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stealin’ home

Album sleeves were once a calling card for photographers and graphic designers to show off their talents.

In the pre-video age, the ritual of visiting a record shop meant leafing through the racks of vinyl offerings, with the artists ranked alphabetically A to Z.

A striking cover image had the power to invite you to pull the sleeve out of its rack and consider the track listing and credits on the rear sleeve.

A few days ago, I was doing the digital equivalent of this on a forthcoming album featuring arrangements by the late and genuinely great orchestrator Robert Kirby (of which more in a few weeks).

One of the tracks was Gimme An Inch Girl, written by Robert Palmer and performed by the former Fairport Convention member Ian (now Iain) Matthews on his 1978 solo album Stealin’ Home.’

I remember buying said record at the time, largely if I recall correctly because it featured a backing band led by Bryn Haworth, a wonderful guitar player and mandolinist.

What I didn’t know or had overlooked was that Robert Kirby had supplied the album’s arrangements.

An iTunes search revealed the album plus a ‘bonus’ live set recorded on the tour to promote the record as well as a digital booklet, available only if you bought the album.

For £8.99, this seemed like a bargain and so it has proved.

What added to my pleasure was the iTunes blurb referred to the booklet containing ‘previously unseen photos.’

These capture Matthews on stage and in one clutching a gold disc marking sales of the album, which included a top 20 US hit single, Shake It.

But the real power came in seeing again – for the first time in what must be 25 years when I parted company with my vinyl copy – the polaroids of Matthews, in various American locations, that graced the back of the sleeve.

I must have gazed at those images for hours, letting my imagination drift off to more exotic spots as I listened to the songs, which still to my ears sound pretty good.

Music and photographs together, still working their magic.

The success of Shake It obviously emboldened his record company to commission a video for the follow-up, Gimme An Inch Girl, which thanks to YouTube you can enjoy here.

And after that a time-coded video of Bryn Haworth (uploaded by Bryn himself) during his appearance in the mid-1970s on The Old Grey Whistle Test, performing one of his own songs on a amazing sounding stringed instrument called a Harpolek.

The album cover photo featured above is credited to Steve Hiett.

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