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(Shagrat ENT025/Feeding Tube FTR565 )
A few years back, I was in the pub one Thursday night when Jill Tipping aka Mrs Savage Pencil told me that back in the mists of time she had been part of a band and yes, some recordings still existed.

Thanks again to the alchemical genius of Tony Poole we have pulled together an album of these unreleased performances. But first let Jill tell you the story of Saphron:

"Early 1970s London and in a small all-girls grammar school a band is born. There had been a group of sixth-formers – The Folk Group – who provided musical filling at morning assemblies and religious services but they were moving on, the spot became vacant so up stepped Janice, Kim, Lesley and Jill, with Barbara for moral support.

Like many teens at the time they had guitars and teach-yourself books so they started strumming their way through religious songs,folk tunes and Beatles songbooks and attempted the music that was all around them: pop charty Monkees, Kinks, Faces; folky Pentangle, Steeleye Span, Simon and Garfunkel; rocky King Crimson, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, singer/songwritey Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell and Elton John to name but a few.
But why should the likes of Carole King have all the fun? Janice was moved to put pen to paper and started scrawling out lyrics but had no idea how to get her hummed tunes down onto paper. Kim had actually had a great musical education and played violin and piano, so the two sat down together and worked out the guitar chords to share with Lesley and Jill who helped add vocal harmonies, recorders and some percussion.

They played in their teen bedrooms, a couple of churches, school assemblies and events, and had a very small taste of fame in the shape of an appearance on London education TV which earned them a feature in a couple of local papers. And luckily, there were recordings. Surviving house moves and dusty lofts for nearly 50 years, the tapes finally made their way into the hands of Shagrat’s Nigel Cross, mostly due to a misremembering – Jill had wistfully imagined that Janice’s cousin Peter who had a stereo reel-to-reel tape deck and permission to use his mum’s living room was an engineer at the famous Trident Studio. He was in fact a civil servant living nearby in Barnes and taping was his hobby. Luckily Nigel was still entranced by those amateur recordings so the project took shape.

So here are some songs from a previously unreleased girl group in all their genuine sweetly harmonised innocence. A snapshot of 70s teenage-girlhood, pre-TV talent shows, pre-internet. Among the traditional Sovey and Sinner Man, a cover of Lesley Duncan’s Love Song (by way of Elton John’s version on his Tumbleweed Connection album) and an endearingly scratchy Moonchild (courtesy of King Crimson) are six lovely original songs of happiness, sadness, love, loss, anxiety, hope, yearning. Yeah, all that teenage stuff."

The cover and inner sleeve are a collage of photos and ephemera with generous notes telling the story of The Folk Group/Saffron/Saphron/Red Amber – they never quite settled on a name – while the label (and badges) are by ace artist Savage Pencil.

There you have it - raw, charming, quirky performances. It is mouthwatering to think what they might have achieved had they been given a little proper studio sparkle - meanwhile these rough and ready, warts'n'all renditions somewhere between the awesome Sun Forest, 'Silly Sisters' and some of the early late 70s all-girl punk bands are finally seeing a welcome release.

(Please note that like many great records of the era, this is a short running 33 1/3 vinyl release, maybe called a maxi EP or mini-album of its time. Hey never mind the quantity groove to the quality as they used to say)

12" vinyl LP and digital download (download features a neat bonus track, a cover of a song originally demoed by its writers at Islington Farm - see above)

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Many Thanks to MOOFMAG for this wonderful in-depth review by Grey Malkin !
Red Amber’ stands as a thing of beauty in and of itself, and its peculiar history and provenance only adds to its enchanted quality'.

Huge thanks to Ed Pinsent and The Sound Projector for this fabulous review !

Price:  £22
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