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Stewart Lee's review
in the May/June 2021 edition of The Idler

Martin Stone was an idealised idler. As ‘60s North London soul mods The Action became ‘70s hippy rockers Mighty Baby his liquid guitar bled all over Egyptian Tomb, a crowning moment of British psychedelia. But Stone, who died in 2016, was afflicted with a bibliomania that pulled him in new directions, and the dissolute book dealer was even fictionalised by Iain Sinclair as ‘Nicholas Lane’ in White Chapel Scarlet Tracings. A cache of four cd’s of unreleased recordings are lavishly boxed as Down But Not Out In Paris And London, The Mad Dog Chronicles. 1992’s pungently Parisienne Almost Presley is a fiddle-driven set of pleasant hot jazz flavoured blues rock; disc two’s ’93 offcuts show Stone’s limpid electric licks equal any that dripped from San Francisco ’60s stages, and a ’96 session suggests a comeback that never came back; disc 3 features lengthy noughties recordings with the ubiquitous British sidesman Matt Deighton, including an unexpectedly experimental exploration of John Coltrane’s India, rediscovering that distinctive Mighty Baby sound, while the sole shimmering remnant of an aborted session with sympatico acid-folk-rock revivalists Wolf People is a tantalising hint of treasures undelivered, a fantastic archaeological find; disc 4 sees Stone sitting in on lap steel in 2012 with the French blues punk Stephane Guichard, yet another potential avenue untravelled. Shagrat’s erratically gem-studded box set provides Martin Stone’s musical capstone.
This is by Steve Krakow in issue 56 of Ugly Things

Ok, we have to start out here by saying that this is for SERIOUS Martin Stone fans only, no casual curiosity-seekers are invited here! In fact, the listener only gets ONE track by Stone's best known band, the expansive-chooglers Mighty Baby, and none by his beloved pub-rock act Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers. Luckily both those bands have very-complete box sets on Grapefruit records, as the mission statement here is to fill in the gaps of Stone's mysterious (but surprisingly active) period from the 90s to the time of this death in 2016. The archeologically-excavated recordings here almost read as travelogue of Stone's final decades moving throughout the UK and France.

Speaking of reading, this fancy box does indeed come with a hardcover book, with loads of unreleased photos and misty-eyed remembrances of the more-modern band members on the discs, which acts as a nice guide to the included tracks. Plus, we also hear from more vintage collaborators on this set, like Roger Powell of Action/Mighty Baby and Wreckless Eric Goulden. Nick Lowe, Pete Thomas of the Peps/The Attraction, the Pink Fairies' Russell Hunter (Stone was in the band for a second as to squeeze out the genius "Behind the Lines" 45), Michael Moorcock, and Tony Poole of Starry-Eyed and Laughing also chime in, and it's a fitting, classy tome, as Stone became a rare book dealer in his later years. Archiver/label man/historian/hero Nigel Cross notes in the intro that while a book or two celebrating Stone's life was called for, this archival release of his final recordings was also a needed memorial--though the fans of Stone's guitar alchemy are the ones who truly benefit here.

It's also worth noting that the four CDs here come in a cool "concertina style" package (which is a bit like how packages of old 78s or 10" fold out) with superb art by John Hurford, who in the day contributed to pivotal underground psychedelic publications like Oz Magazine, Gandalf's Garden and International Times.

Disc one starts off with a bang, with Stone's slippery lap steel and jazz chords immediately charging out of the gates via French group Almost Presley. Though AP's busy fiddle player threatens to overwhelm the set, Stone gets in some serious licks on this Paris, 1992 gig, previously only released on a cassette. The bluesy/bluegrassy/gypsy jazz-inflected band is a nice setting for Stone, who works their way through pretty-traditional numbers like "Cotton-Eyed Joe," "Love in Vain," and "House of the Rising Sun." Maybe just to prove the band are not mere recreationists, they also plow through a savagely jacked-up "Black Train" by the Gun Club, with Stone's screaming slide strains sending the whole thing hellaciously home.

