By Love Of The Brave
I've always attested to being born around thirty years too late and it seems there are others just like me. If I'd been born in time to experience the ubiquitous self-discovery of the Overland Trail in the 60s and 70s, the chances are I'd have hitched a ride in Love of the Brave's VW Kombi somewhere along the way. We'd have been there together, escaping the shackles of the modern world - the world of our parents and "the man" - travelling across continents to find enlightenment, ourselves and free love.
Pastiche sounds by El Perro Del Mar and Lucky Soul have been beeping away loud and proud on my radar for a few years now. I have a real soft spot for something new that sounds like something authentically old and the immediate familiarity of these bands has me hooked. So when I started listening to Love of the Brave I was only too happy to be drawn gently but uncontrollably into their bliss-tinged take on the world, into a place where like-minded hippies could lose ourselves, forget our fears and share stories of love, life and loss.
The warm sound is immediate with "The Untold Story of The Love and The Brave". The simplicity of the recording instantly bares itself to reveal a melodic beauty reminiscent of Scott Walker and Melanie Safka in equal parts. The gorgeous arrangement and instrumentation compliment Fuzzy Jones' vocals perfectly. In "Hey Girl" there are suggestions that Fuzzy could add more grit to her sound if she really needed to - but honestly - the grain that she does give is just right. Not for the first time when listening to this album I found the balance in everything was all it needed to be.
There's pain and raw emotion worn firmly outside the sleeve in the lyrics of "Les Champs De L'Amour". I found spirit and resolve in "Find My Way", with its uplifting bass and percussion stitched over subtle Eastern influences. My personal favourites though were the lazy psych-jazz vibe to "Dusted Off" which builds to a trance-like state similar to Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity and the Gainsbourg-friendly, cinematic splendour and occasional might of "Infidel".
It's rare I find an album with at least one song that doesn't grab me but I'd struggle to find one here. One of the most intimate moments is "Heron". Utterly absorbing and almost ten minutes long, this is Love of The Brave showing everything they can do in one place. The conversation between guitar and voice, the flute break taking over and adding colour to the lush cymbals - it's all in there. "Heron" takes you out to sea and getting back at any decent hour seems far from anyone's mind. Reality bites though and "Look at the time, it's quarter to late" - a beautiful line from the closing track "Just One More Time" - reins you back in and leads you through a perfect end to a beautiful set of songs.
This is music being played with open arms and no pretences. After falling for this album on first listen, I'm left wanting to hear the originals of "Rita Brave - album sessions Oct - Dec '71", rescued from musical obscurity by Neil (Innes) and Fuzzy here. I wonder if I'd hear what they did - what made them decide to revive some of that music - the sounds that inspired them to embark on this luscious "collaboration spanning 40 years". In their own words it's "a record which is hers but also ours", but after one listen it's mine now too.
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A recent acquisition of a job lot of old recording equipment, which had been in storage in a garage belonging to a 97 year woman, uncovered a long forgotten gem. In amongst the cart of one of the tape machines we bought were four mouldy 1" reel boxes marked "Rita Brave - album sessions Oct-Dec '71". Although the boxes were perishing, the reels were perfectly preserved within the plastic sheaths. We fell in love with what we found and felt duty bound to breathe new life into her work so that it may see the light of day. Over the next year, with an 8-track tape machine and a bunch of old valve recording equipment we set about reworking some of the material we found. Some things we kept, some things we didn't. A collaboration spanning 40 years. A record which is hers but also ours. So far our efforts to locate Rita have not turned up anything substantial. We have called this project "Love of the Brave".