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Mick Stevens - See the Morning / No Savage Word

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Artist: Mick Stevens

Album: See the Morning / No Savage Word

Label: Shadoks

Review date: Jun. 27, 2004

During his short career, British psych-folk singer Mick Stevens recorded two limited-edition albums at Deroy Sound Studios, a studio and label known to collectors of rare psychedelic and folk records. Since then, Stevens had since fallen into oblivion, with both of his obtusely beautiful albums long forgotten. This long overdue reissue collects both 1972’s See the Morning and 1975’s No Savage Word on a two disc set, allowing us to revisit the work of this obscure and talented songwriter.

See the Morning, on which Stevens plays nearly every instrument, is more stripped down and raw sounding than its follow up. Stevens’ pristine singing is the main event here, with the many layers of dreamy back-up vocal lines creating an almost hallucinatory effect. The occasional flourish of instrumental accompaniment, like the wah-wah guitar effects that float in and out of several songs or the banjo line that helps make “Catherine” so starkly beautiful, stand out amidst the understated acoustic guitar playing. While “Smile Again,” the album’s opener, recalls Syd Barrett with its off-kilter, rapid fire vocal delivery (as does “As I Lay Me Down,” from No Savage Word), the majority of Stevens’s songs contain an emotional earnestness rare from psychedelic musicians.

See the Morning contains most of Stevens’ best songs, particularly the intense closing number “Salotan Cinonrever.” Nonetheless, No Savage Word is an accomplished work in its own right. Although still lacking a full-band sound, this time around Stevens shares guitar, bass, and occasional drum duties with other musicians. The result is a more polished, perhaps more readily accessible album that lacks some of the personal charm of its predecessor. On the other hand, “Easy Love” and “Holiday,” arguably the album’s two best tracks, shine due to their clarity and full-bodied sound. Stevens’ guitar playing stands out more on this album, especially on “Angie” and “Park and Grinners,” both instrumental pieces that sound like a subdued Leo Kottke.

Both records share a sense of theatrical whimsicality that may sound a bit dated or overly precious to contemporary ears, as Stevens lacks much of the dark and/or drug-influenced lyrical imagery of other psychedelic folk singers. But the raw, hypnotic sound quality of the recordings, topped with his vocal and songwriting talents, should appeal to a new generation of fans, and these lost gems can finally receive the attention they deserve.

By Jon Pitt

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