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Songs From the Mirror was originally released on Polydor Records in 1993. This definitive deluxe version of the album was put together in 2017 and completely remastered by Calum Malcolm. Delivered in a hardback book with photos and illustrations from Keith McIntyre, designed by Mark Wilkinson it also contains 10 000 words of sleeve notes by Fish with comments from original album producer James Cassidy. This version has 2 CD’s, the first the remastered album plus extra tracks ‘Time and a Word (with Steve Howe ‘Yes’), ‘The Seeker’ and ‘Caledonia ‘with Ted McKenna, Hugh McKenna and Zal Cleminson from the ‘Sensational Alex Harvey Band’ and Brian Robertson (Thin Lizzy). Ted, Hugh and Zal also perform ‘Boston Tea Party’ with Fish on the cover version of the SAHB’s original song featured on the second CD together with demos and live performances including 5 cover versions taken from the famous ‘Sushi’ concert at the Vredenberg Hall in Utrecht in 1993.
The DVD that makes up the third disc of the remastered version has a 90-minute interview with Fish on track choices and anecdotes from 1993-94 as well as ‘Hold Your Head Up’ promotional video, ‘Solo’ live from Cropredy festival 2015 with Fairport Convention and concert footage of ‘Fearless’, ‘Boston Tea Party’, ‘Hold Your Head Up’, Jeepster’, ‘and 5 Years’ from the ‘Sushi’ show at Vredenberg Hall Utrecht 1993 all redubbed with remastered audio.
The tour supporting his second solo album ‘Internal Exile’ album effectively came to an end at Edinburgh Playhouse on December 31st 1991 at Edinburgh Playhouse and was captured on a recording that would eventually be released as the ‘official bootleg’, ‘For Whom the Bells Toll’. His second solo album had only been released in October and after only 36 shows across the UK and Europe Polydor were asking for the next album. Fish wanted to continue touring but promoters were unwilling to provide shows as the record company were making it clear that they were unwilling to support and provide more promotion. After months of wrangling over a further single ‘Something in the Air’ was released on June 22nd but with no push from Polydor it disappeared without trace. (Tom Petty would have a radio hit in the US with the song in 1993)
1992 had started badly with the death from a long-term battle with cancer in January of one of his closest friends and tour manager Andy Field. Andy had been the ‘Marillion’ tour manager since the beginning and had resigned from the band’s operations to join Fish after he left. Andy was co-managing Fish with John Cavanagh, another old friend from his days at EMI and who was then working as a music industry consultant. John’s background was record industry and he had worked at head of department positions at EMI across the board. They had been with Fish since he went solo in 1988 and were managing him throughout the ‘Vigil’ project and the expensive and crippling legal confrontation with EMI over Fish’s record contract. It was eventually settled around April 1991 at the same time as the contest with ‘Marillion’ which ended up with a similar eye watering legal bill and a tax liability to boot.
The advances from Polydor on signing his 2-album licensing deal after Fish/ Polydor bought his way out from the EMI contract were quickly soaked up and his debt to the company was hard to ignore for everyone concerned. Changes at managing director level didn’t help matters and Fish was getting caught up in company politics. Agendas were changing, personnel were shifting and Fish like his former fellow stable mates at EMI, ‘Talk Talk’ were not convinced by their new label. David Munns had been in senior positions at EMI before moving to Polygram in 1987 where he became managing director. He was a good friend of both Fish and John Cavanagh, with whom he had a long-term working relationship at EMI. It was David who convinced them in to move across to Polydor where they were reinvigorating the label and wanted to sign recognised album acts. In 1991 David was now moving to a senior vice president position at Polygram and had appointed Jimmy Devlin, another former EMI employee as Managing director. Jimmy may have been MD but it felt like David was still pulling all the strings. He wasn’t one to allow personal relationships to cloud decisions and both John Cavanagh and Fish were finding it difficult as ‘Internal Exile’ had not provided the returns anyone had hoped for.
