Archive for the ‘70’s Female Singer Songwriters’ Tag

Dory Previn – R.I.P   Leave a comment

Dory Previn

It was with great sadness that I learned (only yesterday) of Dory Previn’s death on Valentine’s Day 2012, aged 86. Dory is a very important part of the Female Singer-Songwriter brigade, appearing at the same time as Carole, Carly and Joni had also come to prominence (or perhaps because of), which enables us to mention her in the same breath, although in so many ways she was a one-off.

I remember back in 1988 when there was a surge of Female Singer-Songwriters (eg Tanita Tikaram, Julia Fordham),Q magazine ran an article about them, but also referencing back to some from the 70’s such as Judee Sill and, Dory.

I didn’t know any Dory music, nowadays I could have sampled something on Amazon or maybe on YouTube, but not then, so I had to take a chance. I found a second hand LP copy of Mythical Kings And Iguana’s which I think was a re-release as it had no lyrics – I did not know what to expect, but was very surprised, not only at the depth of the lyric writing and the song arrangement – but also perhaps because of that – that she was not much more widely known.

Mythical Kings is her finest album without doubt, it was her second, and she would produce 4 more and one live recording. All of these are available on CD, although the last one appears to have been mixed at the wrong speed. The first 4 LP’s are packaged as “Two-fers” but there is a very good compilation covering these.

So – what does she sound like ?

The voice is not particularly beautiful in a Joni Mitchell sense or strong, but when combined with her lyrics form a potent mix on her best songs. The only criticism I would make is that it does occasionally strain on the higher notes on some of her latter albums. The lyrics are sometimes very witty and ironic, incredibly descriptive and observational, often tackling subjects that no-one else ever would or has eg. male impotence, midgets – but don’t let that put you off.

If you don’t know anything by her – be sure to go and check her out.


Kit Hain – Biography   2 comments

Kit Hain was born in Surrey, UK in 1952 and first met Julian Marshall at Dartington Hall, which is a prestigious music school in South West England. After this Kit attended Durham University studying psychology, dabbling in songwriting of the folksy type. After graduating in 1974 she performed part time in a jazz-rock group, and met up with Julian (who had just graduated from the Royal College of Music) in 1976 when she re-located to London and was needing some help on a song demo. The two started gigging as a duo and DitC began when Julian sketched out the piano chords, although it was Kit who contributed the melody and lyrics. Originally the song had, according to Kit, a very macho vocal with a reggae melody and the lyrics “Dancing in the City – Running down the alley – Pictures at the Pally  – Fun tonight” ! Kit re-worked this into the lyric and melody we know and love today. Trying to get some record companies interested, they only got a sniff with folk label Transatlantic and EMI, whose Harvest label (better known perhaps for Prog Rock) they eventually signed with. DitC was (along with it’s accompanying album Free Ride) produced by Christopher Neil who also produced Sheena Easton’s debut work, and featured Peter van Hooke, who featured heavily on Tanita Tikaram’s debut Ancient Heart. Dancing in the City was released in May 1978 and by July had reached its highest position of No.3. The album followed, but failed to chart and the follow up single, the lush, beautifully orchestrated Coming Home stalled at No. 39. The duo then went on a 15 date tour, but shortly after were no more. Kit released a solo single on Harvest – The Jokes on You, then two wonderful and under-rated solo albums Spirits Walking Out in 1981 and School for Spies in 1983. Not long after she relocated to the US, marrying renowned producer Mike Thorne (who also produced Carmel as well as Kit’s second album). Kit felt uncomfortable with being the centre of attention that a lead or solo singer brought and after fate took a hand decided she would be happier concentrating on songwriting. There is a very extensive and interesting interview with Kit  which goes into great detail and it would be pointless for me to reproduce that here. Her compositons have been recorded by Roger Daltrey, Cher, Peter Cetera, Chaka Khan, Cyndi Lauper, Barbara Dickson and many, many others. She also has a love for French pop, and has worked with many Belgian and French writers. A compilation of her solo albums called Looking for You was released on CD by Renaissance Records in 2011 – not quite sure why they did not do the two albums separately – they are both worthy of it. On Kit’s myspace page there are 7 new songs which are wonderful, and it says that she released an album in 1995 in Belgium called Cry Freedom; I would love to get hold of this, and I’m not sure if these 7 songs are taken from there. Becoming something of a polymath, Kit will have a children’s novel called The Flame in the Mist published in early 2013.

