ANDREW CRESSWELL DAVIS
Emergency Love
(Angel Air Records)

 

Any new CD by Andy Davis is a cause for celebration by fans of 1970s era progressive pop-rock music from England. Davis worked with John Lennon on Imagine and you can still hear that Lennon influence on Andy’s 2016 solo CD release Emergency Love. The CD marks the official release of Andy’s famous Stackridge era track “Baby Good For You”, first heard on bootlegs. He does the definitive version here and the rest of the CD follows suit with first class pop and rock tracks that remind one of Stackridge and all the great albums they’ve made over the past 45 years. Speaking to mwe3.com about the title track and the shared album title, Andy states, “It’s one of a bunch of songs I’ve written with Gus Ferguson. He’s got a great talent for colorful and imaginative words and phrases, although we do tend to have to chip away at the songs and we bounce ideas backwards and forwards till we're happy with the results. I hope to write a lot more with him in the future. The album Emergency Love was a collection of songs, some very recent, some a bit older. Some I started recording a couple of years ago and then put to one side. And when Leon Hunt suggested we record an album, I went back to the early sketches and put the whole thing together with him. And his production I think really helped sort me out there on the songs and order and titles and arrangements.” The ten track CD is the optimum showcase for Andy’s guitars, songs and vocals and he’s got a top band with him including guitarist Andy Latimer, Eddie John (drums) and U.K. pedal steel legend B.J. Cole, who adds haunting guitar licks on “Baby Good For You”. There’s plenty of high quality, well recorded pop and rock ready to be heard and enjoyed on Emergency Love. www.AngelAir.co.uk / www.AndrewCresswellDavis.com



 

mwe3.com presents an interview with
ANDREW CRESSWELL DAVIS


mwe3
: Do you feel you took Stackridge as far as you could with A Victory For Common Sense in 2009? Mutter said that album was the zenith and a good way to close out the band, I guess it’s a disappointing fact of life that Stackridge is gone. But we still have the solo albums.

Andy Davis: Yes, I do feel A Victory For Common Sense was a great achievement for a reformed band from the 1970s. I think it was a great achievement anyway. Sadly, although it got four star reviews, mostly in the U.K. it didn’t get much airplay beyond that and that was a shame. I think if you judge it by the albums that bands, reformed bands from the ‘70s or ‘80s release when they get back together, I think it’s one of the best. A lot of those albums by reformed bands tend to be a bit embarrassing. But I think it’s a very good album.

mwe3: It’s hard to picture a future without Stackridge in it. What do you tell long time fans who were so influenced by A Victory For Common Sense?

Andy Davis: Yes, sadly Stackridge came to an end but there are the solo albums to look forward to. I believe James is recording one as we speak. I’ve got two out. (lol) Mutter’s got one and we’re still waiting for Crun’s effort.

mwe3: Tell us about Emergency Love. How did it come into play, was it after Stackridge broke up? Also tell us about working with your songwriting partner on Emergency Love Gus Ferguson. Seems like you’ve tapped into a rich songwriting excavation.

Andy Davis: Emergency Love, the song and the album… really, the song started its existence about fifteen years ago. It’s one of the first songs I wrote with Gus Ferguson. And I’ve been playing it solo for quite a while. Sadly, Stackridge didn’t think it was Stackridge material but it’s one of a bunch of songs I’ve written with Gus Ferguson. He’s got a great talent for colorful and imaginative words and phrases
although we do tend to have to chip away at the songs and we bounce ideas backwards and forwards till we're happy with the results. I hope to write a lot more with him in the future. The album Emergency Love was a collection of songs, some very recent, some a bit older. Some I started recording a couple of years ago and then put to one side. And when Leon Hunt suggested we record an album, I went back to the early sketches and put the whole thing together with him. And his production I think really helped sort me out there, the song and order and titles and arrangements. So yes, Emergency Love… Please rush out and buy it. (lol)

mwe3: How did you put the Emergency Love band together? Also Andy Latimer plays guitar on a track here. Is that the same Andy Latimer from Camel? Also on guitar here is Stig Manley, it's a cool sounding band and the CD sounds great! Looks like you put together a completely new band for Emergency Love although violinist Claire Lindley did play with Stackridge towards the end?

