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BIG FRONT YARD - BIG FRONT YARD
(Thylacine Records GON4GOOD1 double 12" vinyl album)
BIG FRONT YARD
Finally, after months of negotiation and preparation we are delighted to announce the first release on Thylacine Records by early 70s band,

BIG FRONT YARD.
RELEASED 15TH MARCH 2019

LIMITED EDITION OF 300 COPIES

Free download of alternative version of 'Another Age' with every copy
(website sales only)

1969 was a great year for underground British rock with bands like Juniors Eyes, Screw, Little Free Rock, Forest and Hard Meat, all but now forgotten. Hard Meat was a British trio that released 2 singles (one each for Island & Warners) and 2 albums (Warners). Formed in North Devon over the winter of 1968/9, the combo was led by brothers Mick and Steve Dolan formerly of Midlands act, the Cock-A- Hoops. Despite extensive touring (including two trips to the US), major festival appearances in UK and Europe and good press, when drummer Mick Carless quit after UK dates with the Flying Burrito Bros in December 1970, they split up and promptly fell off the planet. Big Front Yard (name taken from a short story Mike D admired by US sci-fi writer, Clifford D Simak) was the Dolans next venture, though sadly the group never got the exposure it deserved and split after just one 45 in 1976. We are delighted to be releasing 14 tracks by Big Front Yard rescued from obscurity (actually from the attic of writer/academic Michael Gray, who was once their manager) and restored to remarkable audio quality by sound alchemist, Tony Poole. This is the first time most of these cuts have ever seen the light of day since they were recorded between 1973 and 1976.

Sadly, both Dolans are no longer with us, Steve passing away in 2000 and Mick in 2014 but this vinyl set is an integral, till now missing part of their legacy. What you have here is indeed not only son of Hard Meat but also fabulous US West-Coast inspired British rural rock from the early 70s. At times it is what Colin Hill and I call big sky music. You know the wide-open-spaces, fresh-air-to-breathe sounds of Quiver, Greasy Bear, Bronco, early Brinsleys, later Mighty Baby, Help Yourself, Gypsy, Byzantium, all of whom were very American influenced (Band/Dead/ Byrds/Buffalo Springfield etc). Sometimes Big Front Yard even sound like out of kilter with the times, more pink-label Island than Charisma or Harvest of 1973/74.

I am so excited to be releasing this that I want to share my thoughts with you on a track-by-track basis.

Side 1
Daily Grind: This opener effortlessly sets the tone and mood of the record you are about to hear. Imagine if the Band had been more about pyschedelics and less about music from the wood! Economic guitar lines, pulsating organ wash and Mick delivering the number in his inimitable world-weary style.

On the Hill: If ever BFY sounded like their predecessors, Hard Meat, then this is the track, the beautiful sunny acoustic guitars strummed in a fashion that makes it the perfect counterpart to 'The Ballad of Marmalade Emma & Teddy Grimes', HM's second single. Though the subject matter of the tune could not be more different, a song about Mick's encounter with a guru or sage. Remember this was the era of Carlos Castaneda's Journey to Ixtlan and John Fowles's The Magus

Lay Down: One of the band's quieter, more reflective and peaceful songs, with yearning guitar lines from Mick, whilst the subtle use of organ and piano played by Michael Pye, helps the number reach a stunning climax in the much same way that Ben Sidran and Nicky Hopkins combined on Steve Miller's 'Baby's House' to make it a classic psychedelic track

Morning Glory: When I first heard Big Front Yard, their music put me in mind of Traffic and this is perhaps the perfect example - we're back along the highways and byways of the West Midlands, the birds singing, the church bells ringing, the era of John Barleycorn or Low Spark with Mick's voice at its Winwood best and Dolan Snr playing some very tasty guitar licks. No surprise he worked extensively with Stevie in later years and also played guitar on Traffic's Far from Home LP

Side 2
Hogtied Pantomime: First number by Steve Dolan, notable for its muscular bass playing, a big-hearted ballad with Steve's voice hitting troubadour heights. One for Mick Softley fans, followers of Hard Meat favourite Richie Havens or even Tim Rose with whom Steve toured America in 1968

For the Man: I like to think that the Dolans didn't have much use for the establishment and this is borne out in the lyrics to this thoughtful track. Big Front Yard also drank deep from the well of country rock on occasion and this one might have found a home on any one of the first three Brinsley Schwarz albums or even Mighty Baby's A Jug of Love.

