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gareth williams & mary currie - Flaming Tunes
*First ever vinyl pressing of this classic album, limited to 1000 copies, includes a printed inner sleeve featuring a reproduction of Gareth Williams' original hand-written lyrics, plus facsimile insert* It's funny, we always thought that Flaming Tunes was one of those albums that nobody knew, our own little secret. Then a beautifully executed reissue arrived on CD in 2009, and now, for the first time ever, Blackest Ever Black deliver a vinyl edition of what must surely register as one of the most intimately beautiful, perfectly-imperfect home-made albums ever recorded. Flaming Tunes was recorded by Gareth Williams (ex of This Heat) and his childhood friend Mary Currie and released on cassette in 1985. If you spend any time at all on the Flaming Tunes website (in particular, it has some scans of letters Williams wrote to Currie in the early 80's - one of them is re-produced as an insert on this vinyl version), or read a series of interviews Tony Herrington made for The Wire magazine in 2009 with Currie and Andrew Jacques of These Records, you get a real feel for the personal nature of the recordings. As Currie herself describes it: "Flaming Tunes was a collaboration that came out of a friendship. Gareth and I would meet at 'Danger de Mort' Gareth's house in Balham usually during the daytime when my son was at nursery. Sometimes we'd be joined by others. A room full of instruments and things that could make noise. We made some of our own too and used available objects for percussion. Later on we had more sophisticated equipment - full size keyboard and 12 track recording facility. Sometimes things happened and sometimes we just indulged ourselves in making a bit of a racket. I can't begin to describe how Gareth put things together and this was often done well into the early hours of the morning. I'd go away and come back and what had started out as a fragment had become another flaming tune." After a bootlegged version came out in the late 90's, Life & Living Records - an independent label operated by Williams' close circle of friends (Williams himself passed away in 2001 at the age of 48) - went back to the original master tapes and painstakingly restored and remastered the audio, from which this vinyl edition has now been cut. As for the music itself - oh gosh, where to start? On one level - it's a hodgepodge of lo-fi pop songs, experiments and location recordings that sound like they were never intended for public consumption. And yet - these tunes just don't let go of you once you've spent any amount of time with them. Take "Breast Stroke" for instance - for many people the highlight of the album - it's just the most unforgettable, perfectly formed, eccentric, life-affirming three and a half minutes you'll ever spend with a piece of music. The fact that the percussion was made on a casio keyboard and what sounds like a peculiarly British variant of a human beatbox, well, it's just the icing on the cake. Really, words just do no justice - huge props to Blackest Ever Black for making life sweet.