Week of November 30, 2008

Mellow Candle

Frank Boylan - Bass
William Murray - Drums
Clodagh Simonds - Vocals, Keyboards
Alison Williams - Vocals
David Williams - Guitar, Vocals

Swaddling Songs (Deram SDL 7) 1972, (Zen ZN 001) - Italy
CD: See For Miles SEECD 404, 1994.

Feeling High/Tea With The Sun (SNB 55-3645) 1968
Dan The Wing/Silversong (Deram DM 357) 1972

From Dublin, Ireland, Mellow Candle specialised in imaginative psychedelic folk, with two excellent female singers. At the time they recorded their first 45, Clodagh Simonds was just 15, and "Feeling High", despite being distributed by CBS failed to create much impact. The SNB label disappeared soon afterwards, and it wasn't until the 18th April 1971 that they signed to Decca's Deram label with a new bassist Frank Boylan from the Dublin beat group The Creatures and Glaswegian drummer William Murray also added to give a more solid rock sound.

Relocating to London, "Swaddling Songs" was recorded at Decca's studios in Tollington Park and the band then settled in Hampstead, making only occasional trips back to Ireland.

The sheer quality of their performance on "Swaddling Songs" makes it perplexing that the band did't get more recognition at the time. Originals now command a price from GBP350 upwards and it is the most expensive album on Deram. Less fragile than Trees and more mystical than Fairport, the sound is full of surprises and the songs are strong. Lyrically much revolves around loneliness, not in a self-pitying way, but rather accepted as one of the facts of life. Consolation is exclusively found in nature and in the presumption that something 'beyond' must be existing:

Lonely man living all alone
dreads the day whose dawn will find him cold
lonely man doesn't see the millions
waiting for their answer from the sky
(from "Lonely Man")

A single from the album, "Dan The Wing", sold equally poorly, despite getting a favourable press reaction and airplay on Radio Luxembourg and Manx Radio. Despite largely favourable reviews their album and second single made little impact. They gigged with Lindisfarne and Steeleye Span, but they left Deram and Ted Carroll's management and shortly after Frank Boylan left the band to be replaced by Steve Borrill (ex-Spirogyra).

They then changed their name to Grace Before Space and tours of Holland were planned, but they split up in the Summer of 1973 before this came to fruition.

David and Alison Williams headed for South Africa to play the folk circuit and also played on a South African album by Flibbertigibbet entitled "Whistling Jigs To The Moon"; this was issued privately in 1978, and has been reissued on CD (Kissing Spell KSCD 9510-F) 1995. David Williams became head of light music with the South African Broadcasting Corporation in Capetown and also works as a record producer. Alison Williams currently lives in Brussels and under the name Alison O'Donnell performs "contemporary and traditional music" mostly in an Irish style with her band Eishtlinn.

After Mellow Candle split, Clodagh Simons worked with Mike Oldfield and Jade Warrior before relocating to New York where she studied music. She later returned to Ireland and also sang on Thin Lizzy's "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage" album. William Murray went on to play with Richard and Linda Thompson's Sour Grapes band and also toured with Sandy Denny. He, too, then headed for the States, where he formed The Same with Clodagh Simonds, performing on a Thursday night residency at New York's famous CBGB's club. Murray sadly died in Dublin on 30th August 1998.

Compilation appearances have included: "Dan The Wing" on "Progressive Pop Inside The Seventies" (CD); "Sheep Season" on "The History Of U.K. Underground Folk Rock 1968-1978 Vol.1" (CD); "Silver Song" on "The History Of U.K. Underground Folk Rock 1968-1978 Vol.2" (CD); "Heaven Heath" on "Legends Of Ireland" (Rhino Records).

Fans of the band will also be interested in "The Virgin Prophet" (Erewhon KSCD 9520) 1995, which contains early unreleased songs and songs which were later re-recorded for "Swaddling Songs" and "My Lagan Love" (CD) which includes further rare and live performances. "Virgin Prophet" has also been issued on LP (Kissing Spell KSF 004).

(Marcel Koopman / Vernon Joynson)

Taken from The Tapestry of Delights - The Comprehensive Guide to British Music of the Beat, R&B, Psychedelic and Progressive Eras 1963-1976, Vernon Joynson ISBN 1 899855 04 1

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