on a rock surrounded by a storm tossed sea, I’d expected to hear something a bit more aggressive from Morrissey and Mullen. What they produced, on this reissue of their 1979 album (originally on Harvest, now out on Man In The Moon records) is a very smooth sounding album, more reflective of the rear image showing the same Silver Surfer like body sitting on the rock surrounded by millpond calm sea.
It is so smooth that my initial impression was that it was fairly bland, but repeated listening reveals that it is more about the band creating a mood and a groove and it is, in my view, a fine piece of work that is anything but bland. It rewards repeated listening to unearth the diamonds that lie within.
I was quite glad that I’m able to review this positively because I feel I owe Dick Morrissey a small apology. Back in the mid-70s a couple of mates encouraged me to go along with them and see British jazz-rock band If, (appearing at Wall City Jazz Club which was held at Quaintways in Chester) because they had a brilliant guitarist named Terry Smith. Unfortunately for my mates Steve and Nige, Terry Smith had left the band. So they spent the whole evening heckling the band with shouts of “Terry Smith” and “Where’s Terry Smith?” I could see they were annoying other audience members and I’m amazed no-one in the band told them where to go. I thought the guitarist (it wasn’t Jim Mullen) was pretty good and told them so and suggested they stop the heckling. But they ignored me. I enjoyed the set but couldn’t silence my mates. Dick Morrissey was of course the sax player for If.
The title track here is a brooding piece. It opens with strings onto which a bass riff is laid (the bassist was Kuma Harada, but that’s not a name I know) followed by Dick Morrissey’s soprano track, weaving melodies over the rhythm track, which give way to Max Middleton’s synth solo. It follows album opener, a cover of Bill Withers’s Lovely Day. Morrissey’s sax takes the place of the vocal track. It’s laden with Philly-soul style strings. Jim Mullen appears to be relegated to rhythm guitar.
Bristol Boogie produces something more like I had expected from the title. The title doesn’t lie as it boogies along, bouncing on a pulsing bass line with a repeating sax riff, giving Jim Mullen his first notable appearance on the album, with a couple of solos.
The band takes the listener from Bristol to Return To Tooting Broadway. Whether there was any significance to these place names as song titles, I have no idea. This was the era of BBC TV’s Citizen Smith and his slogan of “Freedom For Tooting”, so maybe the programme inspired the title. It’s very guitar dominated for the first part, with strings much to the fore (the sleeve notes credit neither the strings players nor the arranger) and Mullen’s guitar playing over them with a late solo by Morrissey.
A really different and distinctive track is Song For Carla which opens with strings that could have been taken from a Frank Sinatra record, with Dick Morrissey’s sax coming in over the top. The strings shimmer and the sax meanders along before segueing into Dream So Real, written by Carla Bley. The band come in, led by Mullen’s guitar and it is to me the most completely realised track on the album. Mullen bows out to allow Morrissey in and then Mullen returns. It’s laid back, mellow and very gorgeous. As is album closer Night Song. Dreamy sax and slow tasteful guitar swap solos creating one superb groove and an excellent closing number.
What does it all *mean*?
In many ways this is an album of its time. Its hard to imagine something like this being recorded now. It is mellow and soulful and marked by tight arrangements and first class musicianship.
Goes well with…
Candlelit dinners, a decent bottle of wine
Might suit people who like…
Terry Smith, if they opened their ears.