The Edge CD
Legends of the Edge
Joe Beard and Friends: The Edge
Chris Joe Beard was half of the songwriting partnership with Geoff Bowyer that provided the driving force for 60s band The Purple Gang; their chief claim to fame, of course, being the iconic Granny Takes A Trip single. After the demise of the band, Joe returned to his home town of Poynton, Cheshire, and was able to more overtly indulge his fascination with the myths and legends of the rocky outcrop of Alderley Edge.
Back in 1965, he’d already written one song based on an episode in a local Arthurian legend, The Wizard, which had been recorded on The Purple Gang’s 1968 LP Strikes, but this was incorporated into an album-length collection of songs, entitled The Edge, retelling the principal legend and adding other tales from the locality. Joe realised, however, that visuals and strong narration were needed to support the songs, so wrote a script and hired costumes for friends to pose on location for projected slides to accompany the lyrics and storylines.
Beginning with an acclaimed debut concert at 1981’s Poynton Easter Folk Festival, a series of performances of The Edge was staged; these featured a small band supported by a screen, slide images and a narrator. The live show was then made into a radio show by Manchester’s Piccadilly Radio, which added other performers (including the folk legend Harry Boardman in the role of The Wizard) and some extra musicians; this was broadcast on Hallowe’en 1982, and formed the basis for a subsequent (1983) studio recording, which here appears on CD for the first time. Taken from cassette copy, since the master tapes have long since been lost, there’s inevitably some degree of flutter, but there’s plenty of presence and compensation techniques have made the best of the transfers.
The whole artefact actually has something of the sound of an airwave broadcast, and is not without a certain 70s-Zeitgeist charm, while the music itself won’t let you down if you know the kind of thing to expect – i.e. competent, inspired writing with a feel for the subject-matter, rather more 70s than 80s in mode and delivery with a genial acoustic-based folk-rock styling that’s mostly more akin to Magna Carta than Steeleye, say.
Instrumentation is for much of the time fairly spartan, with Gerry Robinson’s mandolin a primary tone colour counterpointing Joe’s own guitar and voice, but such is the nature of the songs and lyrics that you don’t really miss a fuller sound-picture. The lineup on the recording also variously includes Jamie Knowles (electric violin), Pat Knowles (keyboards, synth) and Tony Moss (bass guitar); vocals on specific songs are taken by either Di Robinson or Pat Knowles, with Harry Ogden providing the narration. The Edge is a minor-league period piece, sure, but still attractive and worth a hearing on its own terms.
King’s Ransom Legends of The Edge
Joe Beard’s 1983 album-length collection of songs retelling the local legend of the wizard of Alderley Edge was recorded five years later, in 1988, by Cheshire-based six-piece folk-rock band King’s Ransom, within the ranks of which Joe himself played guitar and sang. (Continuity into the present-day is provided by Joe’s current band Radnor, who include in their ranks original King’s Ransom member Rosa Sheard and their 1988 album’s producer Mike Billington.)
This 1988 version is a spirited, if slightly odd affair, somewhat of a curate’s egg it must be said although it contains some pretty decent songs that suit their context and content right enough. Musically though, it’s somewhat of a throwback, with often a definite mid-to-late-70s-Steeleye feel but whose ringing, chiming guitar sounds and timbres are perhaps more in tune with 80s new-wave. Rosa’s soaring vocal work (on around half of the songs) proves a powerful signature, much in the approved styling that melds Annie Haslam and Maddy Prior.
The master tapes for the album having long been lost, a miracle has been performed by restoration software and digital remastering in order that this reissue brings the album an optimum sound quality; even so, there’s a certain thinness of tone (and what I might term a “lack of bottom-end boost”) that even the intensity of the performances can’t entirely redeem. It’s still rather appealing in its own way though, once you get used to the overall sound.
The attendant passages of narration and studio-generated sound-effects (mostly thunderclaps and the like) are somewhat quaintly managed, one might say in a rather 70s-BBC fashion, but thankfully these don’t intrude on the impact of the songs or the storytelling. Sure, this is likely to be considered a reissue for the curio collector rather than the more general music enthusiast, but it, like its predecessor, is worth hearing, and forms a useful complement to the more generally-known Alan Garner stories based on the Alderley Edge local legends.
David Kidman FATEA