With the huge loss of Andy Field, the label demanding a new studio album, no touring income, and finances well adrift these were extremely tough and demanding times.. John’s working relationship with David Munns had become difficult and Jimmy Devlin, although again a good friend from EMI days was listening to the words from ‘upstairs’ and they were concerned about the huge deficit on Fish’s account. Jimmy was told to reel it in and that meant another new album to be released as soon as it could be written and recorded.
Fish wasn’t ready. There was nothing left over from the ‘Internal Exile’ sessions and having dealt with the incredible stress and emotion dealing with the 2 major legal affairs, building his own recording studio, becoming a father in January 91 to his daughter Tara, and then working an album project that hadn’t quite delivered on every level, his creative energies were drained.
Fish’s only option was to try and earn money from touring small venues across Scotland and North England as he tried to keep a band together to write with. This tour was known as the ‘Toile tour’, the name coming from the cheap material used to create a mock up for an expensive piece of clothing. By mid-1992 Fish had elected to call the next album ‘Suits’ and it was inspired by his dealings with big business both in the music industry and beyond.
It was a long slow process and despite having his own studio, which had crippling loans attached, he still had to pay the musicians and all the sundry costs of writing sessions. Polydor refused any further advances and with the gig revenue not generous to pay commissions to John Cavanagh it was now impossible to maintain his management full time. John took on outside management consultancy work to help pay the bills.
Fish had been discussing a cover album with John as a filler between ‘Internal Exile’ and the next studio album. John wasn’t convinced and neither was Graham Carpenter, the head of A&R at Polydor who had now become the intermediary between the label and Fish. The thinking was that if Polydor paid for the studio hire and session fees Fish could keep the band together to forge on with the new writing. Studio loans would be paid, taking some pressure off and with the new release there could be a touring element that would again provide funds to keep everything afloat. During that period Fish would continue writing ‘Suits’ for a swift follow up to the covers album. All Polydor had to do was add another album to the existing contract which Fish was willing to go for. He may have been disgruntled with Polydor, but his financial situation was becoming perilous.
An EP was suggested by Polydor instead of a full album and John was open to that option as a compromise. There was a last-ditch attempt in a meeting with both David Munns and Jimmy Devlin to find the middle ground, but it ended with all parties at loggerheads. The company were entirely dismissive of any sort of support and urged Fish to drop the band and sell the studio which also meant his home. They wanted another new original album but didn’t want to extend the contract to take in the cover album as the ‘second option’. It was an ugly meeting.
Fish was only signed for 2 albums in the contract with a third taken as a follow-on option subject to a further advance against royalties. Unlike the EMI deal he had full control over content which was licensed to Polydor rather than the ownership of copyright terms that EMI had for the entire ‘Marillion’ catalogue and his first solo album ‘Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors’.
The game was fast becoming hardball and at this point Fish reluctantly let John go in the late spring of 92. It was an awkward and embarrassing scenario for both of them. Fish was digging his heels in about the covers album which now had the title ‘Songs from the Mirror’. Fish didn’t feel that John was fully supporting the idea.
With John Cavanagh gone the record company were concerned and it was David Munns who suggested Brian Lane as replacement and set up introductions. They found it difficult dealing with a headstrong and emotional artist and figured that if he had a respected recognised manager then he would be easier to convince that the cover version album was the wrong way forward.
Brian Lane was the former manager of ‘Yes’ and had put together the supergroup ‘Asia’ but was now without any clients and looking for a new opening. He was old school and Fish was impressed by his associations and credentials but also knew of his reputation as a tight and ruthless businessman from his friendship with Keith Goodwin who had been press officer for both ‘Yes’ and ‘Marillion’ in their early years. It was an interesting combination of personalities and manager and artist bonded in the following few months with Brian seeing the opportunities offered by the cover version album. Like Fish he saw that if a new album was delivered to Polydor and they went through the motions of release, as Fish considered they had done with his second solo album, then he was probably going to be dropped from the label and faced with writing yet another new album to procure a new record deal with someone else.
