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Mirkwood’s Mysterious Masterpiece

October 20, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

MIrkwood

by Mat Weir

One of the most appealing and daunting aspects of record collecting is the simple fact that it never ends. With over 100 years of recorded music and millions of groups existing in that time, a record collector’s mission is a lifelong event. As soon as one piece is placed on the shelf, it opens a door to three other records that inspired it. Soon, the obsessive fan is digging deep, trying to find that one obscure record from the band nobody heard of but everyone should know.

People have gone mad trying to find “the one.” Fortunes have been made and wasted in the pursuit. Families have been ripped apart, lovers betrayed and best friends killed. . .no, wait. That’s the Lord of the Rings, but you get the idea. Thankfully, with the Great Vinyl Revival, more and more of those obscure, palm-clamming, heavy breath inducing beauties are being reissued so we don’t have to kill our neighbors for their collection. . .yet. One record in particular is Mirkwood’s 1973 self-titled masterpiece, re-released by Machu Picchu Ltd & Light in the Attic Records.

Formed in 1972 in Dover, England by guitarists Mick Morris and Jack Castle, Mirkwood found their sound in heavy, yet aloof, progressive rock.

Fun Fact #1: Before forming Mirkwood, Morris was in the original Rolling Stones, a skiffle and blues band that formed in 1956. Shortly after playing a London gig in the early 1960s, the Rolling Stones heard another band (based in London) was using the name. The Dover boys thought about protecting their name legally, but ended up changing to The Playboys in hopes of taking the band further. However, that’s another story.

In 1973, MIrkwood cut their only album with 99 copies and shortly lost their first drummer, Steve Smith.

Fun Fact #2: They quickly replaced him with Nick “Topper” Headon, who stayed in Mirkwood for a year and a half only to later join The Clash in 1977.

Supplementing their own gigs with work as the backup band for bigger acts like Supertramp, Mirkwood would disband in 1978 and the name would fall off the rock precipice into musical obscurity. Only the record collectors would keep the name alive.

With such a limited pressing of such a monster album, Mirkwood’s self-titled became a precious commodity and even was Record Collector Magazine’s most expensive listed LP at one time. And it’s easy to see why! Morris and Castle’s duel, fuzzed guitars rip through the melodic bass lines of D. Evans, giving the listener a firm grip on the ground while the acid guitar trip swirls above. Smith’s drums fly from Ginger Baker-inspired beats (though never quite reaching the mad redhead’s level) to a calm, Ringo Starr timing. Derek Bowley’s vocals are powerful and seductive, harmonizing with Castle & Morris’ background voices when needed and belting out the chops when he’s front and center. Mirkwood is heavy and dark, mixed with pockets of mystery and fantasy, nothing less expected from a band named after a forest in Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

Fun Fact #3: Mirkwood is actually a term taken from the 19th century poet, novelist, translator and textile designer, William Morris, who had roughly translated it from a Norse myth about the Myrkvior forest.

Simply put, Mirkwood is a killer album that any prog, psych, or classic rock lover should own. Not only will it provide you with hours of deep listening but you can impress that girl or guy you’ve been eyeing for a while with some amazing songs they are guaranteed to have never heard. Plus, you can feel good doing it, because the reissue was officially licensed by the band, who will receive royalties for every LP sold.

Machu Picchu Ltd. only did a limited, one-time pressing of this gem, but we still have one or two floating around Streetlight Records. If you let it get away, well, I guess you have the rest of your life to keep looking, right?

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