Tom Yates Reviews

Tom Yates – Loves comes well armed

Tom Yates - Songs Of The Shimmering Way CDAC
Tom Yates – Songs of the Shimmering Way

Tom Yates - Love Is Losing Ground
Tom Yates – Love Is Losing Ground

TOM YATES Love Comes Well Armed

Tom Yates surprised me immediately with his voice, it sounded like a mix of stereotypical country and Beatles. I wasn’t very sure what to expect from this but quickly found myself bopping along to the opening track, Rooster Grady.

What is interesting about Love Comes Well Armed, is that none of this is new. Sadly Tom Yates himself died of Leukaemia in 1993. All of the tunes are re-mastered from his stretch during the 1980s and are out for release again.

His vocals sound very distinctive, but also have a warmth of familiarity that could probably be put under the same umbrella as other artists. Parts of Before I Die really does sound like one of the Beatles if they had chosen to take up country rather than pop. Some may object to me using this description but I think it works so well, especially when you know they are not that far apart time wise.

His musical talents are also to be greatly commended as he plays soft and delicate tunes under his vocals, making his songs warming like a sip of whisky or sitting near a fire place. The title track Love Comes Well Armed in particular is gripping.

Of course there are mixtures of songs with Loves Philosophy being much more relaxed and slow compared to tunes like The Man I Really Am which is bouncy and jolly.

A wonderful collection to honour a great artist.

Paul Rawcliffe North West Folk


Tom Yates: Album: Love Comes Well Armed

Label: Epona
Tracks: 12

Rochdale-born Tom was just one of the large crop of singer-songwriters who came into prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He got to know Paul Simon on moving to London in the late 1960s, and his first LP (Second City Spiritual) was recorded for CBS in 1967. It was in 1973, around a year after moving to Disley, a village near Stockport (Cheshire), that Tom released his second LP, Love Comes Well Armed.

While necessarily placing the spotlight on Tom’s own distinctive and admittedly slightly idiosyncratic vocal style, the LP also featured a modicum of instrumental support, from (among others) B.J. Cole, Tom’s wife Cindy, and Duncan Browne (with whom Tom had collaborated a few years previously as well as co-writing two of the LP’s songs). There’s some very skilful acoustic guitar interplay, and BJ’s pedal steel provides a telling signature on a handful of the tracks. Even so, the general sound of the album was quite spartan, which made the more complicated arranged sections stand out all the more. It transpires that the original studio master tape has been sourced for this first-time-on-CD transfer, and the clarity of the aural image is often quite startling in the richness of its detail; and although there’s the occasional click or crackle of surface-noise this proves no significant distraction in the overall scheme of things.

As far as Tom’s songwriting is concerned, it chiefly encompasses a philosophical stance, one which encourages co-operation and kinship; even so, it can sometimes be more than mildly elusive in its refusal to preach. Less mystical, more mystique-inducing perhaps, and almost indefinably pithy on occasion, yet with a delicacy of expression that’s mirrored in his vocalising. There’s contrast too; the wry playfulness of early Robin Williamson is recalled on Bye Bye Bohemia, whereas Dear Life more resembles a tentative torch ballad. Finally, I mentioned Tom’s vocal style above – and yet, idiosyncratic though it may be, you might hear hints of fellow-singers from the early 70s and later too (Roy Harper, Bernie Parry, and others that I can’t quite place right at this moment), while derivative his style sure ain’t.

For all kinds of reasons, then, Tom’s work may not make a definite impression first time round, but it reaps rewards on closer acquaintance, and certainly doesn’t justify the neglect which it has suffered over the past decades (I’d not even come across Tom in the persona of “cult figure”!). Sadly, Tom passed away in 1993, in Antwerp (he’d moved to Belgium in 1980), but this timely reissue, along with further plans including the remastering of albums one and three along with Tom’s obscure 1980s cassette releases, should ensure his talent now gains some deserved, if belated attention.

David Kidman FATEA Magazine.