There was little for Brian Lane to earn commission from as Fish refused to allow his pre 88 ‘Marillion’ material to be part of any management deals. Brian thought that if the contract was pushed with the covers album then if Polydor dropped Fish then he could set up a new record deal and earn from those new advances. If it worked out and was a success then he could commission the third option period advances on the Polydor contract. The introduction of Brian Lane to the game was not what Polydor had envisioned. He was a player.
Brian’s connections proved invaluable, and he introduced Fish to ‘Yes’ guitarist Steve Howe. ‘Time and a Word’ had been one of Steve’s favourite ‘Yes’ songs although it was recorded in 1969, before he joined the band. Brian suggested that Fish and Steve get together to record it for the covers album and he came up to the Funny Farm recording studios in the early summer of 1993 to play on the sessions.
The producer for ‘Songs from the Mirror’ was James Cassidy who was already contributing to the ongoing writing for the ‘Suits’ album. Fish had met James in 1991 while singing on Jeff Wayne’s ‘Spartacus’ project which James had been full time engineer on. They had kept in touch and after ‘Spartacus’ was finished Fish offered James work as house engineer/ producer at the ‘Funny Farm’.
Fish had been choosing the songs for the last year and running them through with the band and James Cassidy in the studio in the middle of the writing sessions for ‘Suits’. Some had been played on the ‘Toile tour’ but most were built in the studio sessions.
The title was inspired by the old wardrobe that was in Fish’s family home in Glebe Street, Dalkeith. After school he would crank up his ITT stereo with his favourite songs and, clutching a wooden pole used to open the attic hatch above, would pretend he had a mike stand and would sing enthusiastically into the wardrobe mirror. It was the first memories he had of rock star aspirations.
In 1992 he felt disjointed from that magic that had pulled him into the music business and driven him in his early days with ‘Marillion’. He needed to reassociate himself and he felt that to revisit some of those songs would rekindle his love of music that had been sorely tested by his experiences with both EMI and his former band.
Being a huge fan of ‘Yes’ in his teens, having Steve Howe playing ‘Time and a Word’ in his studio was part of rediscovering that dream although the song was held back from the album on Brian’s suggestion and didn’t appear on the track list until future reissues.
The history of the album recording and era are well documented in the 8000 words of sleeve notes on the ‘Songs from the Mirror’ remaster and the ‘Suits’ write up here on the website and on its own well documented sleeve notes by Fish more than fill in all the details.
‘Hold Your Head Up’, originally by ‘Argent’ was nominated as a single release. Brian ‘acceded’ to Polydor’s idea for an EP as a pilot release but in November 1992 there was no question that Fish was not prepared for the album project. ‘Songs from the Mirror’ by then was fully recorded and ‘Hold Your Head Up’ was a token release as first single. Polydor had the choice to release the album or not.
The single was released under the title ‘Never Mind the Bullocks – featuring ‘Hold Your Head Up’ as FISCD04 on Polydor. The cover was a detail of the full album cover which was drawn by Keith McIntyre, a Scottish artist, and John Cavanagh’s brother-in-law. ‘The Guddler’ was a work in charcoal that Fish had bought from Keith in 1989 after being introduced to him and his work by John. Fish and Keith became friends and when Keith explained that the piece, an image showing a boy ‘tickling’ trout from a riverbank alluded to someone undergoing an exciting, mysterious and life changing experience it made complete sense of Fish discovering music years before in front of the wardrobe mirror.
Fish didn’t want a ‘traditional’ Mark Wilkinson sleeve as this was a cover version album rather than a ‘new’ Fish album. Mark wasn’t happy but agreed with the reasoning behind the decision. The cover made complete sense of the project which Keith was heavily involved with including creating the stage backdrop on the eventual tour.
Brian wanted to capitalise on the cynicism around releases at the time where everyone was trying to bend the rules on regulations to get singles into the charts. Giveaways and ridiculous promotional campaigns were commonplace, and Brian suggested they got back to basics, deliver a great single/ song with no frills that speaks for itself. It was an excuse to go ‘cheap’ on promotion to some degree and turn it in on itself.
