Friday, 16 July 2010

What goes around, etc.


Ramases (pictured, not at his best) first came to public prominence in 1279 bc when he became the third Egyptian pharaoh of the Nineteenth dynasty. Incredibly popular with his people, he ruled for an astonishing 66 years, fathered around a hundred children and lived until the age of 90, a fair accomplishment now, an amazing one in pre-history where the simplest of ailments could kill you. He eventually died of toothache and arthritis in 1213 bc.

Three thousand and fifteen years later, he was reincarnated in Sheffield as Martin Raphael. Oblivious to his illustrious past for thirty years, Raphael was a successful central heating salesman until one mind-bending day when his former self appeared to him in a vision and gave him his true identity and mission on Earth. As this was the late nineteen sixties, Ramases (as he now called himself) decided to use the medium of song to spread the word.

Ramases recorded some early singles with his wife, Dorothy, who changed her name to Selket (to Dot’s credit, she was always one hundred percent supportive of her husband’s claims, no matter how outrĂ©) but it wasn’t until he was signed to Vertigo Records that things started to happen for him.

‘Space Hymns’ (1971) was recorded at Strawberry Studios in Stockport with production and arrangements from the four founder members of 10cc and is an odd but extremely interesting pop record. Full of repetitive, insistent melodies and circular lyrics, it occasionally sounds like the work of cosmic buskers and, ultimately, fails in its over-arching ambition by not revealing any secrets of the universe or, indeed, a single glimpse of a coherent philosophy other than some stuff about dying swans . It has its moments, however. 'Quasar One' has nasal vocals and a hypnotic, Eastern sound; 'Earth People' is a wispy ballad with some nice backwards flute and an insistent question that, in the spirit of the LP, remains unanswered; 'Balloon' is a pretty good pop song which benefits from the vocal and musical talents of Messrs Stewart, Gouldman, Godley and Creme and has a great, sudden ending.

‘Glass Top Coffin’ was released four years later, after a relocation to Felixstowe. Despite being more song focused than the debut album it was a resounding failure and led to Ramases completely withdrawing from the music world. Even so, there are moments of great beauty on this record, not least the opening track ‘Golden Landing’ that sounds a little like a ‘Wizard Of Oz’ outtake and once unexpectedly brought a tear to my eye on a busy bus as I listened to it on my mp3 player. The title track also impresses with a rocky arrangement and a uncharacteristically aggressive vocal from the normally soft spoken Ramases. I'll bet Bobby Conn has heard this.

Sadly, a disillusioned Ramases committed suicide in 1978 but, if we're lucky, he should be back in 4997 ad.

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