Some Football Talk, Some Ian Matthews

Originally posted November 12, 2007

As might have been surmised from comments I’ve made here, I’m a football fan. I follow the fortunes of a fair number of football teams, ranging from high school to professional football.

It’s not been a good football season here in Minnesota on the college or professional ranks. The University of Minnesota’s Golden Gophers are stumbling their way through their worst season in history (at least it will be after they lose their finale to Wisconsin this coming weekend). And the Huskies of St. Cloud State – my alma mater – finished their season at 4-7, 1-7 in the North Central Conference, which will disband after this academic year.

As for the Vikings, the professional team that has commanded my allegiance for forty years now, they are showing themselves more and more each week to be a less-than-mediocre football team led by a front office that has all the vision and leadership skills of Gumby. Will I continue to watch the team? Of course, I’ll watch the team. I’m a Vikings’ fan, for Pete’s sake. But it’s gonna be a long season.

(I should tip my cap here – and I would, were I wearing one as I write – to the fan fortunes of my blogging colleagues in Wisconsin, Jeff at AM then FM, and JB the DJ at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’. They’re Packer fans and both, I believe, support the University of Wisconsin Badgers; the Packers are having a great season and the Badgers a pretty good one. While you’re celebrating, hoist a brew or two for me, guys!

(I should also note Jeff’s new blogging effort, The Midnight Tracker, a tribute to those radio stations that – in the days when music came on LPs and DJs had more latitude in what they played – would play entire albums sides late at night. So far, he’s offered sides by David Lindley and El Rayo-X and the J. Geils Band. Check it out!)

But back to football: The one portion of the football universe that’s been good for me this season is the high school game. Obviously, I’ve been out of high school for a few years, but having been a sports reporter for a number of weekly papers over the years, I developed some allegiances. One of the strongest of those – and it occurs at a distance – is with the football program at Eden Prairie High School in the Twin Cities suburbs.

I spent four years in Eden Prairie; I got to know a lot of the kids and their families and a lot of the coaches and teachers, and I saw first-hand the development of the program from worse than mediocre to championship level. The Eagles didn’t win any state titles while I was there, but in thirteen years since I left the paper there, Eden Prairie has won five large-school state championships. The Eagles are in this week’s semifinals, and have a pretty good chance of adding another trophy to their collection this year. If they do, I’ll be watching happily.

Matthews’ Southern Comfort
This morning’s share is a record that was actually the first solo album by Ian Matthews (born Ian McDonald), the English musician who was a member of – among other groups – Fairport Convention. He left the band in 1969 after two albums and recorded Matthews’ Southern Comfort, later forming a group with the same name and recording two albums credited to the group.

A restless spirit, Matthews – who along the way changed not only his last name but the spelling of his first name to Iain – regularly formed groups and disbanded or left them, frequently moved from one place to another, and continued to release music that has been for the most part compelling and listenable. Among the best, to my ears are Some Days You Eat the Bear and Some Days the Bear Eats You from 1974, Walking a Changing Line from 1988, Pure and Crooked from 1990 and La Terre Commune, his 2001 collaboration with Elliot Murphy. (Also worth seeking out is In Search of Amelia Earhart by Plainsong, a group Matthews formed in 1972.)

On Matthews’ Southern Comfort, Matthews signals his ongoing shift from the British folk-rock of Fairport to the countryish rock that would be the heart of the albums credited to the group Matthews’ Southern Comfort. There’s some country influence here, but it’s often filtered through the British sensibility of Fairport Convention. That sensibility is clearest in the album’s opening track, “Colorado Springs Eternal” as well as in “A Commercial Proposition” and “The Watch.” (“A Castle Far,” on the other hand, shows no country rock influence; it’s pure British folk.)

There are some tracks that are closer to country rock alone: “Please Be My Friend” and “I’ve Lost You” would not have sounded out of place on a Mason Proffit album of the time. “What We Say” sounds to me like some of the tracks from Stephen Stills’ solo excursions of the time. And the album’s closer, “Once Upon A Lifetime,” reminds me of something from that era that I should recognize, but I can’t for the life of me put my finger on it. (Any suggestions?)

All in all, Matthews’ Southern Comfort is a good album. Matthews has never produced a masterpiece, defining a masterpiece as an album that can reasonably be argued to be in, oh, the top one hundred of all time, but he’s never – to my ears – produced a real clinker, either. He’s consistently produced good, listenable and sometimes thought-provoking music, and he’s done so for a long, long time. And – his time in Fairport Convention notwithstanding – Matthews’ Southern Comfort was the start.

(Among those joining Matthews on the album was Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson on electric and acoustic guitars.)

Tracks:
Colorado Springs Eternal
A Commercial Proposition
The Castle Far
Please Be My Friend
What We Say
Dream Song
Fly Pigeon Fly
The Watch
Sweet Bread
Thoughts For A Friend
I’ve Lost You
Once Upon A Lifetime

Ian Matthews – Matthews’ Southern Comfort [1969]

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One Response to “Some Football Talk, Some Ian Matthews”

  1. A Baker’s Dozen From 1963 « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and then about the fortunes this season of my favorite football teams, I inadvertently triggered a series of other posts on November in the Northland. Readers got […]

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