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      HARBOUR KINGS BY JEREMY GLUCK

Summercolts (Fire)
The Big Kahuna (Fire)

I first met the embryonic Harbour Kings as Rollin’ Thunder when I was at Porky’s in Oxford Circus mastering “I Knew Buffalo Bill”. I can’t remember if I had heard their album “Howl” yet or not but they were memorably sweet, leader Ian Erics in particular affecting in his earnest, intelligent yet self-conscious extroversion. We chewed the fat and pledged to keep in touch.

Calling your band Rollin’ Thunder, and your first and, as it transpired, last album “Howl” is to not hide your love. Copping from Dylan and Ginsberg respectively, the raw, hungry and almost ready Sheffielders responsible debuted on Flicknife Records in 1986, inside the budget sleeve characteristic of true believer Frenchy Gloder’s haphazard, brilliant label that, amongst others including myself, brought us Nikki  Sudden’s initial solo outpouring and a heap of Hawkwind, whose old tapes canny Frenchy bought cheap and would release with abandon over several years.

Upon its release I reviewed “Howl” for SOUNDS, praising its sweeping opener, “Atlantic to Pacific” and other tracks like “Pinks and Greens” (about the garish Giro’s of the day). It sold little, but the band – basically Erics and fellow core members Ian and Robert Brown (no relation? I don’t recall) - persevered, changing their name eventually to The Harbour Kings, signing to Fire Records and attracting the attention and approval of Dan Stuart of Green on Red, whose garrulous banter gave them the name of their final album, “The Big Kahuna” (1992).

I got to know the band pretty well, going to Sheffield once to interview Ian Erics, recording demos with the band for a planned sequel to “I Knew Buffalo Bill” (the tracks in question, “The Old Man’s Dream” and “Prayer of a Gunman” appear on the 2006 CD reissue of the album), and hanging out London when they would come down to play.  Fire’s Clive Solomon loved the Kings and with the “Summercolts” EP(1990) and climactic “The Big Kahuna” – both recorded at Sheffield’s Axis Studios, owned by Comsat Angel Kevin Bacon, something of a mentor to the Kings – it was obvious that they were on a roll, making heavyweight rock. At this considerable remove – this material dates back nearly twenty years now – songs like “Tattoo” and “Grassfires“  sound aged not at all, the band’s sleepy, righteous and gifted management of their influences and inspiration impressive more now than ever.

The almost complete disappearance of The Harbour Kings has lately been a little thwarted by Fire’s reissue of their last two recordings, but it seems that apart from the usual signifiers of marginal mooring in the collective memory  – a Japanese blog, a GEMM listing, a few eBay honourable auctions -  they will be as much as lost. Listening to “Summercolts” “Tattoo” – maybe my favourite of their songs – it astounds me how beautiful it is, reverberating with Erics’ breathy, emotional vocal delivery and a battery of guitars ranged precisely, firing for effect right into your heart. “The Big Kahuna” was to be the irresistible one, produced by Canadian Cowboy Junkies pioneer Peter Moore, and in songs like “Dashboard Sun” and especially the overwhelming “Deep October” they built a sound the likes of which U2 claim but which actually eludes them: this is music innocent and intent to the point of abjectness.

One of the great Northern bands and one of a few British bands in the last two decades to do something interesting and real with their fixation on America, The Harbour Kings warrant not just investigation but revival. I remember with affection Ian Eric’s excitement in the big build-up to the release of “The Big Kahuna” that promised a break so deserved and elusive and which in the end never came. The last time we spoke, when I was once again hoping to write with him, he had for a long time been working construction, feeding his family, his guitar gathering dust.  “When you realise your soul never leaves the place you’re born…” Oh, yes.

Jeremy Gluck 19/05/10
Myspace http://www.myspace.com/jsgluck

Listen to the tracks below:

Tattoo www.filefreak.com/files/171305_iu3gr/tattoo.mp3

Grassfires www.filefreak.com/files/171306_p0o9s/grassfires.mp3

Forsyth County www.filefreak.com/files/171307_oxlzm/forsyth%20county.mp3

Rollin Thunder - Howl

Label:

Flicknife Records

Catalog#:

SHARP 039

Format:

Vinyl, LP

Country:

UK

Released:

1987

Genre:

Rock

Style:

Alternative Rock

Credits:

Drums, Percussion - Ian Brown (5)
Guitar - Robert Brown (11)
Guitar, Bass - Nick Styran
Keyboards - Andy Peake
Piano - Jon Quarmby*
Producer - Kevin Bacon
Saxophone - Simon Crump
Vocals, Guitar - Ian Erics

Harbour Kings* - Summercolts

Label:

Fire Records

Catalog#:

FIRE LP25

Format:

Vinyl, 12", Mini-Album

Country:

UK

Released:

1990

Genre:

Rock

Style:

Indie Rock

Credits:

Bass - Ian Erics , Nick Styran
Drums - Ian Brown (5)
Engineer - Dave Revill*
Guitar - Ian Erics , Nick Styran , Robert Brown (11)
Mixed By - Dave Revill* (tracks: B4) , Kevin Bacon (tracks: A1)
Photography [Back Cover Photo] - Tracey Holland
Photography [Front Cover Photo] - Simon Crump
Producer - Harbour. K.* (tracks: A2 to B4) , Kevin Bacon (tracks: A1)
Remix - Phil Vinall
Vocals - Ian Erics
Written-By - Brown* , Erics* , Brown*

Notes:

"Debut Mini Album" sticker on front of sleeve.
Recorded at Axis Studios, Sheffield.
Original sound recording made by Fire of London.
Published by Twist And Shout Music
Made in England
© ℗ 1990 Fire Records

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