The title was a tongue in cheek lift of the ‘Sex Pistols’ ‘Never mind the Bollocks’ with the Fish version being ‘Never Mind the Bullocks’. It was tied in with a sticker campaign sent out to his fanbase with a shitting bull on a ‘No entry’ sign with the same ‘Never Mind the Bullocks’ motif. They weren’t allowed to use the ‘Never Mind the Bullshit’ phrase that would perhaps have made complete sense of what they were trying to accomplish. It all fell apart in the compromise and as such was lost on most people.
There was a promo photo of Fish taken on the Lennoxlove estate outside Haddington which was photoshopped with a photo of a young heifer bull on the same day to create a head-to-head shot that led the promo campaign. Polydor funded a promo video which featured Fish in a ‘chemically induced’ regression therapy session where he returned as a native American witch doctor. Neither the video nor the radio plugging, or intensive promotion made any inroads, and the single died a death around the 75 marker in the official charts.
‘Songs from the Mirror’ was released on Polydor on cassette. Vinyl album and CD on 18th January 1993. It reached number 46 in the UK charts but fared better in Europe reaching 16 in the Netherlands, 22 in Switzerland and 44 in Germany.
Reviews were scathing in the UK. Neither the media or the fanbase could comprehend why Fish chose to release an album of cover versions with most people and folk legend putting it down to simply ‘contractual obligation’.
The ensuing tour was ironically one of his finest to date and nearly twice as long as the tour for ‘Internal Exile’. The live album ‘Sushi’ released on the Dick Bros label and featuring heavily on the remaster captured the moment perfectly. Ironically it was recorded at the Vredenberg in Utrecht on March 17th 1993 on the same night Fish heard from Polydor that the label had decided to drop him from the roster. It was 2 months after the album was released.
Fish and Brian Lane had played the pieces on the board well and anticipated the ‘suits’. The new album was in the making and Fish had survived another encounter with a major record company and escaped with wounds and more experience. Brian Lane had a new albums demos to forward and take to new companies, but both Fish and his management were considering options. There was an idea for an independent operation out with the majors, but Brian had an eye on commissions on label advances.
Brian had taught Fish a lot about touring and the ability to earn a living on the road from gigs rather than just as supporting an album release. In 1993 Fish had insisted on taking on a crew member on high recommendation from Andy Field. He was called Kelvin Boys Yates, better known as ‘Yatta’ who at the time was with LSD lighting in Birmingham. Fish needed someone on his side to balance off against the ‘management’ and on Andy’s historical advice Fish brought Yatta into the team. It would prove an extremely wise choice.
Brian would be fired in early 1994 after failing to come up with a major deal for the ‘Suits’ album despite his own personal enthusiasm for the songs. Brian needed lucrative commissions and Fish by that time was engaging more with an independent way of thinking about his career. He didn’t want to go through the motions of engaging yet another label and another manager for another assault on the ‘Big Time’. It was time to completely reappraise his approach to dealing with the music industry.
