title:

artist:

released:

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throat-wobbler mangrove

luxury yacht

1990

acoustic guitar

Dave Stafford, September 2010: The sessions for “Throat-Wobbler Mangrove” were held in Mira Mesa, California over two days in 1990.

 

Luxury Yacht, comprising ex-Frank Zappa drummer Tom Freeman, who joined forces with The Dozey Lumps to record electro-acoustic “rock” versions of Dozey Lumps classics, along with a beautifully improvised track that became the album’s title track, were a one-of-a-kind musical entity.

 

Eight Lumps classics are tackled in a way that they had never been attempted before and never will again.  This is an absolutely unique album and a unique musical experience – the marriage of rock drums and percussion to a Crafty acoustic guitar duo playing original compositions in the new standard tuning for guitar – it even SOUNDS implausible in that description!

 

Having been there and been a part of it – I am still gobsmacked every time I hear this.  It’s just good fun, very live, very real – as it happened, entirely live, three musicians just playing for the sheer joy of it, but…with determination.

 

This is their tale.

 

 

PREBENDARY

 

Bryan Helm, stereo right, charges into the fray with a single, reverb-charged Ovation 1867 guitar, playing the strange, angular figure that is the basis of “Prebendary”.  Seconds later, Dave Stafford, stereo left, enters the fray on another, reverb-charged Ovation 1867 guitar, while a few seconds later, Tom Freeman, freelance drummer extraordinaire, comes in on full stereo drum kit.

 

The piece moves forward, with it’s ever-changing patterns – Bryan, the constant, Dave, the moving/alternating/harmonising guitar, the piece mutating so quickly, moving up a first a full step, then, another full step, and eventually, Dave taking a couple of very quick solos.

 

Tom drives the piece relentlessly, pushing and pushing, a cymbal accent here, a snapping snare there – and when the first solo begins, a pulsing bass drum follows along, which then moves through an ever-changing series of rhythmic mutations – getting wilder and wilder, Dave takes the final mind-bendingly fast solo - until the two guitars suddenly slow, and the piece dissolves into the longest, most perfect double-bend-on-two-single-notes ending you could ask for.

 

This piece has the dubious honour of being the only Dozey Lumps piece that has been recorded by three different artists on three different records:  first, on “One Lump Or Two?” by the band themselves, The Dozey Lumps.  Next, on the Dave Stafford EP “Song With No End” – an electric guitar with echo version, a solo version wherein Dave plays all the parts himself…and last, this version, a bit later, featuring Tom Freeman on the drums.

 

For a piece that lasts less than two minutes, an awful lot happens, and while I enjoy all three of the different versions, in some ways, this is my favourite, and mostly because of the splendid and creative way that Tom adds in his drum parts – and, the amazing, perfect, hang-fire ending – wow.  And this performance has probably what is the best-ever ending of any performance of “Prebendary” – ever, anywhere – out of many, many performances indeed.

 

This is one of the longest-running of pieces in The Dozey Lump’s canon, one of the earliest pieces they learned, and at this point, in 1990, Bryan and Dave would have played it perhaps hundreds of times.  So their easy confidence with the piece, coupled with an innovative and extremely well executed drum part from the good Mr. Freeman, creates what could very well be the best and most “definitive” version of the song that there is.

 

 

NOT BLOODY LIKELY

 

This piece was always notoriously difficult to perform live, but in a similar way to Prebendary, the addition of Tom Freeman on drums may well have sparked one of the better performances of the piece.

 

There are actually three different recordings of this, one on The Dozey Lumps album, which was the “best” of many possible live versions; this version featuring Tom Freeman on drums; and a third version, with it’s entire first verse truncated, from a live Dozey Lumps video recorded in July 1991.  Of the three, the Luxury Yacht version, this version, probably contains the fewest imperfections.

 

The problem is “the riff” – which occurs twice in the piece, this is a long melody, played the first time, in unison, which is hard enough, as it’s both quick, and a long descent down the neck (after a quick ascent up mind you)… and then the second time, the same figure is played as a round, so Bryan starts and I wait, and then come in with my descending harmony.

