Sunbeam?s second collection of EPs from Wales finest folksinger picks up where Volume 1 (?Rain In The Leaves?
)left off, by gathering the material from his 3 EPs, single, and compilation appearance originally released on several Welsh labels in 1970-71. Sunbeam also appends an unreleased EP, originally recorded in 1970, and adds an informative introduction from ?the Welsh Bob Dylan,? himself. Stevens explained in a contemporary Beat Instrumental interview that he was disappointed with the popular Welsh artists of the day?s (Tom Jones and Mary Hopkin) failure to ?put something back into Wales,? so he took it upon himself to ?fuse [Wales?] powerful folk traditions with the popular sounds currently sweeping the West,? according to Richard Morton Jack?s typically informative and well-researched liner notes in the 12-page booklet. [To this end, listeners should be aware that all of the tracks are sung in Stevens? native tongue, so, as with the first collection, you?ll have to imagine the lyrical content through the emotional delivery Stevens imbues each track.
Throughout this collection, you?ll find songs that Stevens performed on his numerous TV appearances, as well as tracks written for Welsh TV programs, and even a few re-visits to tracks originally released under different names on the earlier EPs. The collection opens with the upbeat, ?la-la-la? sing along of the title track from his 1970 release, ?Y Brawd Houdini? [?The Brother Houdini?]. Stevens is at his Donovan/Dylanesque best on the spiritual, ?Nid I Fi Mistar MP? [?Not For Me, Mr. MP?], with its lyric adopted from 1 Corinthians 13, vv. 11-12, ?When I was a child, I thought as a child?.? [Note that I am making an educated guess as to the contents of the lyrics based on the enclosed quote from the EP?s original liner notes.] ?Rhyddid Ffug? [?False Freedom?] is a stark, emotional pronouncement, with a ferociously strummed acoustic backing from Stevens that?s quite reminiscence of Richie Havens? early political polemics. The EP ends with the bouncy, bluesy ?Jam Poeth? [?Hot Jam?] (from the TV show, ?Heritage Through The Smoke?), which features some tasty (electric) guitar licks from Stevens and a rollicking piano backing courtesy Mike Snow. It?s rough, raw, garagey, and shows a completely different side of Stevens, perhaps gleaned from his days sharing a London flat with the members of Blossom Toes a few years earlier. It also suggests that Stevens probably could have led his own electric rock group if he so desired, and the EP?s original liner notes even refer to the his four accomplices as the Bryn Sultana Boys!
The ?Nis Oes Un Gwydr Ffenestr? [?Not One Glass Window?] single came next (on Wren in August, 1970), and both sides are included, with the flip, ?Rhybeth Gwell I Ddod? [?Waiting For Something Better?] being the most interesting. It?s a harmonica-backed tale that bleeds Dylan, but still manages to impart its own mournful longing. It would be nearly a year before Stevens would release another EP, partly due to the difficult personal conflicts he was dealing with, being involved in tenuous relationships with both Tessa, the mother of his two children (all of whom appear on the cover of the ?Byw yn y Wlad? [?Living In The Country?] EP) and a lovely Texas hippie that Stevens met in London in 1969 named Carol-Ann. Tessa?s schizophrenia, coupled with the bagfuls of The Grateful Dead?s LSD that Stevens and Carol-Ann liberally sampled took their toll on him. But by the time he entered Monmouthshire?s famous Rockfield Studio with a couple of local musicians and Dave Edmunds assisting in the engineer?s seat, Stevens was in full spirits (some might say full of spirits!), and the EP kicks off with the surprisingly upbeat title track. As might be expected, there?s a distinct Edmunds? ?I Hear You Knocking? echoed aura all over the track that gives this collection its title [?Sachliain a Lludw?], a bluesy rockabilly stomp that sadly fades away in less than 80 seconds. The quietly contemplative ?Y Miseodd? [?The Months?] seems born of Stevens? recent heartaches, and also bears a distinct Paul Simon stamp of loneliness, a la his early releases with Art Garfunkle such as ?Sounds of Silence? and ?Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme.?
The final EP from this productive period (?Diolch Yn Fawr? [?Thanks A Lot?]) stems from the same studio with the aid of the same backing musicians, and appeared around the same time on Sain Records. Perhaps due to his busy schedule with numerous other commitments (he had taken up acting and appeared on stage [the Welsh Theatre Company?s production of ?The Hypochondriac?], TV [?Arthur of The Britons?] and screen [in Roman Polanski?s ?Macbeth?!]), half of the tracks might have been familiar to Stevens fans through earlier appearances. ?Bryn Unigrwydd? [?Lonely Hill?] cops the melody from his debut single, ?Did I Dream? that originally appeared on Decca in 1965 (listeners can compare it with the original that now can be heard on ?Rain In The Leaves?) and opener, ?Pa Cawn Dy Gwymni Di? [?If I Had Your Company?] was actually left over from recording sessions with Tony Pike later that year. Even the title track had been earlier commissioned for a series of songs that were designed to teach infants to speak Welsh (sadly, it didn?t have any effect of me, although it is a rousing sing along, reminiscent of Peter, Paul & Mary, The Kingston Trio and The Irish Rovers!) The lone ?new? track, ?Breuddwyd? [?Dreams?] returns Stevens to his melancholic, acoustic folk solo song/story style.
BBC Wales most popular music program around this time was ?Disc A Dawn? [?Disc and Talent?], and a 1970 album gathered performances form some of their better artists, including two Stevens tracks (performed, to his regret, with the BBC house band, which he confesses in his introduction to this set, ?wasn?t my idea of fun.? Nevertheless, the pensive ballad, ?Nid Y Fi Yw?r Un I Ofyn Pam? [?Not For Me To Ask The Reason Why?] and the jaunty, barrel-house stomper ?Dwyn y Lein? [?Stealing The Line?], written with the head of BBC Wales Children?s Programming, are wonderful bonus tracks that complete the early Meic Stevens 70?s picture, as does the inclusion of the complete EP that Cambrian Records to this day inexplicably abandoned. Stevens? completists will recognize opener, ?Dos I Gysgu? as a reworking of ?C?n Mamgu? [?Grandmother?s Song?] from his fourth (self titled) EP, originally handed out at his performance at the National Eisteddfod in Ammanford in August, 1970 (and also available on ?Rain In The Leaves?). Elsewhere, the stark, tentative, ?Roedd Gennyf I Gariad? [?I Had A Love?] compares favorably with some of Fairport Convention?s more trad.arr. ballads. So, anyone who?s already worn out their copy of ?Rain In The Leaves? will need this, as well as other listeners who are interested in the folk music of the 60?s and 70?s from the British Isles, particularly the previously overlooked contributions from the Welsh countryside in general, and Meic Stevens in particular. 8/10 -- Jeff Penczak (29 August, 2007)