Deluxe Remaster Edition
01 Question (Hayward) Tyler Music Ltd. 6:39
02 Boston Tea Party (A. Harvey/H McKenna/A. Cleminson) Polygram Music Publishing Ltd. 4:21
03 Fearless (Gilmour/Mason/Waters/Wright) Published by Pink Floyd Music Publishers Ltd. 6:15
04 Apeman (R.D. Davies) Carlin Music Corporation 5:56
05 Hold Your Head Up (R. Argent/C. White) Verulam Music Co. Ltd. 3:45
06 I Know What I Like (Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford) Hit & Run Music Publishing Ltd. 4:17
07 Solo (Denny) Warlock Music Ltd. 4:10
08 Jeepster (Bolan) Westminster Music Ltd. 5:58
09 Time and a Word (featuring Steve Howe) (Anderson/Foster) Topographic Music Ltd. 4:24
10 The Seeker (Townsend) Fabulous Music Ltd 3:16
11 Five Years (Bowie) Charisma Music Ltd./EMI Music Publishing Ltd. 5:17
12 Caledonia (MacClean) Limetree arts and music 4:21
Lead Vocal - Derek W. Dick (FISH)
Drums & Percussion - Kevin Wilkinson / Bass Guitar, backing vocals - David Paton
Guitars, backing vocals - Robin Boult / Guitars - Frank Usher except track 9 all guitars Steve Howe
Keyboards, backing vocals - Foster Patterson
Backing Vocals 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11 - Danny Campbell
Backing Vocals 3, 5, 6, 7, 11 - Lorna Bannon
Backing Vocals 3, 6, 11 - Jackie Bird
Additional Backing Vocals - The “Harmony” Choir
Fiddle, Whistle 6, 8 - Ben Molleson
Additional Programming 1, 2, 4, 7, 8 - Gaëtan Shurrer
Lawnmower - David Bogie Party invitation - Caroline Boult Answering Machine - Mick Wall
Zippo - Haddington Bear. Native Americans - Mr Samples
‘Geezabun’ Choir - Glasgow Barrowland Company Ensemble
Produced, Recorded & Mixed By James Cassidy
Assistant engineer David Bogie remastered by Calum Malcolm 2017
Recorded & Mixed at Funny Farm Recording Studio, East Lothian, Scotland 1993
Track 12 ‘Caledonia’ recorded at Ca Va studio, Glasgow 2003 for the Frankie Miller Tribute album. Lead Vocal Fish
Drums Ted McKenna, Guitars Zal Cleminson, Keyboards Hugh McKenna (the Sensational Alex Harvey Band) guitars Brian Robertson
Strings The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, arranged by Irvin Duguid. Backing vocals Mary Kiani and choir
01 Something in the Air (Live Hamburg) (Keen) Fabulous Music Ltd. 6:00
02 I Know What I Like ('93 Demos) 3:16
03 The Seeker ('93 Demos) Both Demos recorded at the Funny Farm Studios Recorded & Mixed By James Cassidy 3:17
04 Fearless (Recorded Live Utrecht, Vredenberg Halle 18/3/93*) 6:49
05 Boston Tea Party * 4:13
06 Jeepster * 3:54
07 Hold Your Head Up * 3:08
08 Five Years * 7:58
09 Roadhouse Blues (Morrison/Manzarek/Densmore/Krieger) Alfred Publishing Co Ltd. # 7:30
10 Jeepster (Live ‘Acoustic’ Gertrud Boumer Halle Duisberg 9/12/94 ‘Jürgen’s birthday party’#) 5:35
11 Solo (Bucklein Theatre, Krakow, Poland, 14/10/95) 5:19
12 Boston Tea Party (With SAHB 1995) Produced, Recorded & Mixed By James Cassidy Funny Farm Studio Dec 1995 4:57
13 Faithhealer (A. Harvey/H McKenna/A. Cleminson) Polygram Music Publishing Ltd. (Live NEARfest USA 2008) 6:28
20/6/2008 mixed by Calum Malcolm
Lead Vocal - Derek W. Dick (FISH)
Drums & Percussion - Kevin Wilkinson / Bass Guitar, backing vocals - David Paton
Guitars, backing vocals - Robin Boult / Guitars - Frank Usher / Keyboards, backing vocals - Foster Patterson
Track 9, 10, 11 with Dave Stewart on Drums
Track 13 Gavin Griffiths on Drums, Steve Vantsis Bass, Frank Usher and Chris Johnson guitars
Track 12 Drums Ted McKenna, Guitars Zal Cleminson, Keyboards Hugh McKenna (the Sensational Alex Harvey Band)
Additional engineering on live recordings and compilation Steve Vantsis
CD1 and CD2 re-mastered by Calum Malcolm 2017
DVD Disc 3
Reflections - A look back at 'Songs from the Mirror’ a film by David Barras and Scott Mackay
Boston Tea Party
Jeepster/Hold Your Head Up
Filmed on March 17th at Muziekcentrum Vredenburg by Henk Tempelman & Kees Nijpels
Lead Vocal FISH
Drums Kevin Wilkinson
Bass Guitar David Paton
Guitars - Robin Boult
Guitars - Frank Usher
Keyboards - Foster Patterson
Hold Your Head Up (Official video)
Solo (Cropredy Festival 2015) With Fairport Convention
(Fairport Convention are Dave Pegg - Bass, Simon Nichol – Acoustic Guitar, Ric Sanders - Violin, Chris Leslie - Mandolin, Gerry Conway - Drums, Phil Bond - Keyboards, Dan Ar Braz - Electric Guitar)
Dedicated to ALAN FREEMAN and all the writers & musicians that guided me to the mirror.