 

The rest of the piece is no walk in the park either, although it’s certainly easier than “the riff”.  And what would typically happen, if we got the “unison riff” spot on, one of us would make a mistake in the “round riff” – if we got the “round riff” spot on, there would invariably be an error in the “unison riff”, without fail.  The number of times we actually played both riffs correctly, you could count on one hand, or less, and, of course, if and when that DID happen – invariably, no tape recorded would have been running.

 

Of course, then, in this version, as in pretty much every version ever recorded, there are minor imperfections in “the riff”. Both of them!  But in this case, the overall experience is still a very positive one.  Dave and Bryan start together, Tom joins in, and the band work through the first verse, establishing the theme.  Then, there is the first tempo change, Tom working freestyle jazz magic in the background, ending in a long tom tom roll, and thence into “the riff”.

 

Verse two begins, tiny crash cymbals herald it’s arrival, Tom now coming in with a much stronger beat than on the first verse, more lovely crashes, and mini-rolls takes us through to the end of the second verse, and that tricky tempo change again…a ringing ride cymbal, followed by some excellent fills bring us up to the next section – more free-styling from Tom, those lovely little Indian-sounding mini-crash cymbals – and now, it’s the “round version” of the riff – Tom adding is some beat-specific accents, and then a small crash brings us to the end of the riff – a long retard – and lovely, gradual ending.

 

 

THROAT-WOBBLER MANGROVE

 

The only non-Dozey Lumps track that survived the sessions, there were a few improvisations, one of which ended up on a Dave Stafford track (see “Dreamswept Sea” on the “Song With No End” EP album notes page), but this was the only piece that ended up on the record.

 

Short, sweet, and to the point, the title track is an unrehearsed, live, one-take improvisation.  Dave Stafford, stereo right, begins the piece, with a downwards sweep of the strings, joined immediately by Bryan and Tom, and a musical game of cat and mouse takes place over a swinging drum part from Freeman – who absolutely ROCKS on this track by the way – thumping and pounding his way through, as the two guitarists evoke a strange and dissonant musical landscape.

 

About 0:40 seconds in, stereo left, Bryan takes a bass solo, which is just the strangest, funkiest and coolest thing – the cat-and-mouse dissonant chord battle resumes briefly – then, Bryan The Bass Player returns and really lays down an amazing groove on top of the drums, a strange, compelling bass part that draws you in, running for perhaps the last 30 seconds of the piece, until he suddenly stops, the drums stop, and Dave plays a final chord – and the piece is over in an amazing 1:25 – very short, but an awful lot happens.

 

I could listen to that drum part all day long, it’s just absolutely solid, and it provides the perfect backdrop to the acoustic guitar mayhem the guitarists add on top – brilliant.  An absolutely favourite track of mine, and possibly my very favourite Luxury Yacht live performance.

 

 

KEVIN’S HOUSE

 

I was so pleased that Luxury Yacht recorded this unusual tune, The Dozey Lumps didn’t play it that often, there were never many recordings of it, and the version on the official album, while acceptable, doesn’t quite have the zip and spark that this one does.

 

Both guitarists dive in, at an impossibly quick tempo, Tom Freeman joining impeccably, always enhancing, never overwhelming, this is another tour-de-force drum performance, and the tricky tempo changes don’t thwart or challenge him in the slightest – he’s right there – with beautiful, freestyle mini-cymbal solos, or a glorious tom tom roll coupled with ride cymbals – while Bryan is playing the most amazing guitar harmonics on the planet.

 

Then, suddenly, at about 2:50, something absolutely remarkable occurs – still at an impossibly quick tempo, Tom decides to play on the OFF beat, which drives the two guitarists into a twirling, perfectly synchronised display of harmonisation rarely achieved in any Dozey Lumps performance.

 

This is without a doubt, the single best recording of “Kevin’s House” in existence – and it’s a credit to all three players – Bryan and Dave are very tight, and Tom is nothing short of masterful, pushing the strings with masterful strokes, rolls and brilliant percussive interludes that totally enhance what Dave and Bryan are playing.

