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Rolling Stone Magazine Issue 122 November 23 1972

Alun Davies
Columbia KC 31469



If Cat is the crown prince of British folkiedom, Alun Davies ("Daydo" was his childhood nickname) could be the next heir apparent, though I would cast my personal vote for John Martyn or Nick Drake. Davies' musical associations before Cat include roadwork with Jon Mark, Jeremy Taylor, and Spencer Davis, and the formation with Mark of a short-lived band, Sweet Thursday. Daydo was co-produced by Cat and Paul Samwell-Smith (producer of Catch Bull and has Cat sitting in on piano. Obviously, a lot of brotherly love brought this album into being, for its spirit is remarkably buoyant. Its overall sound is, predictably, somewhat similar to that of Cat's albums, though Davies is no carbon copy of his mentor. Vocally he is less up front; he has a fairly light tenor voice (with a noticeable accent) that is capable of a handsome range of expression.

Of the album's ten cuts seven are authored or co-authored by Davies. The other three include a very good, high-spirited rendition of Buddy Holly's "I'm Gonna Love You Too"; a lovely banjo-laced interpretation of Cat Stevens’ and Kim Fowley’s "Portobello Road" (a song from Cat’s early days); and, of all things, a rockin’ "I'm Late," the White Rabbit’s song from Disney’s Alice In Wonderland. Davies’ own songs have some of - the same quality as those on Cat’s Teaser —simple, repetitive melodies with basic harmonic modulations—though they are not quite as strong. "Waste of Time," the album’s biggest production number, has almost a David Bowie-like theatricality, as Davies proclaims: "Turn on a light, let the light shine in your room/Turn on a light, sort out the light from the gloom." Another musical highlight is the hauntingly resonant ballad "Market Place." Del Newman’s arrangements are rich and varied; quiet choral backups appear and disappear; textures are alternately chiming and visceral. It is all veddy veddy British and indicative of the mystic-exotic trend within today’s London acoustic scene.

Though this trend exerts a strong influence on Davies’ especially the lyrics, he runs afoul of it only once, on the album's longest cut, "Vale of Tears," a ballad that is musically lovely but freighted with the purplest of purple arcana: "Cleopatra and Joan of Arc, Guinevere holding a shell to my ear/Like trailing root finds rain in the sand I found you/Like hammered bell ringing out in the land would sound you." This kind of mythic romanticism, so profoundly escapist, has been a significant lyric motif for British folkies beginning with Donovan. Its closest American counter-part is the bucolic communal idea expressed by the likes of John Denver. But while the latter myth has at least some vital currency, the insistency with which British folkies (including Cat Stevens, to an extent) look back with longing at Pre-Raphaelite costumed fantasy seems to me extremely self-indulgent and provincial, and ultimately decadent in the most fey and trivial sense.

Lyrically, Davies is most interesting when he writes about people, places, and things. The album’s best narrative song, "Abram Brown Continued," is the eulogy-portrait of a robust English type: "Abram’s cap falls over his eyes as he scratches his head/Down at the stone where he sharpens his knife/ He likes to talk and think of his life/ There's things he won’t ever tell to his wife/ So he tells me instead." The body of the song is prefaced with a short choral round: "Old Abram Brown is dead and gone you won’t see him no more/He used to wear a long brown coat that buttoned up before." Equally engaging are "Old Bourbon," a sentimental genre piece about wanting to shelter an emaciated stray dog on a rainy night; and "Poor Street," a succinct sad comment about growing up poor and staying thatway. I hope that Davies isn’t poor, if he is, he shouldn’t stay that way for long. 

 Review courtesy of Linda Crafar


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