And especially to Kevin Wilkinson 1958-99
From The Sleeve Notes:
“Robin Boult was living with his family in East Lothian and agreed to help out as did David Paton who lived in Edinburgh and who had joined the band on the ‘Internal Exile’ album recordings on recommendation from my manager John Cavanagh. He had strong writing credentials through his work with ‘Pilot’ and the ‘Alan Parson’s Project’ and had been Kate Bush’s and Elton John’s bass player for a number of years. He had a strong sense of melody and would be an asset. Drummer Kevin Wilkinson also signed on to the new project after the main ‘Exile’ tour and although he lived near Swindon he volunteered to spend time up here and work. The residential block that I’d converted from an old farm building to accommodate musicians using the studio was put to good use and Kevin effectively moved in.
Long standing friend and co-conspirator, Frank Usher who lived in the Borders near Innerleithen, only 45 minutes away, also agreed to carry on. He, like Robin, had been in the solo outfit since it was inaugurated in 89 with a twin guitar set up and it was Frank who would introduce me to Mickey Simmonds replacement and the final piece of the jigsaw.
I took a liking to Foss Paterson immediately. Frank knew him from his work with John Martyn and highly recommended him.
He was a genuine talent and had worked for a number of well-known and respected musicians including Julia Fordham, Danny Thompson, David Knopfler and Jethro Tull. Foss was stylistically flexible, imaginative and a fun character as well as a great keyboard player. He also lived in Bonnyrigg, only a few miles away. He fitted the bill perfectly.
I had a working band and could start booking shows to support both them and the writing sessions. As far as Polydor, my new record company were concerned ‘Internal Exile’ was over and they wanted another album. Promoters weren’t keen on putting on gigs without record company support and I was floundering. I still thought there was still some life left in the album which had only been released at the end of October the previous year and I continued to push for one more single release to create a bit of profile to promote the dates and keep the album alive.”
“Back in 1988 when I was with ‘Marillion’ we were looking for a follow up to the ‘Clutching at Straws’ album and I put forward a
worked as a possible musical and had the title “Geisterfahrer” or “Ghost driver”. This is a phenomenon pretty much unique to Germany where the passion for automobiles leans itself to a darkly dramatic method of suicide. It’s not uncommon to be travelling at night on the fast moving autobahns to receive a warning on the radio about a ‘Geisterfahrer’ on a particular stretch of road. The ‘ghost driver’ is someone who deliberately drives on the wrong side of the motorway at high speed, driving his or her car like a missile and aiming at oncoming traffic with the intent to kill themselves. I’ve heard the warnings a couple of times late at night while sitting in the front of a tour bus but fortunately have never seen one. It’s a very creepy experience even listening to the broadcasts telling people to exit the motorway or pull into the side of the road while the said driver is pursued by police cars as they attempt to rein him in.
My idea was to write about someone who’d decided to take his own life this way and to describe what he was thinking and how he had got to that point. It involved different ghostly passengers from throughout his history including a choir of “road kill” animals in the back seat all commenting on his dilemma as he drove against the traffic. I came up with all sorts of characters and scenarios for the story and even went so far as to consider a theatrical presentation for stage.