 

I am totally amazed by this performance, which is nearly flawless, and in particular by Tom Freeman’s contribution – what an experience.  This is “Kevin’s House” as it was meant to be.

 

It should be noted that this is a Bryan Helm compositions, one of his best, and I am so glad that it was included in the Luxury Yacht sessions and made it onto the album, a real highlight for me personally.

 

 

NO ONE EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION

 

Another classic Lumps piece, not the easiest to perform, and as seems to be the order of the day, begun and executed at a rather snappy tempo!

 

Beginning gently, with tambourine, cymbal and tom tom accompaniment from Tom Freeman, the piece starts innocuously enough, but when the quick section begins, all hell breaks loose, Tom fighting to stick with that very odd rhythm, Dozey Lumps songs were never meant to have other players on them, and contain rhythmic oddities that are simply very difficult to explain to anyone.

 

The two of us understood how the piece works, I certainly understood it since I wrote it, but it was not easy to “explain” to Tom, you know, “well, at this point – the tempo changes for one measure, and it’s also syncopated, then there is a section of four bars in no time – then the tempo doubles for the next 8 bars” – you can’t explain this piece in words too well.

 

We ran through it with him, wished him luck, and then we were away – and I think he does brilliantly on the track.  In fact, if you listen, starting at 1:12, how he copes with the bizarre section that we present to him – it’s a percussion miracle really.  A quick mind and hands!

 

Back to the slow beginning section again, Tom gaining confidence, dealing with yet another slow/stop scenario – another section in “no time” – and then, the final showdown – Bryan plays his descending riff, I come in with the flamenco chords – and Tom comes FLYING in, at 2:39, just blasting on the drums, pounding them and driving this final section PERFECTLY.

 

And then stepping back, and letting us end the piece in sync, two guitars – done.

 

 

LANGUID

 

One of Bryan Helm’s most stunningly beautiful songs, and one of the most amazing versions of it imaginable.

 

Bryan decided to make use of his Electro-Harmonix 16 second delay on the take, so we decided to perform this using a very different arrangement from the standard Dozey Lumps version.  I’ve never seen another guitarist work with a device the way Bryan does with his battered, nearly paintless delay – WHILE he is playing the song, he is reaching down with his hands, and making adjustments to the device, effecting the sound of the chord or the note he has just played!

 

So he would play a chord, and then…do something to it, anything, modulate it, bend it, slow it down, speed it up – you never knew what amazing sound would emerge from that little square metal box.  Electro-Harmonix gear was always innovative, always ahead of it’s time, and they had this 16 second delay device out on the market years before their competitors had a 1 second delay device out.

 

So Bryan starts us out, stereo right, with two very quiet, tentative bars, establishing the theme – but he ends up playing at least two roles:  the “straight man”, who is carrying the bulk of the responsibility for putting across the main structure of the piece, sticking with Tom, who is as solid as a rock on this piece; another remarkable Freeman performance – understated, total quality drumming - but also, Bryan takes on the role of crazy guitar/warp-guitar man, playing the most amazing, superwarped, superdelayed, supermodulated acoustic guitar ever heard on the planet.  Even I thought this piece was “strange” at the time, but listening to it now – I feel I was wrong, it’s simply exquisitely beautiful, not to mention utterly unique.

 

Meanwhile, Dave, stereo left, is playing volume pedal, ambient acoustic guitar – and I had never, ever played this piece in this manner – so it was utterly strange – and wonderful – to be allowed to create an ethereal, breathing piece of electronic acoustic guitar, that for each normal bar that Bryan played, I was able to bring in these shimmering, waving chords with my volume pedal, and I believe I am using a patch called Bright Detune, which really sounds wonderful with the volume pedal – the chords start out sounding one way, and end sounding a completely different way.

