Nick Garrie - The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Nick Garrie - The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas

by Bill Golembeski Rating:10 Release Date:2019-06-28
Nick Garrie - The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas
Nick Garrie - The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas

Someone discovered gold in California in 1848. And then everybody went in search of the mother lode.

Oddly enough, the same thing happened when somebody else decided to use (of all things!) Nick Drake’s long forgotten song “Pink Moon” for a Volkswagen commercial. And it came to pass that record stores were suddenly filled with requests for that “Pink Moon Volkswagen song.” Apparently, there was gold in them thar undiscovered singer-songwriters from the dusty vaults of undiscovered singer-songwriters. And, once again, everybody went in search of treasure, this time of the vinyl variety.

Suddenly, the great (and also long forgotten) Bill Fay hit record shop hip currency.

And Vashti Bunyan’s Just Another Diamond Day stirred folk interest.

The search for gold was ripe in the singer-songwriter universe.

Sure, there are plenty of lesser talent pyrite albums re-issued and advertised as lost classics, but thankfully, Nick Garrie’s brilliant The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas was found and released on the Rev-Ola label in 2005. Those of us who eagerly sought undiscovered singer-songwriters bit at the bobber and found, yeah, another hidden gemstone of a late 60’s Baroque folk-pop goldmine.

Oh my, this is a beautiful album.

The title tune, “The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas,” simply oozes and yearns its way through sweeping strings, a wondrous melody, and Nick’s earnest vocals. Quite frankly, the song is very much in step with Procol Harum’s early “Whiter Shade of Pale” sound. The lyrics recall Keith Reid’s weird, tangential, (sort of) symbolic, and existential combination of words. And Nick’s voice hovers somewhere between Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher’s sound.

The melodies persist (even after all these years) in their beauty. Flutes announce “Can I Stay with You.” And even more strings frame the tune that pleads with both time and love. “David’s Prayer” has the beauteous fecund dream of a lovely Luddite lullaby coupled to the Romantic gist of a Wordsworth ode to nature. (Or something like that!) It’s a sublime tune, and does indeed, in its own way, “wander lonely as a cloud.” As does “Ink Pot Eyes,” which explodes in heavenly slide guitar and infectious ecstasy. There’s more flute as “The Wanderer” sounds like a huge folk hit from the 60’s. Glenn Campbell’s excellent singles come to mind.

Now, it’s important to note that the sound of this re-issue far surpasses the 2005 Rev-Ola release. The orchestrated bits warm these old grooves with much more passion. And there are acoustic sounds from guitars and pianos that just weren’t elevated into the mix in the earlier version. This brand-new Tapete remaster (Elefant Spain did a 40th anniversary release in 2010) weeps with a deeper sonic depth.

Now, there are several songs that pause the beauty. “Bungles Tours” is a music hall warning of trips to France. “Queen of Queens” is a faux country western tune with a hoedown voice that, well, is sort of enjoyable in its juxtaposed tempo. It’s nice in a “Rocky Raccoon” sort of way. And “Wheel of Fortune” is Baroque stringed stuff that beats with the pulse of The Beatles’ psych “Strawberry Fields” vibe.

But the lovely melodies reign supreme. The brisk “Little Bird” is folk music perfected, sort like Paul McCarthy’s “Blackbird” with a quicker acoustic paintbrush. It’s a nice tune. And “Deeper Tones of Blue” speaks for itself. This one bleeds its beauty. And it’s a patient beauty. It’s 60’s stuff that speaks its soul that echoes with an indifferent comment to the gaudy world.

Obviously, there are Beatles comparisons. Sure. But this record is also a more poppy version of Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter or even Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. Yes, this cloud does wander in rarified air.

“Evening” ends with a rainy night of a melody. This tune sings with the patter of sad raindrops. Great folk music did that way back then, and it touches an eerie sound of a forlorn song-written moment.

Now, I’m not a fan of bonus tracks, simply because they are usually a one-time curiosity. But this re-issue contains the two sides of a single, “Queen of Spades” and “Close Your Eyes.” And then demos of several songs on the album are included, and it’s really nice to hear the acoustic simplicity that juxtaposes the album’s orchestrations. But two other demos, “Cambridge Town” and “Stone and Silk,” have been unearthed.

It’s just a great album. So, ‘nuff said!

But the heavens be praised! And (to quote the great John Fogerty) “There’s new grass on the field,” because Nick recorded The Moon & the Village in 2017. His voice has aged well, and the songs still flow with such exquisite melodies (this time with minimal orchestration), that the heart simply has to pause for a moment to absorb the beauty. And it’s the beauty of an ancient oak tree that sings to the moon and still manages to shade any village with the very same wisdom that J.B. Stanislas found in a Nightmare long ago. And it’s a wisdom that still vibrates today, thankfully, with tunes that are hummed, patiently, during any early morning in any very melodic English garden.

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