As he drove I wanted him to be listening to the radio and hearing different songs that were relevant to his Life. Those songs I imagined as being on a companion album to the main original album.
I put the idea to the band and they hated it. The project was indefinitely shelved.
In the late spring of 1992 I had a dilemma. The idea for a cover album re-emerged.
The demos for ‘Suits’ were taking longer than I thought and I still had a massive financial hole to fill and needed to stall for time. I had a new plan.”
“The Polydor UK deal was up for renewal on March 19th 1993 and the date had passed without fanfare. There was no phone call or message from the record company in London. I was just dropped from the label without comment. ‘Songs from the Mirror’ had only been released 2 months before and we’d been told we had sold 130 000 copies in that time. I didn’t really think the album had been given a chance and that minds had been made up in the boardroom months before. I accepted the decision with a slight sense of euphoria at my new freedom and prepared to move on.
I had just played 2 sold out shows at the Vredenburg Hall in Utrecht, probably the finest of the tour and captured on the live album ‘Sushi’ which would be released the following year. Polydor Holland attended the show and loved it. Backstage they were enthusiastic about releasing ‘5 Years’ as a single as it had been picking up airplay as an album track. On hearing I was dropped by the UK company they were genuinely disappointed as they had put a lot of work into the album as had other international companies. I felt sad at losing some good friends on the label and there was no animosity from me regarding losing the contract. The debit balance I had with the UK Company didn’t make sense to the hierarchy there and they didn’t have the faith in me to turn it around.
I was glad in hindsight that I had made the decision I had made back in the summer of 92. The 2 album deal was fulfilled and Polydor had turned down the option to pick up the next studio album despite our offer to restructure the contract. I had the initial new demos to go in search of another record label and a manager more than capable of procuring one. All was not lost. I could have been in a worse position where it was the new studio album languishing in promotional doldrums and I was dropped and struggling to come up with ideas for a new project. ’Songs from the Mirror’ gained the reputation of being only a contractual fulfilment album but it was more than that.
On an artistic level it took me back to my roots and helped me reinvestigate the alchemy of song writing, giving me breathing space to clear my head and move forward. It helped me develop the writing team and keep an outstanding bunch of musicians together and get back out on the road quickly and earn money to support myself and my long term career. Without ‘Songs from the Mirror’ I would probably not be sitting here today, 7 solo albums further down the line, writing these sleeve notes. No apologies are necessary and I think this album has stood the test of time. It may come across to some as an aberration but I will always retain fond memories of that period and I’m proud of what we accomplished.”
CD Polydor - 517 499-2 (1993)
Cass Polydor - 517 499-4
LP Polydor - 517 499-1
Roadrunner Records - RR 8682-2 (1998)
CD 3 disc Deluxe Remaster Chocolate Frog Records - FHC014CD
7” Never Mind The Bullocks (Hold Your Head Up) Polydor - Fishy4
Cass Never Mind The Bullocks (Hold Your Head Up) Polydor - FishyC4
CD Never Mind The Bullocks (Hold Your Head Up) Polydor - FishyCD4
Louder Than War review
Songs From The Mirror from 1993 was always going to be an interesting departure. Allegedly influenced by Bowie’s Pin Ups with the title self explanatory, this was the covers album that despite the lack of interest at record company level, gave an insight into the Fish psyche and influences. It’s a reasonably predictable collection with no major shocks or surprises as to the musical influences of a man whose name was made in a band that was unashamedly progressive rock orientated.
Anyone with a basic seventies rock knowledge will recognise songs from Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues, T.Rex, Argent and The Who together with Yes’ Time And A Word that features a contribution and nod of acknowledgement from Steve Howe. No pressure to deliver on that one then. Which he does, as he does on all that precedes and follows, yet there had probably been a few years of practice in front of the mirror… There’s no sense of trying to emulate Gabriel, Bolan, Bowie or Ray Davies either, simply adding his own inimitable and by now, recognisable tag to the well known melodies and arrangements.
