Friday, December 14, 2018

Mary Hopkin 1: Post Card

The first major hit Apple Records had that wasn’t a Beatles recording came from a young lady from Wales spotted on the 1968 equivalent of American Idol. At the time, Mary Hopkin was 18, and both looked and sounded like we imagined Eowyn from The Lord Of The Rings would. Paul McCartney foisted a song upon her, and just like that “Those Were The Days” shot to #1 all around the world.
Excited to keep the ball rolling, Paul immediately—in between finishing the White Album and courting one Linda Eastman—got to work collecting songs for her full-length album debut. Paul had yet to write a song for her; in addition to handpicking folk songs, standards, and stuff in other languages to continue her worldwide appeal, he hit up famous friends like Donovan and Harry Nilsson. When Post Card appeared the following spring, it was a wide-ranging amalgam of music, united by that high soprano that, if it’s to your taste, is just lovely.
The Donovan songs are arguably the highlight, as he (and sometimes Paul) accompanies her on acoustic. “Lord Of The Reedy River” flows along like its title, and while “Happiness Runs (Pebble And The Man)” is dangerously cute, “Voyage Of The Moon” is just lovely. Nilsson’s “The Puppy Song” sounds pretty much like all his other vaudeville homages, and fits with such oldies as “Lullaby Of The Leaves”, “Love Is The Sweetest Thing”, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Someone To Watch Over Me” (replaced on the US version by The Hit Single). Some of the arrangements border on Little Rascals quality, particularly on “Inch Worm”.
Session guys provide most of the backing, but it’s sometimes possible to discern Paul’s distinct instrumental touch, such as on “Young Love” and “The Honeymoon Song”, which modern Beatlemaniacs would recognize from their BBC bootlegs. We’re pretty sure that’s Paul all over “Prince In Avignon”, which has a gorgeous melody albeit all in French, just as she harmonizes with herself on “Y Blodyn Gwyn”, which is all Welsh. The most haunting (and heartbreaking) track on the album is “The Game”, written by Beatles producer George Martin; that’s definitely his piano playing.
When it appeared on CD as part of the early-‘90s Apple reissues, “Those Were The Days” was stuck at the beginning, and the rest of the program followed the UK LP sequence, with three bonus tracks: her version of “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, which had been the B-side of “Those Were The Days”, and the smash song repeated in their Italian and Spanish vocal versions. Two decades on, the next edition of the CD once again bookended the British LP lineup with both sides of the single, but added both sides of her next non-album single: “Goodbye”, a McCartney original, and “Sparrow”, a somewhat twee tune by Gallagher and Lyle. That duo was also responsible for a future B-side, “Fields Of St. Etienne”, included here in its original overblown arrangement, wisely passed over for a quieter recording not included here. (Meanwhile, the Spanish and Italian versions of “Those Were The Days” were on the digital download of the album, along with versions in French and German. Zoot allure!)

Mary Hopkin Post Card (1969)—
1991 CD reissue: same as 1969, plus 4 extra tracks
2010 CD reissue: same as 1969, plus 5 extra tracks

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