Well, one thing's for sure - Tony Gillam is pretty much unpigeonholable!! Gillam's thoughtful music dances around folk, skips passed indie and stops short of pop. Utilising great sounds from some of the lesser used traditional instruments, Gillam brings new heart and soul to nu-folk tradition.
Individual but compelling, Worcestershire's Tony Gillam challenges genre normality by refusing to conform to pre-determined guidelines or commercial restrictions. Gillam reminds me of Michael Chapman with his ability to take acoustic 'folk' tinged songs closer to (soft) rock without losing the earthy feel and grounded homeliness. 'Unusual' only goes part way to describing Gillam's bold approach. 'Unusual' only just prepares the listener for Gillam's unfathomable style. 'Unusual' is pretty much where Tony Gillam casts his musical net and 'unusual' is pretty much what he lays down at your feet. Tony Gillam's songs are well conceived and impressively crafted; sparsely instrumentally populated but all the better for the 'space' between the lines, Gillam never once crowds his words with over-indulgent, showy musicianship. 'Untangle The Strings' is blessed with originality and overflowing with clever dynamic juxtaposition. Simplistic yet somehow complex rhythms uphold Gillam's honest vocal work resulting in a sound that's somewhere between Syd Barrett and David Bowie - a really strange but very likeable kinda 'noise' that's as unique as it is scratchy. Gillam's whole approach seems to rely on his ability to make it all happen in the most laid back way.
'Untangle The Strings' by Tony Gillam is very pleasurable for its one-of-a-kindness but I can't help but feel that the actual recording and production just miss the mark somewhat - I'd like Gillam to work harder towards acquiring a cleaner sound rather than this almost 'live' but honest scratchiness. But, that's my only criticism about 'Untangle The Strings'!! 'Untangle The Strings' by Tony Gillam shows great potential; Gillam can clearly write a decent enough song, he obviously knows his way around most string driven, guitar type instruments and he's certainly got an ear for the musically organic, the obtuse and/or the tangential! 'Untangle The Strings' by Tony Gillam works well on most fronts; it's unique, it's clever, it's thought provoking. However, I can't quite see Tony Gillam becoming a household name with this kind of folk angularity - cultish rather than truly commercial, 'Untangle The Strings' by Tony Gillam will appeal to the more open-minded, those with a penchant for experimentation rather than normality.
THE widow of a Worcestershire music entrepreneur has helped to create a lasting legacy to her husband with the release of lost tapes by one of the Midlands’ most legendary bands.
Tina Virr’s husband David died on Boxing Day, 2006, after a protracted illness. During the six months before his death, he had been working on an album of UB40 tapes – live tracks recorded at a London venue in 1980.
Mr Virr signed UB40 to his Graduate record label in the early 1980s and they would go on to become the most energetic reggae-influenced band of all time.
Although he and the band would eventually part company, it was his stewardship that helped them achieve their first hits such as Food For Thought and Red, Red Wine.
Mrs Virr, of Shrawley, near Worcester, said: “David started working on the tapes six months before he died. He was concerned that they were just rotting away in the attic.
“He asked his old friend and long-time associate George Krstic if there was any way that the tapes could be protected. George took them home and the result is this album. David became very excited about the project but then he became very ill and did not live long enough to see it come to fruition.
“I’m really pleased with the result. I feel really proud – it was his last project and it is a shame that he didn’t live to see it through.”
Producer George Krstic, of BiziB Music, said: “The album has been really well-received by the fan club. I’m so happy that a piece of history has been preserved. It is a fitting epitaph for David, who was a wonderful man and a very great friend of mine.
“We first met many years ago when I was in a band called Wise Virgin. He was a disc jockey and our manager at the time and that is how we began our long association.
“The tapes presented quite a challenge. The quarter-inch master was not of useable quality but the two-inch tapes could be rescued. This was the first time they had been seen since the gig at the Venue in London in March 1980.
“The tapes had been in his attic for 26 years. But by using the digital copies of the tracks I was able to master the album. Nothing was added and there were no overdubs.
“It took a lot of man hours, but listening to the finished product, it was easy to see why David was taken by the band and obvious why they were so successful. Unfortunately, David was not able to see the album released, but did hear the finished article before he passed away on Boxing Day, 2006.”
The album, titled UB40 – The Lost Tapes, was released earlier this month on EMI Virgin and licensed under the UB40 catalogue, copyright Graduate Records. At the moment, it is only available on the internet. It will be available through major retail outlets at some stage in the future.
His widow, Tina, told BBC Hereford & Worcester's Andrew Easton that he was determined to get the recording released:
"It just happened that when David was very ill he remembered that he'd got these tapes, and he was concerned that they were deteriorating, and that's why he asked George to take them to Muff Murphin's studio."
George Christie, from Busy Bee Music, says spotting and signing UB40 changed David's standing in the music industry:
"That put David into the mainstream – he was then in the business as a mainstream label, he was doing really good business, and he was a target for all the major labels, who wanted a piece of the action."
George says the orginal tapes were in very bad condition, and it took a lot of work to get them into a state where they could be released as a CD:
"The tapes haven't been played at all since they were recorded in 1980 – it was a live gig at The Venue in London.
"The quarter inch master was not playable, it was terrible, and so we took the two inch tapes down to Muff Murphin in Kempsey, we digitised them, and I took them back to my studio, and I took a long time bringing them up to releasable standard.
"It's come out extremely well, and we're very pleased with the product… this coming out has filled a little gap in the history of UB40."
Express & Star
Lost tapes of UB40 see the light
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‘Lost Tapes” recorded by Midlands music legends UB40 have been released by the widow of a former Black Country music shop owner who first discovered the band.
Entrepreneur David Virr signed the Birmingham musicians in 1979, after being inspired to start his own record label by the late DJ John Peel.
His Graduate Records business originally began as a record shop in Wolverhampton Street, Dudley, in the late 1960s. At one time, it was one of six across the Midlands.
Mr Virr released UB40’s first single Food for Thought, which reached number four in the charts in January 1980. It was followed by two further singles and their first album called Signing Off in August 1980. Mr Virr parted company with the band when they signed to a new label.
The Hagley-born father of three first began restoring the lost tapes of live 1980 performances recorded in London shortly before he died from a rare illness, aged 58, in 2006.
He asked his friend and long-time associate George Krstic of Kidderminster-based BiziB Music for help with restoring and protecting the tapes but did not live long enough to see the project come to fruition.
The album, titled ‘UB40 – The Lost Tapes’ has been released on EMI Virgin.
At the moment, it is only available on the internet but there are plans to sell it via major stores in the future.
Mr Virr’s widow Tina, aged 46, of Shrawley, near Worcester, who now runs Graduate Records, believes the album is a fitting tribute to her late husband and his musical career.
She added: “He remembered these tapes were in the loft and was concerned that they would get damaged and be lost forever.
“He was determined to restore the tapes so they could be saved and be heard by fans of the band.”
During his career Mr Virr had worked with other successful artists including The Maisonettes, who had a top ten hit in 1983 with Heartache Avenue.
In 1995, Graduate Records released Stourport singer/songwriter Clifford T. Ward’s album Julia & Other Stories.