For every Al Stewart or Roy Harper back treading the boards and breaking out of obscurity, there were legions of unknown troubadours pounding the UK’s provincial folk circuit back in the 60s.
This was a time when the demarcation lines between folk and rock were well drawn though one or two brave souls would occasionally pop their heads above the parapet.
Colin Scot was one of them and his tactic of covering Buddy Holly songs in his live set might have caused frowns from the folkie purists but probably stood him in good stead when it came to supporting rock bands such as Van der Graaf Generator or King Crimson in the bigger venues in the early 70s. The graveyard support slot was always a tough spot, and Scot was better at it than many of his more famous contemporaries.
Scot died in 1999 having only released three albums none of which attracted much in the way of sales or critical acclaim. Though long forgotten now, Scot was well plugged into the rock circuit rather than the folk scene, having the kind of juice that attracted various members of Genesis, Lindisfarne, Van der Graaf Generator, Yes, Rare Bird, and Robert Fripp from King Crimson to populate his 1971 debut.
That he could count on such distinguished company was due in no small measure to producer John Anthony – the behind the desk for albums such as progressive rock classics such as Nursery Cryme and Pawn Hearts.
Hardly surprising then that given the roster of heavy muso friends, Scot’s debut album acquired cult status amongst those forever on the look out for a glimpse of the prog-rock holy grail.
Well, Colin Scot isn’t that by a long chalk but this lovingly restored and freshly remastered album (with bonus tracks aplenty) shows that Scot was a cut above the crowd of earnest folkies then doing the rounds.
Scot’s yearning and muscular voice (reminiscent at times of an early Elton John or Alan Hull) is gritty and full-blooded and used to best effect on the elegiac, "Do The Dance Now, Davey." Featuring Robert Fripp, who adds chiming harmonics and volume-controlled shadings; it’s an impressive opening.
The same team are reunited for what was the original album’s closing track, "Here We Are In Progress", with its coda of swirling of multi-tracked Fripp solos abruptly cauterized for dramatic effect. Between these powerful bookends (both written by Martin Hall), is a show-reel of songs designed to demonstrate Scot’s potential over a variety of styles.
"Nite People", the strongest of Scot’s compositions here, is a beguiling melody punctuated by the rumbling thunder of Guy Evans’ tom-tom work that will be familiar to VdGG fans, as well as some cutting jabs from Fripp’s guitar.
"Lead Us", written by Bonzo Dog Neil Innes, sees Scot and company going for The Band territory, and on which he’s joined by a swelling lighters-held-aloft chorus of backing singers that number Peters Hammill and Gabriel and Yes’ Jon Anderson amongst the ranks.
If there is a problem with the album it is producer John Anthony’s desire to cover all the bases by including some hoped for cross-over commerciality. In doing so the overall integrity, and to a certain extent, Scot’s identity is undermined.
"Baby In My Lady", with schmaltzy strings and insipid lyrics wouldn’t sound of place on The Many Shades of Val Doonican. Similarly "Hey! Sandy", (Harvey Andrews’ noble but corny tribute to the fallen of Kent State, – CSNY did it much better with "Ohio") Scot has Jon Anderson supporting him but even this can’t stop fingers itching toward the skip button.