Steve Tilston

STEVE TILSTON - Songs From The Dress Rehearsal
Market Square MSMCD132

Since this album was originally released almost thirty years ago on the Cornucopia label, Steve Tilston has consistently proved himself an admirable talent with an impressive body of work. No stranger to the music business, he’d begun in the 60s and I’d been aware of his name since ‘An Acoustic Confusion’ in 1971 – he was one of those jobbing singer/songwriters like Mike Absalom and Cliff Aungier whom you’d find playing ‘Samantha’s’ in Scarborough or supporting Amazing Blondel rather than in your local Folk Club, and as he’s said “you had to be a comedian or a traditional performer to get in and get on.” Truly inventive, skilled guitarists combining striking and distinctive vocals were somewhat at a disadvantage back then in er, ‘some’ Clubs it might be recalled.

Remastered and bolstered by 5 bonus demo tracks from 1979 for a proposed LP for Stefan Grossman’s Kicking Mule label, here again is the recording that would signpost the accomplished writing to follow, making Tilston’s a name synonymous with the values of lyrical insights and strong tunes. No songs here still figure in set lists today, but Steve obviously retains an immense affection for the recording, stating “apart from the odd chord or two I wouldn’t change a bit of it.”

I’d endorse that. In fact all the tracks remain valid; - sleek, packed with deft touches, and no embarrassment of lost loves and self-pity that can often haunt those who revisit a back catalogue of songs about relationships, life and a ‘where’s it all leading?’ ethic. ‘Do What You Please’ is a wonderful resigned farewell, whilst I for one will be shouting out requests for the Eddie Cochran–flavoured ‘Fairground Rock ‘n’ Roll’ at upcoming gigs.

The tray notes are illuminating and coloured by Steve’s erudite, wry commentary, enhance this package with its complement of 70s contact prints and half-shadow cover art.

Warm, adroit musicianship with a heart full of soul, that really can stand comparison with the best of Steve Tilston’s work.

Clive Pownceby