Keep on Keeping On: This next paean might have been written on a porch in Laurel Canyon with its warm harmony vocals and California good vibes. Just to keep the mood, Mick plays a majestic solo that matches the power and subtlety of Robbie Robertson's on 'I Shall be Released'

Another Age: For some reason we call this one the Yes track which, with its lyrics of foreboding and floaty epic feel, I suppose does resemble something the early Yes might have penned. However, if you thought that the band had behaved itself so far, then halfway through this, they slip the leash and gallop off on a nimble wah-wah guitar-led extended break that certainly ups the ante – exciting stuff!

Side 3
Willie: Short and to the point, Steve's driving organ-dominated shuffle that might have you thinking of Man or even Graham Bond, who after all was an influence on both the Dolans and Man’s Phil Ryan

Time it Right: Pure West Coast rock - these guys sound like they were born in San Francisco rather than the Black Country. I love the way this song suddenly doubles back on itself and allows the band to take off on a long dazzling twin-guitar passage. They really hit their stride here romping through the canyons and rocky mountain vistas! Worth the price of admission alone!

In Your Wagon: What could follow that? Well try 'In Your Wagon', easily a contender for the most sublime song of the set. This heart-rending ballad written by some time Dolan sideman Phil Jump radiates a magic that will tug at your heart strings. It is built on an exquisite lattice work of guitars and the way the solo just cascades from the grooves here, is breath-taking. All in all, the mood has me thinking of 1969 Fairport Convention or one of Greasy Bear's more melancholic songs, even a hint of Malcolm Morley at his wistful best too.

Side 4
Mad John's Dream: A magnificent bendy-swirler of a number with what sounds like B3 Hammond cabinet in full mode. This was the flipside of the group's one and only 7" 45 released through Michael Gray's Rampant label (we're saving the A-side, 'Money-Go-Round' hopefully for future release). 'Mad John' is heavy psychedelic rock with a wonderful guitar break that might have you thinking of Hendrix's 'Watchtower'.

No More Angels: In contrast to the last number, this is a far lighter song. Brisk and bright, and one of the group's final recordings from 1976. The guitars incidentally sting with the bite of classic Cipollina and Duncan.

Godzilla: No better way to end an album, this lengthy instrumental showcases the twin guitar interplay between Mick D and Sam Sun with deft stick work from some time King Crimson drummer, Alan Mennie whose playing is exemplary throughout. If you like Allman Bros, Then Play On Fleetwood Mac, first album Wishbone Ash, Man or one of Help Yourself's more exploratory tracks, then you'll love this!

When Tony Poole started his restoration of these tracks, he told me he couldn’t believe they had not been released back in the mid-70s when they were first recorded, they were that good!
Artwork by the incomparable John Hurford, liner by noted Dylan scholar Michael Gray. Pressed on 180gsm vinyl.
Price:  £30.00
+ Shipping: UK:£4.50, Europe:£11, USA & Japan:£16.50, Australia: £18

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Please Note: Master tapes unavailable and discs mastered from cassette tape copies


Terrascope review - read it here !


Ex-Hard Meat drummer Mick Carless was delighted to hear the album and commented:

The more I listened to it the more it grew on me which I know is often the case. It was a strange experience in a way because it was a kind of glimpse of what perhaps would have been a third album from Hard Meat given that Mick wanted to go more towards the acoustic sound and it definitely had a country feel to it. The album seemed to get better and better the more it progressed. Having said that I really loved Lay Down which had a kind of melancholia that always gets to me. I only wish they had returned to the vocals after an instrumental break instead of finishing like that.
Enjoyed Mins drumming on Morning Glory and several other tracks. One surprise for me was Keep On Keeping On which Mick wrote during Hard Meat and although it never got recorded we did use to play it on stage. If you listen to the lyrics it says a lot about the way we were beginning to feel about the business generally