Clive and Christine

Clive and Christine

38 days ago

Spotify giveth, and Spotify taketh away. No sooner had Neil Young and Joni Mitchell’s return to the streaming service allowed me to reinstate the missing tracks from my Dead Man Singing playlists, then a keen follower of this site informs me that another track had dropped off the radar. Wash Me Away by Clive Gregson and Christine Collister is no longer available on the platform. That’s a shame, because although Gregson and Collister may lack the stella status of the two returning superstars, I’ve probably spent more time listening to them, particularly in my late teens and my 20s.

I first encountered them as part of Richard Thompson’s backing group in the mid-80s, with their distinctive backing vocals an integral part of his sound at that time. They did a brief set of their own when I saw RT at Hammersmith Palais in 1986, and I was absolutely blown away by their singing and playing (and, as a callow 18-year-old, just a bit smitten with Christine Collister). Subsequently I saw them playing live in their own right on more than one occasion. Here’s a clip of them in action, taken from Jonathan Ross’ show The Last Resort

That clip only features Christine Collister’s vocals (she’s still probably my favourite female singer, even now that my teenage crush has long since departed), but Clive Gregson also had a great voice – warm, strong and expressive – and he was a fantastic songwriter and guitarist. All the individual components were there, and somehow the combination was even better than the sum of the parts. For several years they were right up there with my favourite acts.

From 1987 to 1992 they released a series of five albums. Mischief (the one that features in Dave’s selection of 100 records) was their second. My favourite though was its predecessor, Home and Away, an all-acoustic collection with a mixture of studio recordings and live tracks. My original vinyl copy had a jump on it – a fault in the pressing which was repeated across the whole batch, as I discovered when I took it back and exchanged it only to find the same problem – and as a result I still expect to hear that jump when I listen to the song All The Time In The World on other formats.

Since parting ways in the early 90s, both have kept busy. They have each released a number of solo albums, as well as embarking on projects with other artists. Christine Collister was also part of an all-star line-up of guests for Richard Thompson’s 70th birthday show at the Royal Albert Hall in 2019 (I was there, and it was unbelievably good) It’s rare for backing vocals to steal the show, but Christine’s singing on Ghosts in the Wind was a highlight in a night packed with highlights. After stepping back from the music industry in recent years, Christine has just released Children of the Sea, a new suite of 9 songs inspired by the folklore of her native Isle of Man, accompanied by a 48-page book containing lyrics, background notes and original artwork from Manx artists. She’s going out on tour to promote it later this year, but sadly none of the dates work for me. Hopefully I’ll get to see her again next time around.

Photo by Stockcake

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