Monday, 18 February 2013
Issued in 1970, the haunting Me by Mary-Anne is one of the rarest and best British folk albums of its time. I have only ever seen two copies, and rather to my surprise have just realised that they're different. What I assume is the first has the matrix numbers PR JOY S 162 A and PR JOY S 162 B, and textured labels with four rings (below right). The second has the matrix numbers PR JOY S 162 A 2 and PR JOY S 162 B 2, and smooth labels with only one ring (below left). In all other respects (cover included) they are indistinguishable.
Pressing 1 has a subtly different mix, and includes completely different versions of two songs, The Gentleman Soldier and Candyman. Ironically, these are the only weak tracks on the album, their jaunty tone jarring with the prevailing air of restrained melancholy. The former runs 2:39 on Pressing 1 and 3:15 on Pressing 2, while the latter runs 1:45 on Pressing 1 and 3:08 on Pressing 2. In both cases, I consider the Pressing 1 takes to be superior. Not only are they shorter, but they're less theatrical. The Pressing 1 version of The Gentleman Soldier is pure guitar and voice, while Pressing 2 has a military drum, heavily mannered vocals and some obviously flubbed guitar. The Pressing 1 version of Candyman has flute and simple guitar backing, while Pressing 2 has ragtime guitar, bumptious kazoo and extra words (including unconvincing drug references). I can only assume that the longer versions appeared on Pressing 2 by accident - but of course we'll never know if that's the case, or how / why.
When I licensed the album for reissue on Sunbeam in 2006, President Records provided the master tape. Oddly, the 'wrong' versions of both The Gentleman Soldier and Candyman were on it, meaning that we had to drop in what I assumed to be the 'correct' versions from a vinyl copy. I included the 'wrong' versions as bonus tracks on the CD, little suspecting that they had in fact also been issued at the time. The only evidence for the album's existence that President possessed was the tape - they had no photographs, extra material or original LPs, and the label's boss could cast no light on the variant versions being on the tape.