Andy Davis: The band for Emergency Love started really with Eddie John on drums, who I’ve been playing along side for several years now, in Stackridge and other things. So he would always be my first choice. The bass player was more of a problem. Then we found Valere Speranza, a great French bass player who now lives in Bristol in the U.K. I played keyboards, guitar and ukulele and stuff. And then I wanted to get a few guests in. I’ve known Andy Latimer from Camel since the 1970s really. We’ve been in touch. He’s recently moved back to the U.K. So he came along and played. I hope to do some more with Andy in some other way in the future. Stig Manley is a local guitar player from Bristol. Very cool guitar player. B.J. Cole played on “Baby Good For You”. The rest of the band mainly was Claire Lindley on violin and Brian Mullan on cello. They’re my long term playing partners in the trio DLM.

mwe3: Track one on Emergency Love is “Rain Rain Rain”. Is that a hopeful or negative kind of song? Pretty sobering lyrics I might add. Is there a cool story behind that track?

Andy Davis: Sadly, there’s no cool story behind this really. I often joke on stage that one of a songwriter’s standby motifs is rain. Crops up an awful lot, so I try to keep it out of lyrics mainly because you can end up using it too often. But we thought it was a joke to have rain, rain, rain as an adjunct. And that was one of the songs that just rolled straight out really as soon as Gus had given me the opening lines and we took it from there.

mwe3: Tell us about your visiting Havana Cuba. What were your impressions of Cuba and when did you go? I guess the song “Nightfishing” has very little Spanish influences! (lol) Cuba is in the news big time these days.

Andy Davis: Cuba… I went there in ’89 I think it was, with a bunch of cyclists. I think we were probably the first organized bunch of cyclists that visited the country so we were pioneers in a way and it was an exceptional trip and great fun. And I thought Cuba was an absolutely fascinating country, with obviously fantastic music. And, although I’m very keen on a lot of Latin music and Spanish flavored music… Cuban, Brazilian… and I have played a bit in the past, I tried not to stray too much into that area on the album because I have a tendency to absorb too many influences sometimes and go off on a bit of a tangent so I consciously tried to keep the whole album a bit sort of folky and rocky. So we put just enough influence on that to make it work.

mwe3: Track 3 on Emergency Love, “Baby Good For You” is a favorite from the Stackridge years. I remember hearing it a few years ago on a bootleg and it blew me away. I call it one of the best parting shot breakup songs of all time. Did Gus write this one with you several years ago and is this a new version? Plus how did you get BJ Cole on that song? His sound is so easy to spot.

Andy Davis: “Baby Good For You” is one of the older songs and I have recorded it live before and I have been playing it for a long time. I took that straight from the page of Gus Ferguson’s lyric. I find I work much better with Gus when I have the lyrics first and then set music to it. Yes, it’s a damn good breakup song. I don’t know if Gus had just broken up at the time. I never actually asked him. It’s one of the evergreen songs that everybody loves in my repertoire. Leon Hunt, co-producer was in regular contact with BJ Cole. They kind of swap sessions over the internet ‘cause Leon, you probably know, is reputed to be the best bluegrass banjo player in the U.K. and that’s no exaggeration. The Jeff Beck of the banjo, they call him. So for several years now, as soon as it became technically possible, he swapped sessions over the internet with a host of American stars. And it just so happened that BJ owed him a track so we sent it to him by email, he did a couple of solos, sent them back and we edited it down and added it to the track. I’d love to do some more stuff with BJ. We don’t live that far apart but y’know it’s not always easy to get everybody in the same room at the same time.

mwe3: Track 4 “Magdelene” is another song about avoiding temptation, this time in Putney. Where is Putney? Is that about more unrequited love? Is Magdelene a real person or a metaphor? Claire adds in some beautiful violin.

Andy Davis: “Magdalene” is another of the songs I did with Gus that was more or less instant. I find I can write slow, thoughtful melodies quite easily… my problem is always writing more uptempo, optimistic songs. But no matter how hard I try I usually end up with some sort of more downbeat aspects to the song. Putney is in London. It’s a suburb of London that’s pretty central on the river Thames. It’s where my ex-wife went to college, so it has sort of historic interest to me. But in actual fact, “Magdalene” was a completely invented character, so there’s no actual Magdalene. You mention Claire and her lovely violin playing on “Magdalene”. Yeah, she’s a superb player with a fantastic voice as well so in our trio we do feature her on lead vocals on quite a few tunes.

mwe3: Is the story behind “Peacock Of The Universe” really true? I guess religion is getting a bit thorny these days!

Andy Davis: The story behind “Peacock Of The Universe” is more or less true. (lol) I don’t really have much patience with people who turn up on unsolicited approaches, especially when they knock on your and ask if you ever think about Jesus. I tend not to (lol) appreciate the interruption or the question, so I don’t really have a lot of patience with them, and myself. I’m an atheist although I don’t sort of crow about it so all religions annoy me equally really.

mwe3: “Charlie’s Dead” is a real hoot. How did you write the song with Sarah Menage? How old were you when you had these memories? Also there’s some great guitar work on that track. You mention Elvis and Bobby Vee, so I’m thinking 1961!