 

I had developed a technique, where you have the gain of your guitar quite high, and quite a bit of headroom on your amp as well, of using the volume pedal as a “swell pedal” that drove a solid, strong signal into a reverb or in this case, into the Bright Detune patch, with it’s lovely multi-tap delays that gave me the most wonderful tail-ends to my “swell pedal shimmering” sound – this technique was based on watching Allan Holdsworth play, he uses a similar idea in some of the tracks from his first few albums, where there are “ambient” guitar chords played over the track, and I had really liked the way it sounded – so I replicated it as well as I could with my, uh, slightly cheaper gear.

 

The first verse, despite the new arrangement – is quite normal.

 

You start to hear things going a bit strange, starting with me, as the end of the first verse approaches, and we move up the guitar neck – Tom stops – my guitar tails away on the left, and during that dual lead guitar break where the drums are silent – starting at 2:16, Bryan is playing it straight and my “swell pedal” is playing it strange.

 

Then – extraordinary things begin to happen.  First of all, Bryan’s guitar seems, on two or three occasions, to actually be feeding back, but at the same time, each time it makes this feedback-like sound, he grabs the controls of the Electro-Harmonix, and warps the sound into another dimension.

 

Verse two, is a completely different animal, and this is when the whole band begin to really stretch the piece, to innovate, and I find this to be most remarkable listening to it now.  First, Bryan brings into play his trademark “forced harmonics” and playing with the pick very, very near the bridge to get a really amazing, super thin super trebly sound – listen at 2:52 and again at 3:06, then, at 3:28, something truly remarkable occurs – his guitar appears to start to feedback, so he takes the opportunity to turn that apparent disadvantage to an advantage, and WARPS the feedback sound with his delay – thus rendering it both intentional and quite, quite beautiful.  A crazy, bent, flanged, delay, slowing down of time and space – followed by more exquisite forced harmonics, at which Bryan is a master…

 

And then, something else astonishing occurs, Bryan begins, at 3:49 to “chop” his chords – I follow with my volume pedal guitar – TOM follows with some perfect fills – then, Bryan alters the fabric of the space-time continuum once again – at 4:12, he SIMULTANEOUSLY changes the sound on his delay, now giving it a sort-of “slapback” effect, whilst at the same moment, playing some SUPER trebly picked notes a hair’s breadth away from the bridge – I’ve never heard an acoustic guitar, in a live performance, mutate through SO many remarkable, unique, and fascinating tones and effects – it’s really quite amazing to listen to.

 

Then the band sort of…pauses, Bryan’s guitar is bubbling away in this new sonic atmosphere, another amazing burst of feedback from his guitar at 4:40 is mysteriously PITCHED up for a moment at 4:45, which lifts the whole moment – another really beautiful live manipulation of the feedback, taking an accident and turning it into music – it’s genius!

 

At this point, Tom has nearly stopped playing, and is allowing us to have a little ambient section – which turns out really lovely – occasionally tiny, percussive accents from Tom – more ultra strange guitar tones, including a third beautiful feedback at 5:43, and a totally awesome Electro-Harmonix moment, a crazy sweep up 5:54 – beautiful – then amazing thin/treble bridge sounds, a very odd response from my guitar – and then, the two guitars fade together, perfectly, into silence.

 

“Languid” was a piece that the Dozey Lumps performed many, many times, it was one of the earliest pieces the band learned, but this performance, which features a brilliant drum and percussion performance from Tom Freeman, is a million light-years beyond ANY Dozey Lumps version.  This is like…”ambient science fiction swell volume pedal time warp bent bizarre experimental Languid” – an experiment, and we didn’t rehearse this at all with Tom, we just…PLAYED IT.  Like this. And a brand new “version” of the song, with different tempos, different sections, different approaches, different effects – was born.

 

Hearing it now just brings back so many wonderful memories, particularly of how wonderful it was to work with a guitarist of Bryan Helm’s calibre, and in this song, you can hear not only the sheer genius of an innovative, spontaneous and creative performance, but also the quality of composing – this is entirely Bryan’s song, I am just along for the ride.  And what a ride it was on that day!

 

“Languid” live is one of Luxury Yacht’s finest moments in my opinion – an unparalleled success.

