Friday, October 21, 2011

Nick Garrie - The Nightmare Of J.B. Stanislas (1969)

A sublimely orchestrated baroque psych-pop masterpiece. From BBC:

Billed as the last "lost" album of the 60s, The Nightmare of J.B. Stanilas was recorded for French label DiscAZ whose owner committed suicide just as the album was released. In the resulting chaos, it sold about 17 copies, if that. Welcome to the nightmare of Nick Garrie.

It had all looked peachy beforehand. Garrie’s wanderings through Saint-Tropez’s trendy demimonde got himself a record deal; but in the studio, producer Eddie Vartan enlisted a 56-piece orchestra against his wishes. In Garrie’s hands, the album might have resembled Clifford T Ward. But it’s now part of the era’s folk-baroque canon, and infinitely more desirable.

But let’s not go overboard. It can’t, as the press release hints, be classified alongside Love’s Forever Changes or even The Zombies’ Odyssey and Oracle. Even if the album has that paler English singer-songwriter sensibility that connects to Bill Fay and Nick Drake, there’s a bit too much vintage pop MOR to compete with those two doomed voices. Vocally and personality-wise, Garrie appears a sweet-natured, uncomplicated chap rather than inspired casualty. For example, a strummy Little Bird goes "I sing for you my little bird / the sweetest song you’ve ever heard," and Bungles Tours is as cute as its title. The spell is broken most by Queen of Queens, comedic country-rock with a fake American accent. Will the real J.B. Stanislas please stand up?

Fortunately, there’s much more wistfully drifting orch-pop than sun-stroked whimsy; the self-explanatory Deeper Tones of Blue, the bittersweet fairground ride of Wheel of Fortune and the dreamy idyll Can I Stay With You, which uncannily predates the mood of John Cale’s Paris 1919. But nothing beats the album’s bookends. The opening title-track has a jaunty pedal steel but wraps it in dark wraiths of strings, stronger reverbed vocals and a haunting melody and beguiling lyric. On the two-minute finale Evening, the spare orchestration is set to ‘twilight’ behind a narrative where "the cinema is dark and empty… the projectionist is drunk somewhere" and a couple "touch each other silently in a lover’s double bed." It sounds like Stanislas is penniless and bereft, as if Garrie was predicting his own record’s demise.

He did record again, most recently on 2009’s 49 Arlington Gardens with the help of a Teenage Fan Clubber and a BMX Bandit. These days, Garrie is a wandering French teacher. But Stanislas has returned to haunt him, though this time in a good way.

Rating 9.5/10


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