Tim Hollier: Full Fathoms Five (1968)

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Tim Hollier: Full Fathoms Five (1968)

The title of this song by an obscure and unfairly overlooked British psych-folkie would be familiar to followers of New Zealand music, and those who know the works of the Bard.

The line comes from Shakespeare's The Tempest and Don McGlashan deployed it as the opening words of his lovely Anchor Me.

Here the Shakespeare -- it is Ariel's song -- is given a musical setting by Hollier, although on the label he and writer Rory Fellowes take the credit and Bill doesn't even get a namecheck.

This is lifted from his debut album Message to a Harlequin where he walks a line between trippy Donovan, the vocal assurance of Glen Campbell and the light touch of Shawn Phillips.

Good though as the album was -- and this track is one of the few lesser pieces, it's here for the Bill'n'Don association -- it did no damage to the charts in the UK, but oddly enough was released in the US . . . where its fate was much the same.

As I understand it many of the lyrics were by Fellowes who is also pictured on the back, and the liner notes were written by actor David Hemmings.

Hollier, a fine arts graduate, was clearly connected and it was Simon Napier-Bell (manager of the Yardbirds) who got him signed to United Artists in Britain. Hollier left the label after this album but recorded three others (a slef-titled one, Sky Sail and The Story of Mills Reef) but these too are in the obscurity bins.

His second career in film production and music publishing for movies (with Filmtrax which he founded) was considerably more lucrative and he wrote songs which appeared in some movies, and his company was one of the producers of Withnail and I.

He's an obscure figure in British folk and barely rates a mention in Rob Young's wonderfully and thorough book Electric Eden; Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music. Young describes the album as "another portfolio of mellow, hemp-clouded inspiration" but describes the song Bird of Paradise (see clip below) on the albm as compressing "the wistful folk-jazz of Pentangle and Tim Buckley with the orchestral nuances of Scott Walker".

That's pretty high praise and this album is certainly worth seeking out. It was definitely worth the $5 I paid for it when I pulled it out the "4 for $20" bin.

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

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