Andy Davis: Yes, it was the early ‘60s. Most of that is true, ‘cause I was about 13 years old I think. My family had one of the only portable record players. I think it was a Dansette Major, one of the only ones in the village I lived in. And so I used to ride a bicycle to this girlfriend’s house with the Dansette Major on the handlebars. She wouldn’t come to my house for some reason… perhaps she was just scared there was always too many people there. So I had to go to hers and we used to practice jiving. And the trouble was on the weekends, she used to go off with much older boys who had motorbikes, hence the “black shadow” reference. In essence, the whole song is true. She was just sort of rehearsing some moves with me and as soon as I put on a slow song like “Take Good Care Of My Baby”, suddenly she wouldn’t be so keen but that’s just the stuff of 13 year olds and boys and girls just sort of discovering what attracts them to each other, so there you go.

mwe3: No instrumentals on Emergency Love. Do you still have some inclination towards writing more instrumentals in the future? And I mean rock instrumentals mainly although I still am a fan of Clevedon Pier, which was your New Age / World Music album from 1991.

Andy Davis: Yes, I do like instrumentals. I’ve got a few sort of Celtic sounding ones simmering and we do include a couple when I play live with Davis, Lindley and Mullen. There’s one in particular I’m working on which is quite an uptempo sort of guitar-based one in DADGAD with very sort of Irish / Scottish music influences. It’s not really finished yet but it will make an appearance soon I hope.

mwe3: The title track “Emergency Love” reminds me of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. It’s that good. Were you trying write a soulful, kind of gospel track ala “Bridge”? It’s kind of unusual for you and it’s kind of unusual to make it the title track.

Andy Davis: I always feel that’s one of our best songs and it’s certainly very popular live. I intend to record an acoustic version of it with just a cello and violin and guitar ‘cause that’s an interesting interpretation as well. I had no thoughts about “Bridge Over Trouble Water” when we were writing it but one of my favorite styles is sort of gospel-y / country music and the sort of chord sequences they use and the simplicity about them… the way they’re constructed. So, I tend to use that as a template these days really and try and keep the chords pretty simple but interesting. I don’t mind if a melody is a touch predictable in some ways because most melodies are predictable in a way if you are sort of a historian of music, like I am, I think. So I think, songwriting that structures songs often moves in circles and some people manage to keep a very traditional writing style but still write fantastically advanced songs. I’m thinking Stevie Wonder in particular, which I think is why a lot of his material ends up in the jazz standard repertoires. He writes in a style very reminiscent of writers in the 1940s and the Great American Songbook and to an extent those kind of chord sequences can be a little predictable, not always. It’s kind of a nice… it’s sort of resolution in songwriting that I always look for. It’s like coming home to the final chords or the final key after a modulation. All that is fairly traditional songwriting stuff. But again, that song took root pretty quickly with Gus’s lyrics. I love that style of lyric writing with clever word play. I just wish we could write a few more of them.

mwe3: Tell us about “Downtown Lights”. Was that a Blue Nile song? It is a little Chinese music sounding. I guess the song is a favorite of yours from the past. When did you first hear it? Funny in the CD liner notes you wrote “ask Paul” for any more info on the track!

Andy Davis: “Downtown Lights” I’ve been playing for years. Whenever there’s a session in one of my favorite haunts and everybody gets the guitars out, it’s one I’ve always loved. I can’t remember when I first heard it. It’s obviously from the Blue Nile album. I love Paul Buchanan’s songwriting and voice. It’s one of the few albums I can listen to over and over again. I find the early Blue Nile albums very good driving music and I particularly admire the way he takes elements and production and makes them work when on paper they shouldn’t. If you describe what he does, which is taking a very soulful voice, a really soulful voice, some fairly downbeat, depressing subject matter lyrically and then put it against entirely electronic music, a lot of it which is at slower tempos. So, it’s slow electronic music with fairly depressing lyrics and a soul voice over it. It shouldn’t work but it works magnificently well. It’s got a sort of architectural texture to it, which is rare. You can almost stare across the rooftops and see the music as it’s sort of rolling out of the speakers. A wonderful talent.

mwe3: By the way, any news on guitars from you? What was your go-to guitar on Emergency Love?

