Surely every album is a labor of love, many are love letters, but few besides Julie Driscoll's 1969 can lay claim to actually being a love affair. Back home after an exhausting series of tours with Brian Auger & the Trinity, Driscoll began composing on her own, then handed a demo of her ongoing work to her manager/producer Giorgio Gomelsky. Impressed, he played it to the eponymous leader of the Keith Tippett Group whose own debut album Gomelsky was currently producing. Tippett was entranced, and Driscoll was equally so when she saw the Tippett Group perform soon after. The pair immediately began working on Driscoll's album together, with Tippett arranging a trio of the songs, contributing piano to half the set, as well lending Driscoll the Tippett Group's brass section. It was a merry affair, also bolstered by guest appearances from Chris Spedding and Blossom Toes. But it was the electricity between Tippett and Driscoll that fired the entire set, for his presence lingers even on the songs he took no part in. The pair married the following year, and the frisson of their meeting is self-evident here as their blindingly different musical styles meld into one before our very ears.
"Walk Down" shows not the compromises made, but the new directions found, as Tippett embraces Driscoll's folky sound, his breathtaking arrangement shifting between her adulation of folk and rock and his adoration of Stax-styled R&B and free-form jazz. This is true genius at work (and the song Driscoll chose as her wedding march). That was a declaration of love, "Those That We Love" was pure passion, as Tippett's piano and celesta ever so sinuously and sensually interweave themselves around Driscoll's acoustic guitar. And "A New Awakening" was shouting their shared love to the whole world, across another brilliant Tippett arrangement. On this song, Spedding and the band rock their hearts out, while the brass blast out in big-band jazz style overhead. "Leaving It All Behind," in contrast, blends together both traditional and free-form jazz, soul-fired horns, and Driscoll's own acoustic guitar. Tippett, who played on the piece, incorporate segments of one of his own compositions from the Tippett Group's album into the piece. The quartet of numbers without Tippett all have a lovely introspective, yearning quality to them, as if Driscoll is whiling away the time until her love returns home. That feeling is particularly noticeable on the musing "Lullaby" and the caught betwixt and between in "The Choice," whose lyrical indecision will be soon overthrown by Driscoll in real life. To hear this album is to walk into this pair of lovers' private world. But one never feels like one's intruding, so eager are Driscoll and Tippett to share not just their emotions but the musical meeting of their minds.
Musicians : Brian Belshaw Guitar (Bass), Vocals Mark Charig Cornet Jeff Clyne Bass Jim Creegan Guitar, Guitar (Electric) Elton Dean Sax (Alto) Bob Downes Flute Julie Driscoll Guitar (Acoustic), Arranger, Vocals Nick Evans Trombone Brian Godding Guitar (Electric), Vocals Carl Jenkins Oboe Bud Parkes Trumpet Barry Reeves Drums Chris Spedding Guitar (Bass), Guitar (Electric) Keith Tippett Piano, Arranger, Celeste Derek Wadsworth Trombone