Folk-rock singer-songwriter David McWilliams (1945-2002) may be best known for his 1967 song "Days of Pearly Spencer," a hit throughout Europe except for in the United Kingdom, which Marc Almond successfully revived in 1992. There was more to McWilliams than just that one song, however, as evidenced by Esoteric Recordings' new reissue of his fourth album and first for Dawn Records, Lord Offaly.
The Belfast native began immersing himself in music in his early teen years, and he released his debut record for the Major Minor label in 1967. David McWilliams Singing Songs by David McWilliams reached an impressive No. 38 on the U.K. albums chart, and its successor David McWilliams fared even better, reaching an all-time high for the artist of No. 23. Following the No. 39 success of Volume 3, he signed to Pye's progressive subsidiary, Dawn. The album was titled after his dark tale of Thomas Fitzgerald, the 10th Earl of Kildare who led a rebellion and was executed in 1537. Lord Offaly also features "Go On Back to Momma," one of McWilliams' contributions to the cult film Gold (tag line: "Before Woodstock, Beyond Reality") which also boasted songs from the MC5. Always interested in telling stories through music, McWilliams earned comparisons to Donovan and Bob Dylan, and became a favorite songwriter of the late David Bowie. Yet perhaps due to the lack of hit singles, Lord Offaly failed to springboard him to further fame.
Esoteric's new reissue features the album's original ten tracks, all newly remastered by Ben Wiseman from the original Pye/Dawn master tapes. Malcolm Dome supplies a new appreciation of the artist with quotes from his daughter Nanno McWilliams. Full lyrics are also included.
The label also has an expanded edition of debut album A Third of a Lifetime from the band Three Man Army. Guitarist Adrian Gurvitz and his younger brother, bassist Paul Gurvitz, first burst onto the music scene as part of their U.K.-based band The Knack (not to be confused with the American pop group of the sixties, or the subsequent "My Sharona" hitmakers of the late 1970s and early 1980s). Eventually the Gurvitz brothers' Knack morphed into Gun, sharing bills with The Move, Pink Floyd and other progressive-minded rock groups. Three Man Army rose out of Gun, but with the two brothers joined by rotating drummers including Mike Kellie of Spooky Tooth and Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge. For A Third of a Lifetime, sitting behind the kit was none other than Buddy Miles of The Electric Flag and Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys. The lineup would solidify with Tony Newman, but Third stands alone thanks to Miles' participation and the group's exploratory sound.
A Third of a Lifetime, produced by Lou Reizner (Rod Stewart, Rick Wakeman, the symphonic Tommy), largely consists of full-tilt power trio rock, but also takes in various styles from funky hard rock to prog (complete with expansive orchestrations as on the lovely title track and the epic closer, "Together") and even pop. The instrumental "Midnight" showcases the multi-talented Miles on organ, and "Nice One" has him on bass. The group's tight, stellar musicianship shines throughout, regardless of which musical style is being played, and the arrangements left plenty of room for each member to take a solo spotlight.
Third Man Army would go on to record two more albums with Tony Newman before splintering; the Gurvitz brothers soldiered on together with the third spot filled by perhaps the most legendary power trio drummer of all time: Ginger Baker of Cream. Baker Gurvitz Army lasted for three albums between 1974 and 1976. Esoteric's reissue of A Third of a Lifetime features new liner notes by Malcolm Dome, remastering by Ben Wiseman, and two previously released bonus tracks: the single "What's Your Name?" b/w "Travellin'." These two bonuses previously appeared on One Way Records' long out-of-print version of this title.
Both Lord Offaly and A Third of a Lifetime are available at the links below from Esoteric/Cherry Red!
- Go On Back to Momma (From the film Gold)
- She Was a Lady
- I Will Always Be Your Friend
- Heart of the Roll
- I Would Be Confessed
- Spanish Hope
- Blind Men's Stepping Stones
- Lord Offaly
- The Prisoner
- Butter Queen
- Another Day
- A Third of a Lifetime
- Nice One
- Three Man Army
- Agent Man
- See What I Took
- What's Your Name? (Pegasus single PGS 1-A, 1971)
- Travellin' (Pegasus single PGS 1-B, 1971)