September 06, 2005

Richard Jobson "Ten-Thirty on a Summer Night & An Afternoon in Company"

"I'm very honoured you think those records are very nice, because most people think they're awful, particularly pretentious," Richard Jobson, 1986.

The notion of a punk rocker eschewing the music scene in favor of releasing poetry albums might seem extremely pretentious, and perhaps on some level it is, but that's exactly what Richard Jobson did. In the early 1980s, Jobson was the leader of The Skids, but having tired of that scene, he decided to embark on a career as a poet and writer--in 2003, he would adapt one of his books, 1987's 16 Years of Alcohol, into a screenplay, which has since become a successful independent film. Ten-Thirty on a Summer Night & An Afternoon in Company collects two of those albums plus a handful of compilation tracks.

Ten Thirty On A Summer Night, released in 1982, is actually based upon a novel by Marguerite Duras. In this story a woman, Maria, discovers her husband Pierre is cheating on her with her best friend, Claire. While on vacation, she has a run-in with a murderer on the run, Rodrigo. It's a fascinating and beautiful story, and Jobson's interpretation is enhanced greatly by his use of musical accompaniment, from tribal drums to gentle acoustic guitars, it's hard to think of this as just 'poetry.' The piano accompaniment by Cecile Bruynoghe throughout is simply breathtaking, and "The Kiss, The Dance, and the Death" is one of the most moving spoken word pieces I have ever heard. Though one initially might not think so, his words are actually made more effective by his thick Scottish accent.

An Afternoon in Company was Jobson's second solo album, though it was not released until 1984. Unlike his previous record, this collection is not a cohesive story; rather, it is a collection of sixteen brief poems, written as a recollection of his post-Skids world travel. These pieces may be brief, but they are quite pretty, again due to the gorgeous musical accompaniment. This time, he has the help of members of Tuxedomoon, Josef K and Durutti Column. Their assistance makes these brief pieces quite moving, especially "Jericho," "Autumn," and "Verbier," which features some of Vini Reilly's most affecting accompaniment. Though Jobson occasionally tends to be somewhat melodramatic in his reading, his presentation doesn't disguise the beauty of his words. The bonus tracks mainly continue An Afternoon in Company's theme, the most notable of which, "The Happiness of Lonely," is a later recording and features Virginia Astley on piano.

Jobson's talents might not have been appreciated in the mid 1980s--and, to be honest, there is a bit of pretense involved in spoken word recordings--it doesn't change the fact that he was and is a talented writer and composer. Ten-Thirty on a Summer Night & An Afternoon in Company might be pretentious, but that doesn't change its beauty, and it's a remarkable collection that highlights the magic of the spoken word.

--Joseph Kyle

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