 

 

NEVER A DUAL MOMENT

 

Sporting a radically altered beginning, strangely timed, strangely syncopated, choppy – and at a radically quick tempo – this familiar Lumps tune fairly flies out of the speakers at you, the pace is relentless (and nearly unmanageable – this piece is nigh impossible at regular tempo).

 

Tom absolutely rises to the challenge – this is another piece with a mind-boggling number of tempo changes and other surprises, and his drumming is remarkable in that, somehow, he stayed with us!

 

I love the frantic sound of Bryan’s guitar as it begins, stereo left, chopping the air as it climbs up to become a real chord, myself entering with the picked harmonics section – and then the bomb drops, Tom joins both of us for the mad, descending dissonant chords section, followed by the famous “whoop whoop whoop whoop” section that used to made Dozey Lumps audiences roar with laughter – I have NO IDEA why – Tom just driving along, using a tambourine somehow as he played the drums - propelling the piece into the stratosphere.  It was with a great sense of joy that Bryan and I slide those four famous, crazy notes up the our low A strings, watching Tom absolutely drive on the drums behind us – amazing.

 

The section directly after the whoop section – I have never, ever heard Bryan play this piece like this – he takes an ASTONISHINGLY powerful solo, stereo left – starting at 1:10 and flying on, at incredible speed, up to 1:23, then perfectly dropping back to play the bass riff, while I do my best to execute the bizarre descending/ascending chromatic run that was my particular cross to bear in this piece.  We both did well in this section – which wasn’t always the case when the Dozey Lumps played this very difficult piece.

 

I’d never imagined this piece with drums, and Tom adds an enormous amount to the arrangement – little triplets on the snare or tom as appropriate – switching between the on and off beat, always playing the appropriate thing, despite not being that familiar with the material.  Hats off to Freeman for another excellent performance, and I particularly like how the character of this piece is dramatically changed by the presence of the drum kit – it’s just awesome.  During the descending/ascending chromatic his presence is inspirational.

 

Then, another bizarre tempo change, and Tom changes tactics once again, opting for single crashes.  When the alternating chords/alternating harmonics section begins, he makes a really bold choice – moving into what is mostly a field of silence – he begins jazz freestyling, which takes the piece to a whole new place, giving this penultimate section a really cool vibe.

 

At a snappy 3:00 exactly, after the brilliant freestyle section, the whole band ends together atop a fantastic ending roll from Freeman.

 

 

CUTTING DOWN TREES

 

Another candidate for the question “is this version perhaps better than the ‘real’ version of the Dozey Lumps album?” It’s difficult to say.

 

This arrangement is incredible, with very heavy drums from Mr. Freeman, and a strong showing from the two guitarists, who drive this remarkable Bryan Helm piece along at a blazing pace, while Tom bashes, smashes and trashes every drum, cymbal and percussive device at his disposal in support.

 

You can tell that this is a “late model” version of Cutting Down Trees, originally, it didn’t feature the short riff trade-off that you hear in this version as the very beginning of the song – with fantastic, perfect, answering cymbal bells from Tom.  After that brief exchange, with Bryan and Dave starting out on their own playing the unison riff, the band ploughs into verse one, which is the “standard” one, where we play the riff in unison, Tom, coming in on the second half of the verse, playing some very complex and innovative fills, powering up his kit  as we climb up for the first ascending climax.

 

Verse two is where the guitar harmonies come in – Bryan plays the constant, basic riff, on all six verses, like a human metronome, whereas I add progressively more and more harmonies, reversals, and harmony reversals, gradually making the basic riff sound stranger and stranger as it moves along.

 

Verse three is even weirder, with my part going every which way, and Bryan, ticking over like a wound up clock. Now the dissonance reaches the “very annoying” stage, but I love it, and Tom is rocking along like mad, bringing us to the alternately loud and hushed bridge.

 

That bridge, or middle section, quiets the band down momentarily, but as we re-enter the fray for verse four, immediately following the bridge, Freeman displays some awesome chops, as Bryan and Dave valiantly fight to keep the World’s Most Difficult Riff together.

