"Listening to the best of their output from before, during and after my own involvement with the band," says David Gilmour, "has reminded me of the many great songs and great moments in the studio that we shared all those years ago. It's been a long time coming, but it has been worth the wait."
David's comments about his work with UK country rock band Unicorn will whet the appetites of those who will be snapping up the first time CD releases of two rare albums from the band, both of which were produced by David. 'Blue Pine Trees' and 'Too Many Crooks' will be released by premier reissue label Renaissance Records in conjunction with ItsAboutMusic.com on November 11th. The original master tapes were remastered by Andy Jackson at David's Astoria houseboat studio, and the results are apparently stunning.
As the following attests, the coming together of Unicorn (possibly the godfathers of the country rock genre) and David Gilmour is an interesting story...
Early in 1973 Unicorn played at the wedding reception for Transatlantic publicist Ricky Hopper. One of the guests was David Gilmour, who at the end of the evening got up and jammed with Unicorn on Neil Young's "Heart of Gold". Afterwards Gilmour told the band that he really liked Country Rock. A week later the Pink Floyd guitarist phoned the band to say that he had just installed a studio at his country retreat and asked if they wanted to demo some songs there. The band immediately accepted. A few days later they travelled up to Essex to Gilmour's estate. He showed them into the studio and said there was no need to bring any of their gear in from the van. Hanging on the walls was his collection of vintage Fender, Gibson, Rickenbacker and Martin guitars and underneath them Fender amplifiers and a Premier drum kit. They recorded three songs and David added some Fender Pedal Steel Guitar which he had just bought on his last American tour and was learning to play. They were invited back on several occasions to record.
"Unicorn were playing at the wedding reception of an old friend of mine, Rick Hopper," related David Gilmour, "when I first saw them and while I was impressed by their vocal harmonies, their tightness and the fact that it was the drummer that sang the lead vocals, it was the songs themselves that I liked the best. Ken Baker's songs, while firmly seated in the American country rock genre had a very original and unusual wry English feel in the stories he told. The one that really made me notice was 'Sleep Song', about a trip to the dentist. Not a common subject for the popular song. Largely on the strength of this I invited them to my tiny home studio in Essex to record some demos. This was the start of an association that was to cover two and a half albums over the next couple of years."
Things started to happen from then on when Gilmour offered to put up the money to record an album of Unicorn songs. Unicorn soon signed with (Pink Floyd manager) Steve O'Rourke's EMKA organization, and Ricky Hopper (who had introduced them to David) became their tour manager. Ricky would later discover Kate Bush, then called Kathy Bush. Pete and Pat from Unicorn played on her first demo recordings at Gilmour's studio. Unicorn's first album was recorded in Olympic Studios in Barnes in London. David Gilmour was producing, by his own admission, for the first time. The performances would wind up as the album 'Blue Pine Trees' and parts of the second album 'Too Many Crooks'. The album was mixed at George Martin's Air Studios in London.
Steve O'Rourke took about a week to secure a deal with Charisma Records in the UK, with Capitol Records in the US and EMI International for the rest of the world.
In November 1974 Unicorn set off on their first US tour. The first night Unicorn performed at the Whiskey a Go Go on Sunset Strip, where they played in front of what seemed to be the entire Capitol Records staff. Unicorn was the headline band that night and was supported by a then little known, Patti Smith. On that first tour the band supported bands like Fleetwood Mac, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Climax Blues Band, Billy Joel, Linda Ronstadt and the Doobie Brothers. At the end of their first US tour Unicorn flew home via New York to return to play at the Marquee club in London with the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver with David Gilmour sitting in.
The following year, 1975, was mainly spent recording the second album 'Too Many Crooks' (released in America as 'Unicorn 2'). It was recorded in Air Studios at Oxford Circus with some additional tracks at Olympic at Barnes. This album included some of Unicorn's best studio performances. The most notable song was "No Way Out of Here" which was later recorded by David Gilmour for his first solo album. His version was the most played album track in the US for several weeks.
Unicorn's 'Blue Pine Trees' and 'Too Many Crooks' will be available from Amazon, iTunes and your local retailer from November 10th. For more information on the band and these releases, visit www.itsaboutmusic.com, and to purchase in CD format or as a download, please consider using our links as follows:
BLUE PINE TREES: Amazon.com (US/International), Amazon Canada.
TOO MANY CROOKS: Amazon.com (US/International), Amazon Canada.