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An Apple a Day: Mary Hopkin - Earth Song/Ocean Song
by Bruce Spizer
Today in our An Apple a Day series we take a look at Mary Hopkin's second Apple album, "Earth Song/Ocean Song," a radical departure from her debut Apple LP, "Post Card."
Mary's first effort for the label was a Paul McCartney production in every sense of the word. Paul selected the songs and worked out the arrangements. He even designed the cover and had future wife Linda take the photographs. It was a reflection of Paul's musical tastes, combining folk music with standards and show tunes. While Mary performed admirably, one got the feeling that Paul could have done the same album with another female singer and achieved similar results.
When Paul grew disenchanted with Apple, he stopped working with Apple artists. The company needed to find another producer for Mary. Tony Visconti was brought in to produce a re-recording of "Sparrow" with Mary singing in her native Welsh. Because Mary did not discuss the session with Apple, the company assumed that she did not like Visconti and lined up another producer, Mickie Most.
Her next Apple singles, both released in 1970, were the Mickie Most productions "Temma Harbour," a breezy pop tune with a Caribbean feel, complete with steel drums, and "Knock Knock Who's There," which was reminiscent of Paul's work with Mary. Although "Temma Harbour" was a U.S. and U.K. hit and "Knock Knock Who's There" got to number two on the U.K. charts (it wasn't issued in the U.S.), neither song was the type of music Hopkin wanted to record. (They are not included as bonus tracks on either of the new Apple remasters, but will be issued on the Mary Hopkin best of collection "Those Were The Days" if Apple decides to issue more remasters.).
In May of 1971, Mary was once again paired with Visconti to record an album at George Martin's AIR Studios in London. The album would be named "Earth Song/Ocean Song" and would be released on November 3, 1971. Although it received favorable reviews, it was largely ignored.
The first song recorded for the album was "International," with its message of the need for countries to open up their borders to other cultures. As the two began working out plans for the album, the focus shifted to Mary's desire to record folk songs. Visconti presented her with over a hundred demos from Westminster Music's folk catalog from which Mary selected the songs she wished to record. During the project the two grew closer, fell in love and were married by the end of the year.
While rooted in folk, the arrangements expand well beyond acoustic guitar. Visconti recruited folk-rock musicians and brought in the Pops Arts String Quartet. The songs are richly textured without being overproduced.
"There's Got To Be More" is an up-tempo song with a message of thinking deeper. "How Come The Sun" is a beautiful song written by Tom Paxton and David Horowitz. "The Wind" was written by Cat Stevens and appeared on his "Tea For The Tillerman" album. One truly believes Mary when she sings "I let my music take me where my heart wants to go."
"Water, Paper And Clay" starts with Mary's solo vocal, but builds into an anthem with strong backing vocals and a strong instrumental backing. Mary played harmonium on the track. "Streets Of London" is another outstanding track with a memorable storyline and melody. A single pairing these songs was released from the album on December 1, 1971, but did not chart.
Both sides of the vinyl LP ended with songs written by Liz Thorsen. "Earth Song" and "Ocean Song" would also form the title of the album. Both songs are beautifully performed by Mary and are among the album's finest.
The bonus tracks are "Kew Gardens," "When I Am Old One Day" and "Let My Name Be Sorrow."
As "Earth Song/Ocean Song" and the single from the LP failed to chart, many people are not familiar with it. While the remaster of "Post Card" has her two best known songs, "Those Were The Days" and "Goodbye," "Earth Song/Ocean Song" is a more cohesive and even listening experience full of wonderful performances that showcase Mary Hopkin's beautiful voice. If you enjoy well-textured folk songs, you will not be disappointed with this album. It's a side of Mary Hopkin that was only hinted at on her recordings with Paul.
Additional information about the artists who recorded for Apple Records can be found in Bruce Spizer's book "The Beatles Solo on Apple Records." Bruce Spizer is the author of a series of critically acclaimed books on the Beatles American record releases. He also wrote "The Beatles Are Coming! The Birth of Beatlemania in America," which is the definitive book on the subject. He served as editor and publisher of "Price Guide for the Beatles American Records," which was written by Perry Cox and Frank Daniels. Bruce is currently working with Frank Daniels on a new book covering the Beatles U.K. record releases from the sixties titled "Beatles For Sale on Parlophone Records." He has served as a consultant for EMI/Capitol Records on Beatles projects. Information regarding his books can be found at his website www.beatle.net.
Published December 2, 2010
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