Andy Davis: Well I’ve got quite a selection. I’ve got some good electric guitars. Well, my main one is a Gibson Les Paul but my acoustic guitars are a bit old really. They’ve been with me for years but none of them were what you would call high-end guitars. So recording the album, Emergency Love I borrowed a guitar from Ed Boyd who you probably heard of I hope. Ed played in Fluke and amongst other bands. He’s a sensational guitar player. Another guy who lives in Bath and he lent me a Martin, a D-28, I think, for the album. Since then, I’ve gotten myself a Taylor, a 314ce and recently I got a guitar built by a luthier from Bristol in the U.K., a few miles away, called John Kincaid, which I’ve only just had about a month actually. It’s a superb guitar and you can’t part me from it now so that’s the one I’ll be using in the future. And I’ve also got an “LR Baggs Anthem” pickup installed which is the best I’ve used. So if Mr. Baggs is reading this and he wants to sponsor somebody please let it be me.

mwe3: Track nine on Emergency Love, “Loving You Too Long” gets a sole songwriting credit from you. It’s one of the best songs on the CD with driving crescendo-like dynamics. It’s another unrequited love song? Seems to be your specialty these past ten years!

Andy Davis: No, it’s not a love song. This is a really depressing subject. It concerns suicide although in a sort of abstract way. The song refers to the… when you stand on a cliff top, that’s the best example, on a high bridge, it’s the little voice that tempts you that you can fly, and that says ‘let’s jump”, you can fly. (lol) I’m not saying I hear this voice any stronger than anybody else but it’s just something that prompts me to just sort of idly dwell on that when I’m on a high point. And I thought that subject was worth writing a song about in as much as I’ve been listening to this voice for so long. That’s kind of what I meant although it didn’t all fall together too cleverly.

I hasten to add that I’ve never for one moment contemplated taking this step, but still it does fascinate me. I think it’s probably I’m just thinking hey wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could fly? I think that’s at the bottom of it. And there’s references in the song to Marloe’s Beach in Pembrokeshire. There’s one such place… a beautiful beach. Pembrokeshire is in West Wales in the U.K. and it’s somewhere I go a lot. And the other place is up in Shetland, which is a collection of islands north of the U.K. - part of Britain which you may not be familiar with but well worth looking up on an atlas. And Shetland is where my family come from so I go back there quite often. It’s a wonderful place, quite unique in a lot of ways.

And one of the most remote islands is called Foula and it’s an extraordinary place. It’s barely a mile wide. It’s at sea level on one side and it more or less goes up straight to about nearly 1400 feet, I think, on the opposite side of the island. It’s more or less a sheer cliff. It’s called The Kame and it feels like the edge of the world. It’s a magical place, not least because it being on the far west of Shetland, there’s no land mass between there and northern Canada so the sea is phenomenal there. The wind, the sea… it’s really an elemental place. I visited there once. It’s not easy to get there because of the sea. It’s about twenty miles off the Shetland Islands. The sea is very unpredictable there and the wind, the fog that comes down and envelopes the island. But I did manage to get there once and I went inside to the top of the second highest cliff in Britain… The Kame. I think that’s when this song first came to me because I was thinking… I was looking down at all the sea birds, small specks down at the bottom of the cliff, thinking wouldn’t it be fantastic to just fly off now. I resisted the temptation anyway that’s what the song is about.

mwe3: The Emergency Love CD closes with “The Ghost Of Love”. Man talk about an eerie love song! Did you want to end the album on a kind of depressing note? Lol

Andy Davis: “The Ghost Of Love” is a lyric that my friend and long time collaborator Pete Brandt sent me a few years ago. Pete Brandt is an exceptionally talented musician and writer from Bristol in the U.K. And it’s well worth checking out one of his solo albums. One was called Love Minus Zero. I guess you could google Pete Brandt and find all you need to know soon. Anyway, he sent me the lyric and I put the music to it and it immediately grabbed me. But it’s not such a depressing song. What probably isn’t apparent from listening to the song is there’s quite a lot of humor in there.

It’s meant to be slightly overblown language but more to the point, there’s three sections. And the character in the song is… this is why I admire Pete’s work so much, because he’s such a clever writer. The character in the song, in the first verse, he sober. He’s just walked in, he’s having a drink and he’s musing about his broken love affair. The second verse, he’s had a few and he’s getting maudlin and he’s getting very colorful in his language and a bit boring really to anybody who’s around him. And in the third verse he’s drunk as a skunk and just letting it all go. So it’s a shame the humor in the song isn’t more apparent but it does work pretty well. I think if you look at it the other way, it’s a pretty gut-wrenching love song as well. So yes, “The Ghost Of Love”. I just wondered if you’d heard my other album, Desire Lines, which is on my web site www.AndrewCresswellDavis.com. That’s an acoustic album. It’d be great if you could give that a listen. You can listen free on the web site. So there you go!



 

 
   
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