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Tim Mutum's Long Player Reviews

Tim Mutum is rightly regarded as the leading brass band collector of LP's and recordings in the world and his collection, which has been built up over 30 years must take up a whole house!

He has kindly given us some details of a couple of his favourites from a time when he was but a lad himself, Britain still had an Empire and an English cricket team ruled the world. Yes - that long ago.


LP REVIEWS

MIRRLEES MAKES MUSIC

Remember the 60s? Me too! It was the time of 'pirate radio', Carnaby Street, long hot summers - well we can dream can't we - Harold Wilson and the launch of Marble Arch records. This was the Pye Records budget label - 19/11d rings a bell.

I hadn't started collecting LPs during this decade but when I got hooked in the year Ted Heath came to power these were some of the of the records I sought out. Cheap you see and a fair few band records to grab hold of. The best known Marble Arch album is almost certainly The Virtuoso Band - Black Dyke Mills Band (they should never have dropped that word 'Mills' in my view) on MALS 1248, later to be reissued on Pye Golden Guinea Top Brass Series when Dyke won the BBC Band of the Year 1967 - yes sirree a time when the BBC were interested in banding rather than the lip service they pay now to meet their duty of providing something for everyone. And of course if you are a true collector you have both issues. Mad I know but that's collecting for you.

Long gone are the Mirrlees Works Band from Hazelgrove, Stockport. Formed in August 1949 they ceased to function in 1980 a year after their second LP release and 10 years from the first which came towards the end of the life of Marble Arch records. Their contribution to this piece of banding history was Mirrlees Makes Music (MALS 1317) and it holds the accolade as the worst piece of type setting and proof reading ever for a band LP sleeve. The band personnel make interesting reading because one suspects this could have been the feeding ground for their more illustrious neighbours, Faireys, as one Brian Taylor is assistant principal cornet and Roy Mattocks (solo horn) went onto the famous engineering band. And there is John Clough on Eb bass who later moved over the hills to Brighouse and Rastrick. But I digress.

Some band this Mirrlees. The sleeve says, it achieved "Championship status in 1965 by winning the National Second Section Final at Kensington Town Hall in1966,67, 68 and 69." Then there is "since the reception of brass bands" and a cornet solo with "hand accompaniment". The music. First up is some chap called William Runner. Well, we know who they meant but they were nothing if not consistent at Marble Arch in those days. Yep, Drake Runner and his 'big work' Venus and Adonis. I gave this a spin and it confirmed my view that I was never a great fan of Drake's Shakespearean efforts. But that's not to knock the band and conductor, the late great Jack Atherton - shown on the sleeve as Eric Pinkerton (band manager) who is Jack Atherton. I'm sure you get the picture.

I spoke to Eric Pinkerton at Mirrlees Works ten or so years ago when I was researching my book on brass band recordings. He was rightly enormously defensive of the band and I assured him that I had no intention of ridiculing them in any way in the book. Like many a band secretary who have been loyal servants, Eric Pinkerton was Mr Mirrlees who 'made it happen'.

Marble Arch was a bit of a scratch label at times and no better illustrated than in the sleeve to the Mirrlees disc. Seek it out. I listened to most of it again. Most of the programme isn't at all bad. Eddie Huckridge's Polovtsiennes Dances by Borodin would have been a significant contribution 30 or so years ago and Johnny Greenwood's arrangement of L'Italiana in Algiers is well worth a listen. Jack Atherton had drilled a fair band and his is a name you won't find on many LPs so there is a little piece of banding nostalgia here.

BLACK DYKE MILLS BAND - MUSIC FOR BRASS

I reckon the two most talked about winning performances at the National Brass Band Championships since 1945 have to be those of Black Dyke Mills Band (Major George Willcocks) in 1959 and the CWS (Manchester) Band (Alex Mortimer) in 1962. Both bands went on to record the chosen test piece in the studio and these recordings are collectors items. 'Live' winning performances are all very well, but no substitute for a studio recording as well. However, many a band now sees no point in carrying on a tradition that I think started in the days of the 78rpm.

So, to Black Dyke and that epic performance of 1959. One assumes that the band tried to faithfully reproduce that performance when they committed Le Roi d'Ys to a 7" EP which was released the following year on the Paxton label under the number PEP 111. This was Dyke's first modern day recording. Before that everything was on 78rpm so this was quite a momentous occasion. To play it now is an enormous exertion and one wonders how we made the effort years ago (well I cheated as soon as those tape players became the rage). The problem is that just as you are about to wallow in that famous soaring euphonium solo you have to get up to turn the disc over! Talk about ruining the atmosphere and the moment. Thankfully, Paxton later on released it on a 10" LP with Fodens on side 2 playing Eric Ball's Devon Fantasy. If you have a copy with the blue sleeve then it is the original but if you have a pink one then it is a later pressing - get searching! Better still read on and I'll give you some good news.

Everything seems so right on this recording from the soloists to that piece of history so carefully pointed out in the cover of the score and I quote - "Another unusual feature is the reiteration of passages in the Presto, the speed of which calls for triple tonguing on the part of every member of the band." The use of the tremelo was also noted as an uncommon feature in brass band writing. Technically we have moved on! And talking of soloists here are the corner men - Tom Waterman (soprano), Maurice Murphy (principal cornet), Sam Smith (flugel horn), Gordon Sutcliffe (solo horn), Geoffrey Whitham (solo euphonium) and Grenville Richmond (solo trombone). And of course it is the wonderful playing of Geoff Whitham that is still talked about to this day. Le Roi d'Ys - The King of Ys - has been recorded many a time since and most recently the chance to hear the electric performance of Sun Life winning the 1990 British Open has become a reality with the release of a 3 disc set of some of the band's best recordings.

So, you want to hear Black Dyke's 1960 recording on Paxton and have no intention of sifting through piles of old recordings in charity shops - amazing how many copies of The Sound of Music you will find if you do. Well, it has been reissued on a CD called Around the Paxton Years Volume 1 and can be obtained from R Smith and Co on Freephone 0800 137 817. On that CD you can also hear The Judges of the Secret Court conducted by Jack Emmott, Maurice Murphy playing Will O' The Wisp written by Major Willcocks and a never before released performance by Geoff Whitham playing For You Alone by Henry Geehl. There's loads more and a Volume 2 as well.

TIM MUTUM


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