2007   MAY 26   #146

C John Taylor - Islands Of Beauty / The Song of Argyll

Islands Of Beauty
A Islands Of Beauty (3:35)
B The Prince Of Wales / For Friendship Sake / Islands Of Beauty (4:26)
The Song of Argyll
A The Song of Argyll (5:19)
B The Pope John Paul II Poem - A Time For Peace (1:16)
B Upon Being Sixty / My Love is Like a Morning Song (6:29)

The Wicker Man's certainly got a lot to answer for! Obscure artist C John Taylor was based on the remote Seil Island in Scotland and wrote poetry in his spare time. In 1978 someone had the idea of setting these poems to music and making an EP to sell in the island gift shop alongside the tartan tea cloths and tins of Highland Fingers. Islands of Beauty is a tribute to the Inner Hebrides and starts off with vocalist Gary Gordon ("from Pebble Mill At One") gently crooning the song to a simple folk-waltz. Then it gets a little darker with the same tune played on the bagpipes, followed by a Gaelic reading by the artist's daughter Catriona against a wash of sound effects of seagulls and water lapping. Finally the artist-poet himself joins in reading the words in English, but sounds somewhat awkward and uncomfortable as though he were being continually poked with a Highland Finger.

All quite weird and wonderful, like Mull Of Kintyre on acid! The B-side is somewhat disappointing by comparison being a medley of poems kicking off with an odious ode to Prince Charles and British Kings and Queens through the ages. In reality this is little more than a list of monarchs set to music, a would-be Subterranean Homesick Blues for Royalists.

In 1983 C John (what does the C stand for?) was at it again with another 'famous' poem set to yet another 'never-to-be-forgotten' waltz-time melody. However it seems that by this point he had fallen out with Gary Gordon and his quartet and employed the services of The Mike Alexander Orcherstra with a new vocalist in the shape of Allun Davies. Lacking the naive charm of Islands Of Beauty this one relies too much on more obvious Scottish cliches with the new vocalist in toe-curling MOR territory. It's a nice tune however and C John and his female Gaelic narrator (Marie Carmichael this time) are dubbed over the top offering more pearls of wisdom. The sleeve design is the same as the previous disc although now it's in garish purple 'n' white and isn't die-cut at the front so we get to see a bit more of that creepy photo of C John sketching a bikini-clad model with no lead in his pencil. We can finally see what he's doing with his right hand!

There are yet more poems on the B-side including A Time For Peace, another tribute, this time to the Pope who had visited Ireland in 1979 but wisely avoided Scotland and Seil Island in particular. Each poem is introduced by a long preamble about where, when and why he wrote it, and he seems to have jotted most of them off at 4 in the morning suggesting that he was some sort of insomniac.

It's unlikely that these records sold in huge quantities, possibly because C John has a serious image problem. His 'look' consists of horn-rimmed specs, goatee beard, open-neck shirt with a cravat and an ill-fitting yachting cap making him look seriously like a man in heavy disguise. Perhaps he was an escaped convict in hiding or dressed like this in case any punters turned up asking for their money back once they had played the brown-nosing Prince Charles tribute.

- Contributed by: David Noades

Images: Islands Of Beauty, The Song Of Argyll

Islands Of Beauty
Media: 7"
Label: Highland Arts Studios/Hollick and Taylor
Catalog: HTEP 1560
Date: 1978
Credits: Musical accompaniment by The Gary Gordon Quartet. Vocals: Gary Gordon. Gaelic narration: Catriona MacLeod Taylor. Pipes: Pipe Major Bert Anderson.

The Song Of Argyll
Media: 7"
Label: Highland Arts Studios/Hollick and Taylor
Catalogue: HTEP 1671
Date: 1983
Credits: Musical accompaniment by The Mike Alexandra Orchestra. Vocalist: Allun Davies. Gaelic Narration: Marie Carmichael. Pipes: Pipe Major Bert Anderson.