Sunday 15 September 2019

Poppyrock around the clock with Sinead

Sinead O’Connor, Imelda May, Ronnie Wood and Nick Mason have recorded an EP to mark 100 years of Armistice Day

Sinead O'Connor's vocals feature on a new EP, as do Cillian Murphy's
Sinead O'Connor's vocals feature on a new EP, as do Cillian Murphy's
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Bertrand Russell said, 'war does not determine who is right - only who is left'. Welsh scientist Sir Chris Evans OBE read over thousands of letters written by World War I soldiers in the trenches. The sad and often heartbreaking contents - young soldiers' letters to their mothers and the replies they received until the day the soldiers were killed in the muddy bloodbath of Flanders - inspired Evans to pen four original songs using the soldiers' words and phrases to tell their stories. (Four years ago Evans set up the Evamore project after he read letters from cancer patients.) To commemorate 100 years since Armistice Day - and to "highlight the sacrifice of young World War I soldiers and to raise awareness of today's war on cancer" - the EP One More Yard, released on Evamore Records, is well worth investigating. It features four spellbinding renditions of the aforesaid One More Yard.

It has many magical moments, not least a spoken piece by Cillian Murphy (the brilliant Irish actor reads a letter 'Dear Mater' by Lieutenant Michael Thomas Wall from the Royal Irish Regiment, written sometime between 1916 and 1917, to his mother in Dublin) with the incomparable Brian Eno providing instrumentation. Michael, an Irish soldier killed at Flanders, wrote in his haunting letters: "Nothing was spared, nothing - and when done there was not one more yard left."

On another version of One More Yard, lead vocals come from none other a Gaelic goddess of voice than Sinead O'Connor, with additional vocals from the incomparable Imelda May.

Add into this illustrious mix on the song, you have Rolling Stone godhead Ronnie Wood on guitar, plus Pink Floyd's sultan of sticks Nick Mason on drums. Uncut magazine went as far as to write, a little giddily, that "a new supergroup featuring Sinead O'Connor, Ronnie Wood, Nick Mason and Imelda May", have recorded an EP. "This is an outstanding project, that allows people such as myself, to pay our tribute to the young men of 100 years ago, who fought for our freedom, but also to do something to help many young people facing cancer today. I am delighted to be part of bringing these songs to fruition," said Mason.

Wood added: "I love the track One More Yard - a sad, true story set to a haunting melody. It was a pleasure playing on it. I hope everyone gets behind this great initiative - and there will be more news soon."

Meanwhile, the one-and-only producer John Reynolds, who produced the EP, told me on the phone from Dubai last Wednesday (he was en route to Australia where his charge Damien Dempsey was playing gigs): "I met Professor Chris Evans at a music festival in 2017. He is a massive ball of energy and a world leader in cancer treatments. We chatted at the bar. Chris had read 35,000 letters from World War I soldiers and was finding a lot of the phrases used in the letters were also used in letters from cancer patients. He began writing songs using some of these common phrases. I realised we were about to go on a journey together. A musical journey.

"One More Yard," John went on, "is the first step of that journey. This song came from the letters of one man in particular, Lt Michael Thomas Wall, whose letter, read by Cillian Murphy, now opens the song. It's a moment of thought, just before his life is taken in the trenches, written down and sent home to his mother. Unimaginable horror is what these men went through and One More Yard is a snapshot of that.

"Sinead's vocal is stunning and we had such a great response to the song that we then had contributions from Ronnie Wood, Cillian Murphy, Imelda May, Brian Eno and Nick Mason. A rowdy rabble... but they did a great job.

"I'm very proud to be part of this project, which will bring an awareness to a new cancer information platform, that is being built right now. We are going to record a full album and invite singers and musicians to come and join us, so stay with us. Our war now is on cancer."

Listen to One More Yard and be inspired.

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