Colin Bass will be familiar to many TPA readers as bassist and vocalist for Camel, with whom he has been associated since 1979. But that is only one facet – albeit a substantial one – of Colin’s career which, starting in 1968, had previously taken in spells with The Krisis, Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, The Foundations, Clancy, Steve Hillage, Jim Cuomo and The Casual Band.
In the mid-’80s he joined pioneering world music group 3 Mustaphas 3 where he went by the pseudonym of Sabah Habas Mustapha, the name he used for a trio of albums recorded in Indonesia in the 1990s, his song Denpasar Moon becoming a major hit there. He released the first album under his own name in 1998, An Outcast of the Islands which featured Camel’s Andrew Latimer, and followed it up with several other studio and live releases. Now, after a gap of 12 years, we get At Wild End, his third solo studio album, realised as the result of a successful crowd-funding campaign.
Named for the studio Colin built after relocating to North Wales, At Wild End is a gorgeous collection of songs shot through with folk and exotic music from far off lands – and some much closer to home. There are prog elements for sure but these are subtle, woven into the generally acoustic grooves that integrate unexpected instrumentation, and while some of the music is akin to later Camel this is mainly the result of Colin’s familiar vocal and bass tones.
Bass is joined by a selection of musician friends old and new including Andrew Latimer and drummer Dave Stewart from his time in Camel and 3 Mustaphas 3 alumni Kim Burton, Nigel Watson and Ben Mandelson. Local Welsh musicians feature largely, such as the harp of Sian James which gives a unique hue to the gorgeous Walking to Santiago (that’s Santiago de Compostela in north western Spain rather than the one in Chile. Well, it is closer…) where it is matched with a brass section that flavours the song in much the same way as has been used by Big Big Train; breathtakingly right. The result, an eclectic set of highly personal songs. As Colin says:
“At Wild End is inspired by a magical place nestling in the Snowdonia foothills in North Wales. It’s a place that inspires reflection and some of the songs reflect my musical adventures over the years.”
And that sums it up pretty nicely.
After a gentle and pastoral start, opener Return To Earth has a mellow drive to it, Colin’s trademark bass shining through. From the off this is mature and engaging stuff. The intro to We Are One takes in birdsong, running water, cockerels and an alarm clock, but the song itself is beautiful; haunting, tranquil and meditative.
Waiting For Someone and If I Could Stay benefit from the vocals of Lisa Jen Brown, the arrangements across both songs being key to their appeal with harp, piano and some lovely bass from Colin, while In Another Time takes us exactly there, to an early era in Colin’s career, a ’60s vibe underlying the rich instrumentation. Darkness on Leather Lake is another more straight-ahead rock number, this time featuring slide guitar.
Szegereli Eternal (the title alluding to the world of 3 Mustaphas 3) and the funky, bass led Bubuka Bridge add variety with the rich flavours of distant lands and unusual instrumentation. Another diversion is the up-beat re-working of Bob Dylan in Girl From The Northwest Country and we also get the poetry to music of Up At Sheep’s Bleat with lovely piano from Kim Burton and more fretless from Colin.
Finally, the pastoral images of the title track wrap things up beautifully, shot through with the gorgeous guitar of Andrew Latimer, his solo towards the end the perfect icing on what has been a very enjoyable cake.
To a large extent a product of its environment, there is a rustic edge that brings the listener close to the natural beauty of the place that inspired the music. This is a genuinely enjoyable album from a man whose music deserves much wider attention and hopefully At Wild End, which is sure to please fans of his idiosyncratic songs, will also bring him to new ears. Beautifully crafted songs that handsomely repay the investment.
[You can read Jez’s interview with Colin regarding At Wild End and various other aspects of his long career HERE]
01. Return To Earth (4:30)
02. We Are One (5:55)
03. Walking To Santiago (6:46)
04. Waiting For Someone (4:10)
05. In Another Time (1:48)
06. Szegereli Eternal (4:53)
07. Darkness On Leather Lake (5:03)
08. Bubuka Bridge (1:54)
09. If I Could Stay (5:59)
10. Girl From The Northwest Country (4:35)
11. Up At Sheep’s Bleat (2:51)
12. At Wild End (8:12)
Total Time: 56:36
Colin Bass – Bass Guitar, Guitars, Vocals, Keyboards
Kim Burton – Piano, Accordion, Kaval, Cifteli
Andrew Latimer – Guitars, Organ, Keyboards
Dave Stewart – Drums
Sian James – Welsh Harp
Ben Mandelson – Guitars, Jews Harp, Hungarian Whistle Stick
Alan Prosser – Guitars
Jenn Williams – Fiddle
Lisa Jen Brown – Vocals
John Lawrence – Vocals
Nigel Watson – Lustiger Pilgrim Vocals, Percussion
Written and Produced by Colin Bass
Record Label: n/a
Year Of Release: 2015