Recorded in Britain in April/May of 1997, this album is arguably the band’s finest work both sonically (thank you Michael Philip) and from the perspective of sheer fun in the making.
The recording took place in an old barn. At home this would have been depressing. But somehow the British can make all sorts of drafty old structures appealing. There were plenty of quadrupeds bleating and mooing in the surrounding fields. It made the band feel as if they were playing a beer tent at Whoop-Up Days.
The hosts of the studio were Martin and Julie Barre. Martin is the guitarist of Jethro Tull, a fact which sent the whole band into fits of hero worship. They scurried around behind Martin like obsequious fans (which they were), generally babbling things like,”I am not worthy”, and “Which one’s Jethro?”, and other crap that probably made Martin feel awkward. Julie fed them gourmet meals every day and Vince still complained about not getting enough sausage.
Thankfully they were located two miles from the nearest pub, or else the album would have taken twice as long and five times the budget to produce.
Producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda tried to “keep the kittens in the box” and did pretty well. All the same he overslept constantly, completely undermining his own authority. By the end no one was afraid of him whatsoever.
There were lots of guests on the album. This allowed the band to let someone else do all the work while they nipped out for a quick pint. Duncan Moss played hurdy-gurdy on a couple of songs. What’s a hurdy-gurdy you ask? Who the hell knows? But it looks like a decorative meat grinder.
The brilliantly talented Ric Sanders, who was instantly dubbed “The Colonel”, came to play his violin. And play he did. And play, and play, and play, and play. He played incessantly from the moment he arrived until the moment he left. He may even have serenaded a few folks on the train trip home. He played through dinner. It’s surprising that he didn’t use the bow as a fork.
When not being side-tracked by the pesky recording session many of the lads spent their time playing tennis. Kelly and Mann were regulars. This continued until they’d lost all the balls, having ricocheted them off the heads of nearby cows and into the dense obfuscating foliage.
All would reluctantly come indoors to record a track or two — every once and a while. They actually managed to record twelve, the names of which escape us. The songs mostly have to do with subjects like death and homesickness — universal themes. They skipped over taxes and hemorrhoid, but there’s always next album.
|Armstrong and the Guys|
|Rites of Man|
|Waking the Lion|
|Get Down Tonight|
|Death of the Party|
|The Hammer & the Bell|