Classic Scottish Albums - Capercaillie's Delirium
I first met Donald Shaw and Karen Matheson of Capercaillie in April 1992 at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. The occasion was a benefit for a community recording studio in Drumchapel hosted by Ricky Ross featuring mony a braw chanter, among them Gary Clark (the campaign for CSA: Danny Wilson starts here, no?) and Lulu. It is written in the Book Of Scottish Pop Music that ones first exposure to the pipes of Karen Matheson tends to the heart stopping and so it was that evening for your correspondent and I well remember standing transfixed in the wings.
When I finally got my hands on a copy of the album Delirium it seemed pretty clear that a real musical shape shifter had been born; it's interesting to hear in our programme just how much dedicated effort went into making that leap into new musical territory. It certainly leapt into my territory in fact for a significant period my kitchen in Garnethill became a kind of sensory pod of odd green plastic surfaces, seriously loud Northern soul from the downstairs neighbours and Northern soul of different kind on my wee cassette player. I floated round the horseshoe breakfast bar, newly in touch with something, anything, being floaty and Celtic and imagining I knew what they were on about. Oh, and just knocked out by that thrilling, transporting music.
The worlds of Capercaillie and my own group became loosely entwined for a while with various musical collaborations and ultimately a shared office, run by our mutual manager the late Lindsay Chapman. The world of Scottish Pop Music is inhabited by big colourful characters, strange wee characters, grafters, slackers, drummers who don't drive, quasi-military sound engineers, insert cliché here. It is also inhabited by those whose role in life seems as much about making people feel great, and excited about music and its possibilities, and loved and valued as much as anything else. Ex-Simple Minds manager Bruce Findlay is one of them. Lindsay Chapman was another - so please let me momentarily indulge myself and dedicate my part of Classic Scottish Albums: Delirium to my old pal with love and thanks...
Back to the heart stopping voice of the divine Ms M: I was swiftly disavowed of any notion that the environs of the Glasgow Concert Hall or the use of shiny digital reverbs had added smoke and mirrors to that wonderful sound when she came along to our studio in Glasgow to sing on the Pearlfishers' 1993 album Za Za's Garden. In the middle of industrial Yorkhill Quay, in an old red brick building that had been The Recovery Room for ailing dockers, with mould growing out of abandoned mugs, feet sticking to 1970's carpets, live wires trailing out of electricity meters, microphones and speakers that kind of worked, manky old couches and an atmosphere that can be adequately described as mingin' she opened her mouth and laid a harmony on our song You Want Love that had Brian McAlpine, myself and Karen's husband Donald shaking our heads in disbelief. You just can't beat natural, God given talent.
Capercaillie have gone on collectively and individually to create an astonishing legacy of Scottish music and culture; Delirium remains the piece where it all came right. A cool wee curve ball for you next week folks.