From New Wave Power-Pop to Soul-Gospel Pop to Post-Punk Folk Protest – that just about sums up the forty year musical career of tonight’s guest artist at Grateful Fred’s, Henry Priestman.
If you think that you don’t know Henry’s music ,think again.
You may recall The Yachts from the late 1970’s who had a minor hit with “Suffice To Say” ; you may well recall It’s Immaterial and their quirky 1986 road-song “Driving Away From Home” and you will almost certainly remember The Christians ,who sold three million albums in the late 1980’s. Well, Henry was involved in all three bands . In fact ,he wrote all the songs on The Christians’ triple platinum first album ,including such gems as “Forgotten Town”, “Ideal World” and “Hooverville”.
After The Christians ,Henry worked as a producer /songwriter/ soundtrack composer but in 2008 he reinvented himself as a folk-protest singer and released his debut solo album “The Chronicles Of Modern Life”, a collection of wry observations on life which Johnnie Walker described as “music for grumpy old men” , which ,of course, makes him ideally suited for playing at Grateful Fred’s [only joking ,honestly]. The album was originally released on Stiff Records but was so successful that Island Records bought the project, thus making Henry the oldest artist to be signed to a major label for a debut solo album.
Henry also wrote three songs for “Love and Work”, the 2012 album by Graham Gouldman of 10cc.
In 2014 ,Henry released the follow-up to “Modern Life” , the equally rueful “The Last Mad Surge Of Youth”.
Tonight Henry was joined by his “Partner in Crime” ,the ebullient “Loved Up” Les Glover on banjo and percussion. The line up was completed by medical practitioner Nick Silver on fiddle.
Henry’s songs are droll observations on modern life and growing older ,so we had such gems as “In My Head” [ about being a “useless male” who thinks he’s a Renaissance man]; “Old” [“I’m the same age that my father was when I first thought he was old”]; “Goodbye Common Sense” [most appropriate in the wake of the recent referendum]; the self-explanatory “Grey’s The New Blonde” and “We Used To Be You”[about being a parent].
On the “folk-protest” theme, we had the very topical “Not In My Name”and “Ghosts of 1,000 Fishermen” about the decline of the fishing industry [ Henry originates from Hull and now lives in a former fishing village on Anglesey].
Henry’s serious side was evident on two songs from “Last Mad Surge” ,the first being “At The End Of The Day”,which he dedicated to his late mother and mother-in-law. Aled Jones has covered this poignant song. The other was the beautiful ballad “Valentine Song”,which Ridley Scott used in the short film “Kismet Diner”.
In between songs the banter between Henry and Les was hilarious and they would make a great comedy double-act . Les is no mean songwriter himself ,as demonstrated by “Turn Another Page”,which recounts his youthful experiences . Another excellent song was “Hank and Me” ,about the great Hank Williams .
Fans of The Christians [including me] were delighted to hear Henry, Les and Nick play “Ideal World” ,which is still as relevant now as it was when it was released nearly thirty years ago. It was great to hear it played live !
Henry , Les and Nick ended their superb set with “Don’t You Love Me No More” from “Modern Life”but they swiftly returned to the stage for an encore of “The Coolest Dance Is The Irish Jig” ,on which they were joined by the Grateful Fred band who had opened the evening with their customary verve. This encore rapidly developed into a jam session in which each musician took a solo. Somehow the song morphed into “Since You’ve Been Gone”!
Even this wasn’t enough for the Fredheads who demanded more and were rewarded with Henry’s optimistic , inspirational “True Believer” [I believe that life goes on ,what doesn’t kill you makes you strong”]. A suitably upbeat note on which to end a hugely enjoyable and uplifting evening’s entertainment.
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