Mike “Mutter” Slater was front man and flute player for 70s cult band Stackridge, produced by George Martin and signed by Elton John. They played for The Old Grey Whistle Test and John Peel, but their story resembles a Ripping Yarn script for a spoof 70s rock band.
Stackridge Lemon was formed from the remains of Grytpype Thynne (we’re not making these names up). They were the opening and closing act at the first Glastonbury Festival in 1970. During 1971 Stackridge began serious gigging, though founder member James “Crun” Walter left to take up bricklaying.
The group continued touring, twice with Wishbone Ash, then in 1973 with Camel as support.
Their third album The Man In The Bowler Hat was produced by Martin. As soon as the album was finished most of the band left the band, so Mutter was missing for an LP on Elton John’s The Rocket Record Company. He returned and played Wembley with Elton John and The Beach Boys, before the inevitable concept album came (it was 1975), a tour being aborted because the stages were too small (and presumably the dials stopped at 10).
The band’s James Warren and Andy Cresswell-Davis formed The Korgis a few years later, and had a hit with Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime.
Mutter chilled out for a while (in the wonderful county of Dorset by the look of it, hopefully drinking Palmer’s and walking on Golden Cap) but now he’s playing again. This new album is out on Angel Air, whom we recently plugged because they released the excellent Peter Sarstedt album England’s Lane.
This is much better than you’d expect from a nearly-made-it 70s rock flautist. In sound it’s still the 70s, a blend of the folk, rock and the psychedelic that reminded us of Traffic. It could be a little heavy handed but it’s not, Slater having a good ear for melody and still wielding a mean flute.
Opener Even Love? is a slower, bluesy rock tune that’s not the best but does indicate what’s to come, with flute and sax. The next song, Your Love Affair With Pain, is funkier and more on the pop side, with some nice sax. Elsewhere, the upbeat Icing On the Cake has some good Dylanesque organ. Jesus In The Backyard mixes prog and blues and showcases all the instruments; take a listen to that or the jaunty country-tinged Why Are You Not Talking To Me?
Overall, it’s a strong album, and for fans of 70s rock, a good one to buy and tell all their friends about. But don’t believe us; Uncle Billy Bragg says: “Mutter Slater has one of the greatest voices of British rock, and he writes a mean song, too.”
Out on Angel Air, SJPCD492.