Disc two sheds light on unreleased sessions from Wreckless Eric's studio in France from 1993, with an amalgamation known as the Tallahassee Rent Boys (also featuring Fabrice Lombardo, bassist of Almost Presley). We're treated to some rare vocals by Stone here, and they have a weary, workman-like charm that suits the bloozy vibe, ala a rollicking take on Donovan's "Hey Gyp." The Stone original, "Heading for a Fall," is a nicely smoldering slow-burner that shows off his Albert King-influenced hot leads. Lombardo appears again in the outfit Totally Hank which has a similar swing jazz vibe as Almost Presley (uh, we'll forgive these trying-to-be-Americana band names, it was France in the 90s). Stone's unhinged but beautifully-adept slide guitar adorns the ramblin' rockabilly gallop of "Transfusion," and believe it or not, a laconic cover of that way-overplayed holiday chestnut, "The Monster Mash" somehow slowly won me over. The disc is filled out by some solo mid-90s recordings, which have a damaged alt-rock feel, oddly reminding me of then-contemporary bluesy-indie bands like the Grifters or later Pussy Galore. "Telephone Kisses" is surprisingly weird and catchy pop, while "Headed for the Graveyard" has killer "Crossroads"-ish lead riffage by Stone.

Disc 3 leads off with some collaborations with crooner Matt Deighton, who is a touch smooth for my tastes, but the two do indeed deliver a heavenly cover of Mighty Baby's "A Jug of Love." The real-deal MB make their lone recorded appearance here (from a GD-style audience taper, natch) at a 2006 reunion, which reveals the band taking on John Coltrane's "India" for a 13-plus-minute jam-out where Stone really cuts loose--definitely one for the psych-heads here! Stone's appearance with similarly heady-but-rootsy-cosmonauts Wolf People yields splendid results--the bit of bluesy prog-folk known as "Star Shell " (which sounds great for being recorded on an i-phone?!) reminded me of bands like Forever More and Traffic.

Disc 4 might be the most schizophrenic of the set, but is still very satisfying. The band known as the OTs (short for Old Tossers I guess, ha) features legendary Savoy Brown vocalist Chris Youlden (a band Stone was in as well for a second, in their early days) and a 2011 studio session finds the singer in amazingly fine husky form. The unit takes on the classic Howlin' Wolf track "Evil," graced with scrappy Stone solos--but there's simply no excuse for a track entitled "Checkin' My Email," so let's move on... Things get a bit weirder with Stone's collaborations with modern-ish sounding French rock bands Stéphane Eden and Les Soucoupes Violentes (who share members). It's just an especially strange setting for Stone, but it works on "Madame Réve," a minimal slab of unhurried art rock with Serge G-like vocal intonations--which Stone adds crazed electric dulcimer to. The 4 disc set closes with Clay Harper and the Painted Hearts (featuring one Wreckless Eric), rocking out an unadorned punky ode to the man himself, simply entitled "Martin." There's also a mysterious unlabeled bonus track with female vocals (but clearly Stone on slide guitar) that definitely has me wondering.... as it's pretty cool! HMMMMMM

Whew, well ok, if you are the aforementioned serious Stone fan, you might've made it this far in the review---or simply just ordered a copy before they go fast, as this lovely package surely will! This is an odds and sods box set collection/book for a guitarist and personality of the highest order, and even the biggest diehard Stone fan will not have close to everything here, so you better get on it...

ALAN PEARCE review in The Blues Matter issue 119, March 2021

Oh boy, for those aficionados remembering the name of Martin Stone, here is a superb presentation box set. The quality of this sturdy box cover containing a four-CD fold-out, again with strong cover, and a 47-page book, again with strong cover. You do not see much of this quality which makes it so worth mentioning. Martin sadly departed us on 9th November 2016. This is indeed a musical celebration of his life and the liner notes are by good friend Nigel Cross with contributions from some oof his fellow musicians along the journey. Martin’s bands included; Savoy Brown (where he was joint lead guitar honours with founder Kim Simmonds for a spell) Mighty Baby, Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers, Uncle Dog, Jive Bombers, The Action, The Pink Fairies. As punk rose its’ head Martin stepped out and lost himself in the world of books, antique books, and another musical venture known as Les Homewreckers to name some, but not all, of his collaborations. Amongst his influences were The 3 Kings, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin and Otis Rush. His playing style was something special and respected by many. Once he was busking in Paris when Stephen Grapelli came by and enjoying what he heard put down his case and brought out his violin to join in! Martin spent much time flitting about simply popping-up unexpectedly here and there making his contributions then not seemingly able to stay in one place or one musical group for long enough to actually ‘establish’ his name. He was a varied and capable musician who played styles across the board in folk, rockabilly, blues, country even punk and psychedelic. This set has been gathered from cassette tapes, sessions, rehearsals and Nigel has worked closely with Martin’s family on board to pull this superb, loving set together. There is a to here to interest here, varied, eclectic, strange maybe but I tell you it is fun as well. This set is worth investigating if you knew of him but missed much of his work.

Bucketfull Of Brains Review here !      Terrascope Review here !

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