JUNE, 2015

Writing a book is one thing. Having the energy to keep promoting it, once published, is quite another! My apologies for taking a year to update this site.


Before I describe recent activities, I should point out that a COMPLETELY NEW Mahavishnu Orchestra 2 Gig List page has been added herein, thanks to Mark Robinson. Mark has added significantly to the list in Bathed In Lightning (ebook edition) and has asked me to publish his efforts here – which I’m very happy to do. You’ll find it in the BONUS READING section.

During the past year my focus has been on researching and writing two other books: The Wheels Of The World: 300 Years Of Irish Uilleann Pipers, with professional piper John McSherry; and Eyes Wide Open: True Tales Of A Wishbone Ash Warrior, with Wishbone Ash mainman Andy Powell. Both books will be published by Jawbone Press this year – yes, the same team who published Bathed In Lightning. Partly that is coincidence, partly it’s because I like working with Nigel and Tom.


At the time of writing, the piping book – at a quarter of a million words, and 624 pages, longer than the print version of Bathed In Lightning – is signed-off while the Andy Powell book is probably three weeks from being signed-off. Both have been great fun and very rewarding to do, in different ways, and each one has been written with the hope of maintaining the interest of non-specialist readers.


I’ve also been working on a couple of interesting CD reissues in the past month, which may be of (slightly tangential) interest to McLaughlin fans. One is Songs Without Words, a jazz-rock album recorded for Harvest Records by guitarist Chris Spedding in January 1970 at Abbey Road Studios. In February 1970 Chris came second to John McLaughlin in best-selling British magazine Melody Maker’s annual jazz poll. That year, he played and recorded with Ian Carr’s Nucleus, with the Mike Westbrook Concert Band and with Michael Gibbs (all people with McLaughlin connections, quoted in BIL). Spedding’s solo album, however, remained unreleased in Britain at the time at his own request. Chris had decided to pursue a more rootsy rock direction with records issued under his own name. The album did, though, slip out on EMI Japan later that year. I’ve written a 6000 word booklet essay, interviewing Chris, producer Peter Eden, drummer John Marshall and Michael Gibbs, while Chris has re-edited the album and added an unreleased bonus track, with Ron Geesin mastering. It comes out on Hux Records in a couple of months and, while Chris was never directly influenced by John McLaughlin, anyone interested in early British jazz-rock, a la Nucleus, will love the album.


The other reissue project is The Turtle Records Story for RPM, also due in a couple of months. Turtle Records was a label-of-love run by celebrated producer and all-round good guy Peter Eden during 1970-71.Peter produced no less than 20 British progressive jazz albums (and a few singles) between 1968-72, for labels including Deram, Dawn and Argo. Turtle released only three albums – two produced by Peter, one by John Surman – but they are among his best work and are all ludicrously rare now on vinyl. This will be their first official reissue, with all the artists/estates involved. The albums are these: Howard Riley Trio, Flight; Mike Osborne, Outback; John Taylor Sextet, Pause, And Think Again. I’ve contributed a 17,000 word booklet essay, including interviews with Howard Riley, Barry Guy, Mike Westbrook, John Taylor, Norma Winstone, Peter Eden, Mike Cooper, Michael Gibbs and John Surman. I’ve used the opportunity to look at the whole context of British jazz circa 1970. It was a ‘golden age’ for musicians who had come through Ronnie Scott’s ‘Old Place’ scene of September 1966 – May 1968: a brief period of time when major labels would take a punt on progressive British jazz artists. John McLaughlin, as detailed in BIL, played with Howard Riley a couple of years before Flight, while Howard’s drummer on this LP, the late Tony Oxley, had played on McLaughlin’s Extrapolation (1969). Anyone who likes Extrapolation or who has been intrigued by the late 60s British jazz fraternity described in BIL, with an interest in hearing and reading more, would probably enjoy The Turtle Records Story.


