❉ Mike Batt’s long and varied career is celebrated on his new album, released digitally this Friday.
“I count the Wombles tracks as ‘Mike Batt’ tracks because they are indeed just me singing with a session orchestra; usually with Chris Spedding on guitar and Clem Cattini on drums”
One of the UKs most accomplished musical polymaths, Mike Batt has had a career spanning five decades. He’s perhaps best known for Bright Eyes from Watership Down, which became a No. 1 for Art Garfunkel, and his work with the Wombles – producing eight UK hit singles & four gold albums. Mike has a history as a singer-songwriter, composer of musicals, film scores, symphonic orchestral music, a music director, and producer of an impressively wide range of artists and bands – several he discovered personally and most of which are celebrated in this release.
Mike Batt’s long and varied career is celebrated on his new Penultimate Collection double album, with 35 tracks highlighting his work as performer, composer, arranger and key British musical figure – but especially as performer, as not only does it feature Batt’s original solo material – including his international solo hits – but also his own versions of songs he wrote for other artists. The Closest Thing To Crazy, Bright Eyes, A Winter’s Tale, Caravan Song and I Feel Like Buddy Holly are given Mike’s own distinctive treatment, alongside his orchestral works, and contributions from Colin Blunstone, Bonnie Tyler and Family’s Roger Chapman.
Mike Batt – The Penultimate Collection features his work from the classic feelgood pop of Summertime City, his number four hit from 1975, through his hugely successful Wombles hits and orchestral pieces, to two brand new recordings.
While Disc 1 of this double CD package houses the familiar hits, Disc 2 is an eclectic collection of more boundary-breaking tracks including early singles, oddball instrumentals and compositions that give an insight into the imagination and adventurous spirit of his work.
Summertime City, theme to the BBC’s variety show Seaside Special, has only been released once since it was a hit. Says Mike: “For many years, despite its success I looked back on it with embarrassment but now I am proud of it as a good, strong pop record. I insisted that Sony ‘delete it forever’ and the rights to the song reverted to me. So this is the first time (apart from the MB Music Cube) that it has been released since 1975.”
There’s also an early pre-Womble solo single, Your Mother Should Know, recorded when he was just a teenager. “It’s 19-year-old me doing a cover of this great little Beatle song using a Vivaldi-style string approach. The lead fiddle player is Jack Rothstein, and we recorded it at Wessex Studios in London. This very nearly became a hit, getting played extensively on Radio 1.”
Mike’s long-term passion project, the musical The Hunting of the Snark, is represented by three songs, Children of the Sky (with a guitar solo by George Harrison, recorded at his home studio in Henley), Waiting for a Wave and The Vanishing. “That one features the voices of Sir John Hurt and Sir John Gielgud (narrating) and Julian Lennon, Deniece Williams and myself, with Maggie Reilly at the end as the Voice Of Hope. The orchestra is The London Symphony Orchestra,” Mike recalls.
Many major stars are featured with Mike on the album. On Imbecile, originally on Mike’s Tarot Suite LP, there is “Family’s Roger Chapman doing one of the two songs he sang for me as a featured guest. It’s about the Tarot characters The Fool and The Magician having an argument. At 2’ 20” the iconic solo by Rory Gallagher begins. It was taken as the theme for Australia’s top pop/rock radio station (Triple M) for many years and covered by Slash, if you’ll forgive the expression.” And there’s also a track from Mike’s album The Dreamstone, which features guest vocalists including Bonnie Tyler, Billy Connolly, Ozzy Osborne and Frank Bruno!
One of Mike’s personal favourites is Railway Hotel, from his first solo LP Schizophonia. “It’s one of my most covered songs, and was a turntable hit in the UK. My favourite cover is by The Fureys and Davey Arthur, but Andy Williams, The Shadows, Roger Whittaker, Justin Hayward and many others have covered it.”
There’s an insight into Mike’s songwriting inspirations with his newly recorded version of a Katie Melua hit. “She and I were visiting Beijing, where we had both performed on a TV show. A tour guide said: ‘There are nine million bicycles in Beijing’, and” I turned to Katie and said: ‘That’s a song title!’ I wrote it as soon as we returned to the UK, and it went to number three in the UK singles chart.”
And of course, there are numbers by The Wombles, too. “Some may say The Wombling Song needs no introduction, but it has one, courtesy of four unison French horns. It was my first-ever hit. This is of course the main theme to the Wombles TV show, and was the first of about 50 songs about the famous eco-warriors. I count the Wombles tracks as ‘Mike Batt’ tracks because they are indeed just me singing with a session orchestra; usually with Chris Spedding on guitar and Clem Cattini on drums”
Mike will be bringing his songs to life on stage in a rare concert. Taking place at Bush Hall in London ‘Bright Eyes and Beyond’ will be an evening of songs and stories from Mike’s eclectic career. Mike will be joined by a strong quintet, and feature guest vocalist Paula Masterton will perform some of the songs that were particularly written to be sung by a female vocalist. The date has been rearranged to late 2020, please see the Bush Hall website for details.
❉ ‘Mike Batt: The Penultimate Collection’: Digital Album Release May 8th 2020; Physical Album Release June 26, 2020.
❉ News source: Republic Media.
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