Julian on the other hand spent a short while in The Flying Lizards who had a sort of novelty (?) hit with Money (“That’s what I want”) in 1979, then also went to the US and formed Eye to Eye with Deborah Berg releasing two LP’s produced by acclaimed Steely Dan producer Gary Katz, and a third which was unreleased. After that he returned to teaching and composing classical works (you can feel the classical foundation even in Marshall Hain’s work). In 2009 he composed the acclaimed cantata Out of the Darkness. In 2012 he founded The London Song Company (see links for website address) along with Katie Whitehouse and Paul Hussell.


Marshall Hain – Free Ride   2 comments

Free Ride

Marshall Hain were a songwriting and performing duo – Julian Marshall and Kit Hain. Julian was the music maestro contributing incredible keyboard playing, sometimes with an almost classical feel, while Kit looked after the lyrics and added occasional guitar playing. Free Ride contains the massive hit single Dancing in the City. If you grew up in the 70’s and heard this now you would know it instantly and sing-a-long to the chorus, although you may not remember who performed it. Dancing in the City reached no. 3 in the UK singles chart in the summer of 1978, no. 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979, but it was in Australia, Germany and South Africa where it reached No. 1. The one follow up single Coming Home reached no. 39 on the UK singles chart, and the album Free Ride followed, released on the Harvest record label as the singles had been and produced by Christopher Neil (later to work with Sheena Easton). Unfortunately this was a flop, and the duo disbanded in 1979. Why did it flop ? Perhaps the mixture of styles was too eclectic to pin them down, but more likely  it was a case of “wrong place, wrong time”. This was the era of Punk and New Wave and perhaps a more traditional songwriting duo just did not fit the bill.

For anyone who had been familiar with the massive hit single Dancing in the City or Coming Home for that matter, the opening track Different Point certainly is that; more rocking in tempo with a jazz rock feel enhanced by a great keyboard solo from Julian. This song ends and Dancing in the City immediately begins with that familiar “thunder” sound. This was a massive hit single which somehow seems so evocative of summer, Kit’s vocal is so distinctive, and the chorus very catchy. The drum sound is typically 70’s (courtesy of Peter van Hooke) and also incredibly distinctive, a real sing-a-long favourite.  Next song up is You Two, which bounces along driven by Julian’s piano playing. This is one of only two songs which Kit plays acoustic guitar on. Track 4 Real Satisfaction opens with Harold Fisher’s Caribbean sounding drums, and this is another song driven along by Julian’s keyboard playing. It is very catchy with Kit’s multi-tracked vocals on the chorus, very redolent of early Judie Tzuke. The song unusually has a wonderful marimba solo from Frank Ricotti. The final song on Side One is the follow up to Dancing – Coming Home. This is a lovely song, which really should get more airplay. It opens with Julian’s (or Chris’ ?) spoken line intro, then Kit starts telling her story of an independent person who wanted their freedom, but now finds that exhausted and wants to “come home”, musically the song is really a duet between Julian’s keyboard playing and Dave Olney’s fretless bass backed with a lovely string arrangement.

Next up is Take My Rumber, which is basically Julian playing a rumba (I assume), perhaps a little odd on a debut album, or perhaps nowadays it is the sort of thing you would find as a secret track; it’s presence does make this a 9 song album, which is perhaps a shame, I would have preferred another song, particularly with hindsight. The title track follows which is a real rocker, not to mention an interesting lyric from Kit (full of double entendres). Kit’s vocal range is really shown to good effect here. The song ends on a guitar solo from (I assume) Phil Palmer. Take My Number follows, which is one of only three ballads here. This is a lovely song, with a really nice chorus and vocal from Kit. This could have made a single I think, the chorus is catchy enough. Mrs The Train follows (Kit really did like playing with words – Misses The Train – gettit ?) – “They call me Mrs the Train, cuz I’m never gonna stop at your station”. This is a great rockin’ boogie-ish track, and then somehow the album is almost over, we are at the last track Back to the Green. Dancing in the City is over and its time to get out and back to the country. A very nice way to finish the album off, the orchestration is beautiful – and that’s Marshall Hain done.

Cherry Red have done a great job of releasing this on CD, and the original album line-up has Ben Liebrand’s 87 Summer City mix of Dancing in the City added to it, (it was also remixed and re-issued again in 92). Has Free Ride stood up the test of time ? Well No, but then it is of it’s time. This is a 70’s LP, enjoy it as such, it is much more than one hit single and a not so successful follow up. If you like early Judie Tzuke (especially Welcome to the Cruise) you will like this. Please can Cherry Red get hold of Kit’s two solo albums now ??