Another project I’ve been chipping away at, off and on, over the past two and a half years is an album of original instrumental music. Now completed, I’ll try and make it available in the next two or three months. Provisionally entitled Sunset Cavaliers, the core musicians are myself (guitars and a bit of mono synth), Ali MacKenzie (bass) and Cormac O’Kane (keyboards, percussion programming, engineering/producing) plus Louise Potter on drums on three tracks. Guest musicians include ex-Mahavishnu Orchestra wizards Premik Russell Tubbs (soprano sax) and Steven Kindler (9-string violin), along with Chris Spedding (guitar), Shane Pacey (guitar), Andy Powell (guitar), Brooks Williams (guitar), John McSherry (uilleann pipes), Linley Hamilton (flugelhorn). I’ve added a couple of older instrumental recordings, in previously unreleased form, which feature the late Bert Jansch (guitar) and the late Duffy Power (harmonica). Finding a ‘group name’ with which to credit the album will be interesting. ‘Colin Harper & Friends’ sounds pretty dreary. I’m sure I’ll think of something…


Finally, here (below) is a digest of press quotes for Bathed In Lightning from last year. I’m delighted to see the book continues to generate interest at Amazon’s UK and US sites, and I’m similarly pleased that Jawbone Press have recently transferred their business to a new distributor in the US, which should hopefully allow the book to appear in a significant number of new outlets.


Press Quotes:

‘A vivid portrait… Harper’s book not only does the subject justice, but is also an indispensable guide - the best yet written - to the Brit jazz scene in the 1960s...

Stuart Nicholson, Jazzwise, March 2014


‘A celebration of a dues-paying twilight world that is now on the verge of passing out of living memory. Harper’s treatment leaps from the page … perceptive and authoritative … forensic detail ... Essential reading …’

Sid Smith, Prog, March 2014


‘A revelatory work of scholarship, written with a professional historian’s rigour’.

Trevor Hodgett, Rock’n’Reel, March/April 2014


‘This is a labyrinthine work… How Colin Harper had the mental tenacity to string together the disparate threads of music from the decades he covers is difficult to comprehend – but he pulls it off without ever being dull … An epic work by anyone’s standards.’

Joel McIver, Record Collector, March 2014


‘Exhaustive and insightful … meticulous … leaves no stone unturned … a remarkably detailed account [and] an absolute must-read…’

Bill Milkowski, Down Beat, May 2014


‘Plaudits to Colin Harper for fantastically detailed research ... [He] writes with great immediacy and a tone somewhere between the old Melody Maker and the work of Ian MacDonald ... A book for anyone interested in British music of the period.’

Brian Morton, Jazz Journal, May 2014


‘[An] unrelentingly detail appraisal of John McLaughlin’s exhaustive musical apprenticeship … methodically charts his work as a sideman with a virtual Who’s Who of the UK’s jazz and R&B scenes through the 60s … [to] his subsequent transformation into Mahavishnu …’

Grahame Bent, Shindig 37, 2014


‘In this 512-page blockbuster Harper details every aspect of the Orchestra’s mercurial history…’

Fred Dellar, Mojo, August 2014 ****


‘Colin Harper’s 2000 biography of Bert Jansch Dazzling Stranger superbly situated that guitarist in his surrounding folk milieu. Now he tackles another dazzling stranger, a subject who largely remains an enigma by the time the book signs off … [yet] what Bathed In Lightning offers is the full backstory of the artist’s development …’

Rob Young, The Wire, June 2014


‘Only about a quarter into it and it’s already amazing. Author Colin Harper really captures the sights, the sounds of London in the ‘60s, and McLaughlin before he became the name he now is … Colin is more than just a well-researched author, he has a real ability to evoke atmosphere and ambiance. It’ll take time to finish, but it’ll be well worth the time invested.’

John Kelman, trailer for his review at, 2014


‘The first half of the book is slightly weighed down with detail of sixties London. But even there, Harper’s prose and his musical knowledge often spark into life. In the second half Harper is clearly an authority to be trusted, and he can be very funny.’

Ian Pople,, November 2014


‘Harper has [previously] published a well-received biography of guitarist Bert Jansch containing much interesting detail of the folk and blues club scene in London in the early 1960s which provides the background to show how Jansch developed ... Harper adopts a similar and even more detailed approach in this book … [His] level of research is highly impressive … where his research and interviews with musicians really come into their own is in the fascinating descriptions of the other musical activities and collaborations that were going on. In the 1960s the London music scene was the place to be for musicians of all styles and influences … Everyone played with everyone else... Groups formed and evolved and dissolved in the space of a few weeks. People shared houses and flats and everyone jammed with everyone else. According to Harper, McLaughlin was both a part of this scene and a bit outside it. Other musicians saw him as different but also recognised that he was something special ... This book is a fascinating read as well as a great reference book of a special musical time and place …’

J.C.,, 2014

posted by ADMIN  June 17, 2015 11:47  General