Edward Penfold - Denny Isle Drive

by Bill Golembeski Rating:7 Release Date:2017-11-24
Edward Penfold - Denny Isle Drive
Edward Penfold - Denny Isle Drive

Brian Eno had Music for Airports. Well, this album could be Music for Not Learning French.

You know, when I was young and growing up in small town American Midwest, Creedence Clearwater Revival was my favorite band. AM radio and a few department stores, who also sold clothing and furniture, were my sources of music. Real blues music was as far from my circumference as were the novels of James Baldwin or Ralph Ellison. So, when I finally heard Howlin’ Wolf in a Madison record store, my first thought was, “Who’s ripping off John Fogerty?”  

Talk about putting the cart before the horse! But, truthfully, I still love “Smokestack Lightnin’” and Fogerty’s “Graveyard Train” tribute.

Now, the value of this album depends entirely on the listen’s love for Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd, and Kevin Ayers. This entire record is an extremely tuneful collection that pretty much sounds like, well, Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd, and Kevin Ayers.

Personally, I really enjoy the music. But as the great John Martyn sang, “I got ghosts in my memory.” Yeah, there are “ghosts everywhere” in this music. And, as my friend, Kilda Defnut, often says, “Ghosts are serious stuff.”

The first song “Conker” is a slowly strummed and Syd Barrett-voiced recreation of everything Syd Fanzine Terrapin hoped to review but sadly ran out of Barrett originals. Oddly, “Spring Parade” starts with a harmonica that recalls Neil Young and then develops into a pretty great melodic tune that has the same languid beauty as Floyd’s “Us and Them” from Dark Side of the Moon. That’s the problem with this record. Oh, I want to write it off as a rip-off of too many great artists, but darn, if the songs aren’t just pretty great. “Betsy’s Linen” is pure Madcap, with its simply strummed guitar, an offhand chorus of “I don’t mind,” and rather obtuse lyric: “Slurring my drinks with my words/My stomach is a flock of birds.”

There is more. “Bungalow White” extends the palette into “Strawberry Fields Forever” territory before it morphs musically into the ending bit from Floyd’s “Time,” the part that states, “Thought I had something more to say.”

Wouldn’t it be funny is Edward Penfold never heard of Pink Floyd and “Arnold Layne” or “Us and Them”?        I doubt that, but at least he, like the great John Martyn, takes this music and these ghosts as serious stuff.

Bananas

That’s an equally obtuse quote from Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Of course, just like much of this record, it’s psychologically symbolic. And, by the way, it somehow reveals that young Dewey Dell is very pregnant. Or Vardaman’s mother is either dead or she’s a fish. It’s something like that. But, more importantly, it’s also a weird motif that resurfaces in the work of Kevin Ayers as witnessed in his Bananamour album. And the baritone ghost of Kevin Ayers is very much part of this record. Oh my, “Northern Himisphere” deepens the vocals and delivers that carefree and wistful Canterbury sound that pays little heed to the pressures of time and reality. It also recalls the absolute gorgeous silvery tones of one Raymond Douglas Davies, circa “Days” or (almost) “Waterloo Sunset.” The brief piano “Suntan” is an intro to “Grasshopper,” which is not Syd’s jugband or Syd’s blues, but in its own time becomes positively jolly, as only Kevin Ayers could be jolly in his very own Joy of a Toy manner.

Alex Chilton of Big Star fame, wrote in his song “Thirteen," "Rock and roll is here to star/Come inside where it’s okay.” I like to think that music has, between its notes, a lot more welcoming space than the Internet. And I may be wrong, but I think William Faulkner has space between his words that equals the expanse that the very best music has to offer. Oh, there’s plenty of room in that cave to groove along with a pict and several species of small fury animals.

It’s all sort of like the cover for Floyd’s Ummagumma where the various band members exchange exact positions in photos that recede inwardly and shrink into a weird and ever-smaller portion of the band.

So, between the words (or betwixt the notes), there’s a lot to like about this record. “Cactus Shadow” is another prelude to the Pink Floyd “Brain Damage” territory of “Shallow Valley.” But then “Bullfrog” is absolutely beautiful with strings that soar above the strummed guitar. This is Roy Harper “Twelve Hours of Sunset” from Valentine stuff. It’s lovely in an early 70’s type of lovely. Then it all ends with “Garden Fresh,” and the sound of Floyd, the Beatles, Kevin Ayers, and everything wonderful about the late 60’s and early 70’s, a time when the very warmth of the music overwhelmed the cold commercial concerns that left Syd Barrett possibly drug-addled, confused, and extremely clever when, apparently, our Syd, when asked by rock journalist supreme Nick Kent about his new post-Floyd group Stars, simply replied, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French.”

I think everyone of us, whether sane or not, would love to say that to someone at least once in a lifetime.

Yeah, I’m sorry, I don’t speak French.

That may well be the same as saying, “I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”

This album, in its own way, pretty much says that very same thing.

I taught literature for a while, and I never had a problem with Spark Notes (or Cliff’s Notes to the old folks!). In fact, I made copies available when we were reading a tough one like the before-mentioned As I Lay Dying. Those Notes certainly don’t pretend to replace the actual reading of the book, but they are there “just to give’em a quick, short, sharp shock” that may help open a few doors of perception to the wonder of the original work. As I said, I like this record, but this is definitely the cart, and the horse must always come first. But that’s all right. And I am just really happy in a self-congratulatory way that I made it through the entire review without ever once mentioning the name of Britain’s other odd resident recording artist and favorite obtuse madcap, Robyn “(I want to Be an) Anglepoise Lamp” Hitchcock.

Well, almost…

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