PINK FLOYD fanatics rejoice with the first time release of two rare DAVID GILMOUR produced albums by UK country rock band UNICORN.
The CDs, Blue Pine Trees and Too Many Crooks, will be released by premier reissue label Renaissance Records in conjunction with ItsAboutMusic.com on November 11th.
When you think of country rock, band's like FIREFALL, PURE PRAIRE LEAGUE, POCO, FLYING BURRITO BROS. probably come to mind first, but
one band that could well be called the godfathers of the genre actually came from England. The meeting between Unicorn and Pink Floyd's renown guitarist is a curious one.
Early in 1973 Unicorn played at the wedding reception for Transatlantic publicist Ricky Hopper. One of the guests was David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, 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 Dave added some Fender Pedal Steel Guitar which he had just brought 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 Floyds manager Steve O'Rourke's EMKA organization, and Ricky Hopper who had introduced them to Dave 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. The engineer was John Middleton and the tape operators were the sons of Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers. 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. At the time Capitol records tour manager, Alan Fry, told them that Blue Pine Trees was number one in the FM action charts (a chart based on the frequency of FM airplay). 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 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 Dave Gilmour for his first solo album. His version was the most played album track in the US for several weeks.
"Listening to the best of their output from before, during and after my own involvement with the band," says 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."
Unicorn - Blue Pine Trees, Too Many Crooks'(prod. by David Gilmour), will be available from Amazon, iTunes and your local retailer on November 10th.