Monday, June 09, 2008

Ritchie Pickett - The Right Note Column

I Wish I Wrote That
(Every week I include an excerpt of some of my favourite lyrics )

Nickis' Song
Ritchie Pickett - From the Album "All Strung Out In A Bunch"

Over the anvil of mistakes
The beatings I have taken
In the name of love
And some of the places I've found hate
where warmth once used to flow
It can chill you to the bone
If not for you
I dont know what I'd do
You pick me up each time I slip behind - I never thought I'd find
A woman who would listen, who would think
when all she'd hear was drink
As the devil took my tongue
And If I had to pay you back in kind
I would disappear and you would find
You're too good to be true . . .

In 1983 what is regarded by some as the best country album ever produced in New Zealand was recorded at Stebbings recording studio in Auckland, featuring two of Tauranga’s most respected musicians - Ritchie Pickett, who although originally from Morrinsville, was living here at the time, and Kevin Coleman.

The album is entitled “Gone For Water,” and in 2008 is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its release.

This album is an interesting milestone in local and national regard for several reasons apart from the staggering playing and songwriting talents therein.

The band comprised of Ritchie Pickett on Piano and vocals (and guitar on one track), Noel Lamberton on drums. Kevin Coleman on Guitar, Dave maybee on Guitar, and Jimmie Wallace Jnr on Bass.

Ritchie of course needs no introduction to anybody that has spent any time in any of the watering holes around New Zealand, or sitting in front of the TV during the 1980’s, as he was a regular performer and breath of fresh air on the popular TV show “That’s Country.”

Kevin Coleman is a multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist and although he has not played for about 10 years is even today highly sought-after and pestered by local bands and musicians (myself included) who would be only too happy for him to play almost “any instrument” in their band from bass, lead or rhythm guitar, or piano!

Anyway. The other reasons this album is remarkable is that it was produced by Ray Columbus (not that Ray did a remarkable “job” of the production!)

Ray, through his extensive experience and contacts in the industry managed to swing some finance for the album, and also to get sponsorship from none other than Jim Beam (hence the pic on the back cover of the guys swigging back a glass of the sponsors product, and a half empty bottle on the table)which happens to have been taken by a good friend of mine - also from Tauranga - who sadly died a few years ago now by the name of Roger Jarrett.

This was a major coup by Ray, as they were only the 2nd band in the world to be sponsored by Jim Beam - the other at the time being country music legend Hank Williams Jnr.
Gone for Water was the guinea-pig album for the very first digital studio in New Zealand.

Unfortunately this was not such a good thing, as digital THEN is not what it is NOW, and consequently the sound of this album suffered extensively.
One reviewer was known to have commented that it should be turned up as loud as possible. And then you should walk out of the room, and listen to it from the room next-door!

This unfortunate problem with the production in no way reflects on the staggering passion and delivery of Ritchies songwriting and vocals.

I have an original mint condition LP, and on listening critically to it, must say that I am not of the same opinion, but then again I must admit to a predilection or fondness to the pretty scarce recorded works of Mr Pickett.

I recall at one of Ritchies gigs, some unfortunate out-of-towner, who, unaware of Mr Picketts legendary sharp tongue, started heckling him, and called him a rather vulgar name which I shall not repeat. Ritchie instantly spat back a retort, which was “if you are going to say (the word), then say it like you WANT one, and not like you’ve GOT one!

This attitude perfectly describes Ritchies vocal style! To witness him pound the keys and sing and spit out lyrics with such passion and vehemence gives me goosebumps.

I have been told that the band actually recorded a demo for a follow-up album during the same sessions, and apparently this is even better than Gone For Water! And the good news is that it is believed that Stebbings actually still have the tapes. What a treasure that would be if that ever got released.

One of my favourite albums of all time happens to be an album Ritchie released in about 1996/7 entitled “All strung out in a bunch.”

It was recorded by Zed Brookes at the Zoo studio in Hamilton, and released by Nigel masters at The Boatshed studio in Whakamaramara.

Ritchie was unable to secure a release deal with a label at the time, and approached Nigel, who was in the process of trying to up the profile of his studio at the time, and who willingly obliged.

To my mind, this album has to be one of “the” most undestimated, and un-recognised albums in New Zealand music history!

It is a masterful piece of songwriting and performance, and if there is anybody anywhere in the world that can deliver a lyric better than several examples on this album, then I have yet to hear them, and I say this with the utmost sincerity.

My favourites are the heartbreaking, anti-love song “I wanna Stop,” co-written with Simon Lynch, and which features a sax solo by Walter Bianco (something Walter informs me was recorded in just one take!), and which is so appropriate in tone and emotion, that it makes me shivver every time I hear it;

“Nickis Song” which appears to be of an autobiographical nature concerning some bad behaviour and the regrets he has for hurting somebody who had been pretty special to him, and “3am Hamilton Sunday Morning,” where his lyrics are so descriptive of the scene and the occasion that you almost feel yourself stagger in the drunken stupour of the character, and shiver in the fog and the cold!

The only song not penned by Pickett is entitled "The First Rule of Love," on which Ritchie's vocal delivery is at its most vitriolic, and countered with the clashing Telecaster (I can tell!) of Ian Jefferies, and the Blood-chilling sax solo make this song particularly chilling

If this album had been released by anybody across the Atlantic, they would be living in comfort and rolling in the accolades, but it wasn’t.

This incredible album flew way under the radar, and was picked up by a very lucky few - and more’s the pity!

This album is unfortunately out of stock as only a very limited number was originally released, but if enough interest was shown, I am sure a re-pressing would be on the cards.

Anybody interested in this exceptional locally produced album, please contact me and we’ll see what can be arranged.


Blogger Adele said...

I'm one of the lucky ones to have the cd "All Strung Out in a Bunch" and I love every song on it - even the phantom song at the end, which took me by surprise the first time I heard it. My cd is now rather worn from all the playing over the years and now that I live in Canada I treasure any piece of NZ music I listen to. NZ has a music culture all of its own with its own distinctive flavour that is not heard anywhere else in the world. It is a damn shame that the kiwi artists from yesterday and today are not taken seriously in the international market.
Adele Dewar, BC. Canada

9:42 am  
Anonymous tomahawk Kid said...

Thanks for the comment Adele, and there you go ladies and gentlemen - straight from the horses mouth (not that I'm saying Adele is a horse - of course!)
Enough interest WAS shown after this article was published, and the album has since been re-released - copies are available from ME - all proceeds given straight back to the artist - Mr Pickett.

AND what is more, Gone For Water is being re-released, including some of the other tracks that were recorded at the time, so this is a REAL BONUS - Awesome.
Glad you like "all strung out in a bunch" as much as I do.

4:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dammit, Ritchie's dead. I can think of so many other people who should be in his place. He was brilliant live, absolutely hilarious and a wonderful musician. RIP Wicket Pickett

6:08 pm  

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