Tom Yates: Album: Song Of The Shimmering Way

Label: Epona
Tracks: 10

Tom’s third album, originally released by Satril Records in 1977, sounds at once a throwback to early-70s adventurousness and a glance-forward to 80s alt-folk. Its writing continues to explore Tom’s preoccupations and life concerns while instancing (notably in the disc’s final pair of tracks) the interest in Celtic culture, stories, traditions and mythology that he had begun to embrace in the years since Love Comes Well Armed; Tom’s interest in character-painting resurfaces on Johnny Mars The Knocker, a song of old-fashioned folky charm.

The LP’s instrumental arrangements are more consciously lavish and “formulated” than the simpler endorsements of the previous record, but they’re carried out with commendable sensitivity for their era, and only on the rather forced show-time ambience of To Be In A Movie With You does there feel to be a degree of overkill and cringe-factor. The mood of genial insouciance is better caught on the lightly-orchestrated Sunset On Fair Isle, perhaps. However, the dreamlike minstrelsy of A Twelve Month Carol gets the balance just right, and this would be a standout track to grace any contemporaneous album release; Life Ahead is another real success, one whose percipience and philosophy strongly recalls the writing of Paul Metsers (and contains some lovely, deft lute and guitar interplay as a bonus).

The title track, a seven-minute epic narrative, comes complete with rippling Celtic harp and has much of the feel of The Merry Band; confidently delivered, and with a musical kinship to the traditional Lay The Bent To The Bonny Broom, this is full of promise for a direction Tom might usefully have pursued further. It needs to be remembered that the record came out at an awkward time for singer-songwriters, where there was little room for any “softer”, more considered talent that doggedly inhabited the cracks between mainstream and proto-punk. Thus, Song Of The Shimmering Way may not, even with hindsight, be able to be considered a true classic, but its sometimes elusive beauties are still well worth revisiting. For, uneven though its invention may be, it’s a rather likeable set nonetheless.

David Kidman FATEA Magazine.



Tom Yates may not be a name recognisable to you. He was born in Rochdale in 1944 and passed away in 1993, but he has left behind a legacy of songs that have stood the test of time and are now being released under license once more.

The original tapes have been lovingly transferred onto CD and the songs on these tapes were ones he recorded in Antwerp.

Opening with the title track “Love Is Losing Ground”, are we getting away from all we believe and love and how can we return?

“Jaques Brel” is revered in music circles the world over. Tom, by way of his huge respect for Brel, sings this short track in the master’s own language.

When someone leaves we often spiral into a different word, a type of regression. “Godspeed” explains how we then must encourage our offspring to soar and attain a higher ideal.

One of the world’s greatest dances is the Tango. “Tango Valentino” tells how we should try to put adversity behind us. The music gets faster as our lives pick up pace.

No matter whether we are rich beyond our wildest dreams, can we ever find peace and satisfaction? “Brutal and Cruel” looks at different situations we must all face if we are to move forward.

Turning to look homeward is something we all do when we are missing our homeland while many miles away. In this case, a walk along the riverbank “Amid the Alien Corn” only heightens the anxiety of what is missing.

In the darkest moments how do we cope? Do we listen to music or what is going on inside out head? “Wild Track” tries to explain.

“Mishka Midou” is a person either real or imagined who has got under the skin of a distant admirer. Imagination runs wild. Great keyboards mark this track out.

As we gaze into the vast universe, constellations of stars, planets, the phases of the moon, all are ours if we reach out for “Stars and Sails”.

Dusk falls, the river is running by, you spread “A Table in the Wilderness” with crackling and bread to share. Could it be reality or just a dream to reach out for? How do we see things and those closest to us? “A Song of Sable Night” tries to square the circle.

“It’s Been a While”, when we lose touch and then reconnect, has anything changed? If the answer is yes, can we get back those things we most loved?

Tom Yates is a unique talent with a voice of haunting quality. He tosses life up into the air and catches its constituent parts as they tumble back down. The more you listen to the tracks, the more you get from them each time. I commend this CD to you; you won’t be disappointed.

David Jones. Folk North West. Winter 2013