Oysterband, Deep Dark Ocean (Cooking Vinyl,, 1997)  

The Oysters have always been on the raw side with an often bitter edge as they are always an English band playing somewhat folkish rock with a punk-influenced edge. Indeed they look like they could an aging punk band these days with John Jones always wearing his mirrorshades no how dark the venue is.

Deep Dark Ocean therefore comes as something of a rather pleasant surprise to me in the way it sounded when I first heard it. I'd say it's quite a bit more mellow and definitely more melodic than usual. I know that the net has legions of hardcore OB fans were less than thrilled by this recording but I like it a lot as it shows a quieter, more thoughtful side of this band.

Deep Dark Ocean is, without a doubt, a bit different form anything else they've done. It's not that they've gone all that soft as there's still plenty of anger in their ever-so-sharp lyrics, and the music still has a growl to it. But the mix of the fiddle, melodeon and an occasional bit of cello are more to the front than on other recordings from this era that the band did. This sound will not be seen again unit il John Jones released a solo recording, Rising Road,in 2009.

Musicians present for Deep Dark Ocean were John Jones (Vocals, Melodeon). Chopper (Bass Guitar, Cello, Mandolin, Harmonica, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals), Lee Partis (Drums, Vocals), Alan Prosser (Acoustic Guitar, Stratocaster, GR-1, Violin, Octave Mandola, Vocals), Ian Telfer (Fiddle, Concertina, Korkenzieher), with a guest appearance by Alan Scott (12-String Guitar, Bass Guitar, Mandolin, Octave Mandola, Percussion). Lan Scott is one of the myriad guest artists who have graced Oyster recordings down the many decades.

With exception of 'Drunkard's Waltz' which was written Rev Hammer, everything here was written by some combination of the members with seven of the nine cuts being crafted by John Jones, Alan Prosser, and Ian Telfer, three by Alan Prosser and Ian Telfer, and one by Chopper and Alan Prosser.

Worth noting that the band has done some outstanding covers including 'All Tomorrow's Parties' from the The Velvet Underground album ' The Best Of The Velvet Underground' Freedom and Rain, 'Between the Wars' from the Billy Bragg's Back to Basics on Wide Blue Yonder, 'Love Vigilantes' from the New Order album Low-Life on Trawler, 'Lovers in a Dangerous Time' rom the Bruce Cockburn's WBOS -- Live From the Archives on "The Shouting End of Life, and a favourite of mine, 'Road to Nowhere' from the Little Creatures Talking Heads on their very limited circulation 25 EP. Mind you 25 is a seven cut EP!

My favourites include 'Sail On By', 'North Star', and (bliss!) 'Native Son" in Welsh as sung by ](John Jones! Please note the Welsh version of 'Native Son' is a hidden track and shows up as an extension of the eleventh track.

I'll admit Deep Dark Ocean as not as high on the rotation list as other Oyster recordings are but I am pleasantly pleased by it on those rare occasions when it gets played. Is it worth seeking? Quite so. Just don't expect to sound 'tall like the edgy, political Oysters that most fans covet.

[Iain Nicholas Mackenzie]