 

Verse five features a distorted solo from Dave, stereo right, which is unfortunately a little bit lost in the mix – this is live, after all, but I manage some lovely descending glissandos, and Tom syncopates right along with me – and this ascent is word perfect – all three of us, perfect, on the way up, stop, I play the “screaming chord” on my own and then…

 

…the whole band returns with an awesome, crushing power, for a crashing romp through the sixth and final verse – and then – final ascent up, – and then that amazing jump down to that final low C# - and cut.

 

This is very probably one of those that I would vote that the Luxury Yacht version is more powerful and more accurate than the original version on “One Lump Or Two?” by the Dozey Lumps.  This is a piece that was ALWAYS difficult to perform, but occasionally, we played it quite well.  This is one of those occasions.

 

 

CRAFTY TRAILS

 

One of the most unusual pieces in the Dozey Lumps canon, and the perfect piece to end the album with, “Crafty Trails” is based entirely around the number 17.

 

Seventeen pairs of opening riff; seventeen random chords; a returning/bridge figure that adds up to seventeen events; and another seventeen pairs of exit riffs.  

 

This version though again, has an utterly unique and different beginning, which does not appear on any other recorded version – Bryan and I begin the piece by each playing a difference “Hendrix” two-note riff while Tom does a cymbal roll ending in a crash.

 

Then that insane, strange, bendy riff begins, in stereo, and Tom carefully follows along, ending perfectly at the beginning of the “ambient chord section”.  This is just a series of random chords, that Bryan and I “make up” each time – we NEVER know what they will sound like – and Tom does brilliantly, first, filling the space between; then, synchronising with us for a few of the chords with perfectly coordinated drum and cymbal smashes; then, starting a seductive, awesome beat for the last few chords – and when we get to the seventeenth chord, a brilliant fill using those tiny cymbals and tambourine again.

 

The bridge is next, and it’s an excellent one – Bryan and I are spot on, and Tom, after a brief cruise on those ride cymbals, smacks a low tom tom at just the right moment to end this very short segment.

 

Then the last seventeen outro, exit riff pairs follow, but Tom, after a rollicking start with a thumping bass drum part, suddenly starts building the tempo until it really reaches an unplayable speed just about at the same time the song is due to end, which it does, this time with a bang from the snare.  “Crafty Trails” is another example of a sharp, up-tempo, snappy, 2:30 piece of rocking electro-acoustic music.

 

Wham – a perfectly executed and alternative version of a Dozey Lumps classic – personally, I think this version of “Crafty Trails” is absolutely excellent – and, it’s a most innovative arrangement and performance – and an excellent way to say farewell to Luxury Yacht – who never played together again.

 

 

____________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

For me, this project is really just an amazing bonus – the Dozey Lumps, and the Bindlestiff, made an enormous amount of very high quality music that obviously means a lot to me, since I personally made every recording, did every mix, mastered every disc, did all the artwork and CD production myself – I would have been happy with those two catalogues – and my own solo catalogue.

 

But the Dozey Lumps did have the odd admirer, and Tom Freeman had actually asked the band if we could do a session together, which was very flattering for us, to have one of Frank Zappa’s drummers say “hey, Dozey Lumps, I like your stuff and I want to play drums with you, let’s make a record” – that was so unexpected and so cool.

 

So along with the three main musical outputs of the period 1980-1995, The Dozey Lumps, Bindlestiff, and Dave Stafford – I was able to add in side projects such as this, and also in my case Saffron Matted Voids, which is really just icing on the cake as it were.

 

I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with both Bryan Helm and Tom Freeman on this most unusual, but ultimately very satisfying project.  Luxury Yacht, in their brief, fiery-comet existence – rocked.

 

 

 

 

To hear the original acoustic duo versions of these songs, please see the entry for “One Lump Or Two?” by The Dozey Lumps.

 

Luxury Yacht disbanded immediately and never made another record.

notes from the guitarist’s seat:

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