Dean Wareham Steers Us To One Of The Great Lost Albums Of The ’70s

On his masterful new mini-LP, Emancipated Hearts, Dean Wareham plays a cover of the Incredible String Band’s “Air.” We hadn’t thought about the ISB for some years, with the exception of reading producer Joe Boyd’s terrific memoir, White Bicycles, which came out in 2006.  We didn’t love the Incredible String Band, but we really loved the solo album, released in 1971, by Mike Heron, Smiling Men With Bad Reputations.  Let me tell you just a few things about it, which should send you directly to Amazon, which miraculously dropped a copy of the CD  off at our front door after we found our old LP was a mite too scratchy for aural bliss.

ISB was a British folk trio in a Golden Age that produced bands like Fairport Convention.  But Mike Heron, like Dylan before him, was at heart a rocker, and when it came time to step out from the Incredible String Band and produce a solo album, he did so with such friends as Steve Winwood,  Richard Thompson, Dave Mattacks and Dave Pegg, Pete Townshend and Keith Moon, Jimmy Page, Elton John, Ronnie Lane, and John Cale.  Some lineup, huh?  Members of Traffic, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Fairport Convention, the Velvet Underground, and the Faces.  The only bands missing were the Beatles and the Stones.  The album is amazing.

There are a number of highlights, but for us the big one always was the song “Warm Heart Pastry,” which in the original album cover credited “Tommy and the Bijous” as the backup band.  It was, of course, Townshend and Moon, with Ronnie Lane on bass and John Cale on viola, and it is one of the great lost rockers of the era.  The whole thing is a long-lost delight — “Beautiful Stranger” sounds like it was left on the cutting room floor when Dear Mr. Fantasy was produced.  And on the CD, two bonus tracks are included, which brings “Lady Wonder,” with a raucous Jimmy Page playing slashing slide guitar, to light for the first time.

We love the new Dean Wareham album.  We’re especially indebted to him for having given us the added bonus of reminding us about this great lost masterpiece.  Go find Mike Heron’s Smiling Men With Bad Reputations.

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