The only slightly wavering curve ball is Sandy Denny’s Solo; the only female voice in the selection although the line about the grass being greener maybe in hindsight lacks personal conviction given his experiences with the industry at the time.
A second disc of demos and live recordings. Faithful live reproductions of the faithful album reproductions. Some might argue the value yet it’s always fascinating when a major artist delves into his influences to come up with his(or her) own versions. A highlight? You can’t go far wrong with Boston Tea Party done with the Sensational Alex Harvey Band in 1995, matched with their Faithhealer that subsequently appeared on Raingods With Zippos.
The third disc is a DVD that contains Reflections; offering something slightly different with a lengthy interview in which where Fish looks back and talks over his selections on another impressive and essentially definitive little set that rounds up the Songs From The Mirror period as we head towards the earlier part of the Fish solo library.
This is not a prog album per se but a string of cover songs which FISH decided to make his own. Some of them turn out better than others but overall, I found quite a few that actually sound better than the original versions. At the very worst, they give you a different perspective on tunes you've long relegated to your old 'pop' days such as the MOODY BLUES "Question", PINK FLOYD's "Fearless", GENESIS' "I Know What I Like", MARC BOLAN's "Jeepster" and DAVID BOWIE'S "Five Years', to name the ones I prefer. Even if this could be deemed a pop album, the professionalism displayed on it is beyond reproach. You can also tell FISH is having fun, here. If you keep in mind that the man did not intend to make any profound intellectual statement with such an album, you'll be able to enjoy it for what it is. Thanks for the breath of fresh air, FISH.
Internal Exile hadn't done very well from a sales point of view. Polydor was getting restless and Fish needed more time to write a good follow-up record. To play it safe with Polydor he offered to record an album of cover versions, an idea which dated back to the Marillion period when Fish proposed it to the band as the 'Geisterfahrer' project. It was rejected by the band back then and rejected by the record company now. Polydor wanted a new studio album to finish the current contract.
Against the will of Polydor Fish decided to go ahead with the covers album and delivered it as the one which would fill his two album contract. As was to be expected, the partnership ended then and there.
The album was produced by James Cassidy and the band was the same as during the previous tour, although Mickey had left and Foss Paterson had joined on keyboards. The recorded songs were covers of songs by Moody Blues (Question), Sensational Alex Harvey band (Boston Tea Party), Pink Floyd (Fearless), Kinks (Apeman), Argent (Hold Your Head Up), Genesis (I Know What I Like), Sandy Denny (Solo), Yes (Time and a Word), The Who (The Seeker) and Bowie (Five Years).
Some of the tracks are very good, like Question (Moody Blues), Fearless (Pink Floyd). Five Years (Bowie) is even better than the original (in my honest opinion). The rest of the songs are either just nice or don't really fit Fish' normal style (Apeman) but are still interesting. The only track that really annoys me is the Genesis cover I Know What I Like. The Genesis version is just on the edge of being 'too sweet', that's why I normally prefer to listen to the live versions of this track. Fish took it and made it even sweeter than the original.
Solo is probably the least well-known track on the album. Nevertheless it became one of Fish' best ballads ever.
Time and a Word and The Seeker initially did not appear on Songs from the Mirror but were included on a promotion project CD for his Funny Farm studio, Outpatients (more about that later). The Yes track features Steve Howe on guitar.
T-Rex's Jeepster had been on the original album but seemingly Fish was so disappointed by the result that he took it of this remastered version.
The 12-page booklet does not feature any lyrics (probably because of copyright reasons) but is full of pictures and liner notes about this period in Fish' career, the role music played in his childhood and the selection of tracks on the album.
Songs from the Mirror wasn't a success. Loads of Fish fans consider it to be their least favourite Fish album and although it contains some nice tracks, I would also say that you'd probably be better of spending your money on another CD in this review special. If you still want to hear Fish play some of these covers, check out a splendid alternative: Sushi.
Conclusion: 7- out of 10.