Friday, January 09, 2009

Ray Fisher

1974, and Laban's in a small Leeds theatre to see the George Brassens of Yorkshire. The supporting act walked onstage, a slender, crop-haired, androgynous slip of a thing with a beautiful, crisp Scots accent and a deal of self-possession. Then she started singing Scots ballads - and I sat spellbound. I may have mentioned that I love women's voices.

I've been a fan ever since, though I've only seen her live once more - in the late 80s in a Camden pub, supported IIRC by the late Willie Scott.

Well, it was in October that I wrote of :

The glorious Scots folk singer Ray Fisher - I can see I'll have to get "Pride of Glencoe" or "Mill O'Tifty's Annie" onto Youtube.
To my delight someone's beaten me to it. Thanks to wrongwayup, whoever he be, for Pride of Glencoe, from my favourite (and almost impossible to get hold of *) 'The Bonny Birdy', recorded with Carthy, Hutchings et al in 1972. I think the backing on this track is by Liz and Stefan Sobell.

P.S. Those who have trouble with the Labanic musical taste will know enough not to click through when I point out that my post on the unavailability of the legendary Mrs Mills' oeuvre no longer applies .

* The Bonny Birdy, along with a host of other goodies like Lal and Mike Waterson's "Bright Phoebus", was recorded on Bill Leader's Leader/Trailer label in the early 70s. Alas the company (or a successor) folded, and as I understand it the contracts had no clause by which rights reverted to the artist in the case of insolvency. According to Folkopedia :

In the 1980s the Leader catalogue was sold to another record company which then went into receivership. Subsequently sold to Celtic Music, the vast majority of Leader records have remained unobtainable since then, with only a handful of tracks re-released on CD.
Celtic Music is apparently owned by a couple of chaps called Dave Bulmer and Neil Sharpley, who are sitting on a what appears to be a small goldmine of classic folk material (although a depreciating one, as the target market grows older, the tapes decay and downloadable mp3s of their products appear all over the Internet), capable of being exploited with a laptop, CD duplicators and a bit of time to set up a direct sales website.

For some reason it appears they don't want to do it. Like an aged recluse in a gorgeous but uncared-for mansion who 'doesn't want strangers poking round the house', even if they're there to stop it collapsing, they're sitting on their treasures like a hen on a bad egg. Don't ask me why. Admittedly the market for many of these CDs isn't that large - but 1,000 copies of 'the Bonny Birdy' would be gone in a month or so once word got round.

The problem is not just that Laban can't buy the CDs. While the company won't issue them, the artists, who aren't as young as they used to be, won't get any money either. Some of them are now dead.

It makes no sense to me at all. Don't they want to make some money ?

Partly because of the non-availability of the music, but IMHO more because of the financial impact on the artists involved, a lot of people seem to hate their guts (I don't think a thread headed 'photo of Bulmer required' is necessarily from a fan). I now understand why, when I mailed Ray Fisher a few years back to ask where I could buy her music, I was directed to Celtic Music but couldn't find that any was for sale. She must get fed up with people asking. Imagine having people wanting to buy your music, but the owners won't sell any !

Altogether a sad and inexplicable tale, and a depressing one. Because the mp3s are out there. When everyone who would have bought the CD has a download, Celtic Music won't make any money - and worse, neither will the artists.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. There is way too little Ray Fisher exposure on the internet. I'm the person who uploaded those songs of Ray Fisher to Youtube. I was very surprised none of her music was available on Youtube or anywhere else before, so I decided to change that. :)

I got to know Ray Fisher only about 1 or 2 years ago, when my dad "fished" (pun intended) the album The Bonny Birdy somewhere out of his vinyl collection (he has been a record collector all his life with a few thousand vinyl records). When I heard it I also sat spellbound. And actually my dad as well, since he hadn't listened to the album that much or at least hadn't realised how good Ray Fisher's singing really is.

I'm planning to upload some more songs, but since I want to keep high quality audio, the rendering of the videos takes quite a while (plus uploading), so I'll have to do it when I have more time.

Also, if you cannot find the vinyl or CD, I have it on mp3 as well.

Laban said...

I have it on tape from a friend's vinyl - but I've found the whole thing on the internet to download - whhich is why I think Mr Bulmer's sitting on a wasting asset. One of these days everyone who wants a copy will have downloaded it.

Anonymous said...

If anyone is interested; Ray Fisher's LP 'Willie's Lady' is currently on ebay. Not cheap, but hey, they're pretty ard to come by as I have heard... I thought I'd drop a line here.

Anonymous said...

Sorry people but you are wrong about this.
The Bonnie Birdy is available on CD and Vinyl and have been for years.
Simply contact 01423 888979 and they will sell you a copy if you want one.
You can also get the CD on Amazon and at various times on ebay.

Laban said...

I'm presuming (following some googling) that the comment above is from Dave Bulmer or his representative on earth.

And lo, "music by mail' are indeed selling Ray Fisher on Amazon UK - which they certainly weren't doing a few years back.

What I don't know is whether Ray Fisher gets any money when a copy is sold.

I will get in touch and ask her. Watch this space.

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Anonymous said...

Dave Bulmer died on Sat