Rarities: “Selections” (1972)

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 12 Sept 2010

Selections
Transatlantic Records TRA 206 (New Zealand) and Transatlantic/Festival TRA 206/STAL 934485 (Australia)

This is probably one of the rarest of Carthy collectables, certainly for European or North American collectors. In fact, until I found this copy on eBay a couple of years ago I never even knew of its existence and at present I know of only two extant copies.

This album is not to be confused with the much more widely available 1971 Pegasus compilation of the same name and is essentially a collection of tracks from all five 1960s Carthy & Swarbrick albums but the track selection somewhat favours Byker Hill from 1967 (three tracks) and Prince Heathen from 1969 (four tracks). And unlike the Pegasus album, although Swarbrick gets a brief mention on the rear cover, the front cover and the label credit this release to Carthy alone.

The cover photograph, title and graphics all suggest a strong link with the Pegasus compilation of the same name. The graphics are by Davis, Berney & Wade who were responsible for the artwork on a number of early-1970s Steeleye Span releases and for various acts within Sandy Roberton’s September Productions company as well as others, including Velvet Underground. The hand-lettered approach is particularly reminiscent of the artwork on the Pegasus Selections release.

This Selections is Carthy’s only official release on the Transatlantic label (with the exception of tracks that appear on a couple of compilations and a handful of guest appearances on other people’s albums). Although no date appears on the sleeve or the labels I had originally listed this as having been released in 1969 based entirely on the fact the Transatlantic releases which immediately preceded and followed it in the catalogue – Basket of Light by Pentangle (TRA205) and Circus’ eponymous debut album (TRA207) – were both released in 1969. I’ve since come to agree with Reinhard Zierke who originally listed it as 1972 (although he now also appears to show 1969 as a possible date, such is the scarcity of reliable information on this release).

The deciding factor on the release date for me is the cover photograph which was taken by Keith Morris and comes from the the same set that is used on Topic Records’ 1977 Prince Heathen re-issue and on the 1971 Pegasus Selections album. In fact, the photograph on the rear cover of the Transatlantic album is the exact same one that is used on the front of the Pegasus album. The Jan/Feb 2010 issue of fRoots magazine published a photograph from this same set and listed it as being from 1971. fRoots editor Ian Anderson tells me that the precise dates in Morris’ database are “a bit haphazard” but he’s certain of the year in this case. He further adds, “As far as I can see, Keith didn’t photograph Martin until Steeleye Mk2 onwards. From then he seemed to become the photographer of choice for Steeleye and certain folk or folk rock artists connected with Joe Boyd and Sandy Roberton”.

A bit more research reveals that Carthy & Swarbrick – having formally ‘split up’ two years earlier – performed as part of a concert at Tupholme Manor Park on 24 July 1971. Others on the bill included Steeleye Span (with Carthy still in the lineup at this point), The Byrds, Pentangle, Incredible String Band, Ralph McTell and others. There’s a good chance that the cover photograph comes from this concert because although Carthy and Swarbrick are known to have played the occasional early-1970s concert after their formal split, these shows were still somewhat few and far between.


UPDATE: I had a longish debate online with Ian Anderson of fRoots about the date of the Keith Morris cover shot. I was convinced it was from the Tupholme Manor Park concert on 24 July 1971 (which just happens to have been my third birthday) but Ian was unsure. He has access the the Morris archive and pointed out that there are unusually no shots of Steeleye Span from the same show, which one might have expected if Keith was there and shooting Carthy and Swarb. Some time later I bumped into Ian at Martin’s 70th birthday concert and at the backstage aftershow he asked Martin directly about the shot (I’d have asked him myself but didn’t get an invite!). Martin confirmed that the shot was from Tupholme Manor Park and that Keith had been commissioned specifically to shoot Carthy and Swarb at that gig for an album cover. This must have been for either this album or the more common Pegasus Selections release and dates this album at late-1971 at the very earliest. On a tangential note, shots from this same concert feature on four different earthy album covers: The Topic reissue of Prince Heathen; The Pegasus Selections; The Transatlantic/festival Selections; The live archive album The January Man: Live in Belfast, 1978


The label indicates that this was made in New Zealand but Reinhard Zierke also shows it as having been released in Australia on Transatlantic/Festival in 1972 under catalogue number TRA 206/STAL 934485. I’ve yet to see any firm firm evidence that it was ever issued outside the Antipodes.

My album comes from Dave Swarbrick’s personal collection that was sold on eBay in 2007 and with the exception of the version shown on Reinhard’s website – which incidentally appears to be in much better condition than mine – it’s the only copy I’ve ever seen.

One final point of interest is that all the song credits on this release are shown as “K/A” on the label. I don’t recall ever seeing this before and thought it might be something that was unique to Australian or New Zealand releases but Garry Gillard (who previously authored Reinhard’s Carthy website and who is a resident of Australia) was unable to confirm this. Garry and Ian Anderson offer the suggestion that this may be a variation on “T/A” or “Trad. Arr” although there’s also the possibility that it’s a simple typo. If this is the case it’s not the only one as “Bruton Town” is incorrectly listed on the label as “Brunton Town”.

If you can shed any light on the meaning of “K/A” – or any other aspect of this rare and fascinating release – please feel free to add a comment or email me the details.

Kevin Boyd 12/09/2010

External links:

Selections on Reinhard Zierke’s Mainly Norfolk
Transatlantic discography
fRoots


UPDATE:  12 Feb 2011

Reinhard Zierke recently sent me the following scan of the label from his copy of Selections which finally resolves the year of issue as it clearly shows the publication date of 1972.

The label on the other side is the standard colour Transatlantic illustration that also features on my copy.

This is the Australian Festival Records version and some of the other details differ from my copy although it also also mis-spells “Bruton Town” as “Brunton Town”. This version has “Made in Australia” printed in the perimeter and all the songs are credited simply to “Martin Carthy” rather than the more accurate “Trad. arr.” (or the “K/A” shown on my copy). 

Reinhard adds, “I don’t know what the K/A on your label stands for; if this were a German record I would guess ‘Keine Angabe’, i.e. ‘not specified'”.

Label from Reinhard’s copy of “Selections”

Label from my copy of “Selections”

The standard Transatlantic label that appears on the reverse side of both copies of the “Selections” album (this one is from mine)

Thanks to Reinhard for the scan and the additional information.

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