The Weather at World’s End: 1997–2022 anthologises 20 songs from 25 years of Colin Harper’s under-the-radar ‘studio band’ the Legends of Tomorrow. Dozens of musicians/recording artists from Northern Ireland’s rock, blues, folk, punk, jazz and traditional music communities and guests from further afield have joyously contributed to Legends’ recordings over that period – only a few of which have been nationally released – and this anthology features 50 of these collaborators.
Of the 20 tracks, 18 are Harper compositions and the others are by 60s British folk enigma Anne Briggs and 70s Australian rock god Billy Thorpe. There are two 2023 remixes of 1997 tracks, one previously unreleased track and two new tracks: ‘Better Weather’, featuring rising Yorkshire folk sensation Katie Spencer (vocals) plus jazz stars Linley Hamilton (flugelhorn) and Scott Flanigan (piano); and ‘All We Need is Love’, featuring soulful Americana recording artist Janet Henry (vocals) in her first new collaboration with Colin in 15 years, plus Belfast guitar hero Norman Boyd (Stonefish/Protex) and, on BVs, Alison O’Donnell (Mellow Candle) and Joby Fox (Bankrobbers/Energy Orchard).
The anthology majors on the ‘classic rock’ aspect of the Legends’ canon and features 14 lead vocalists, including Dave McLarnon (Shock Treatment), Tíona McSherry (Tamalin), Mickey Rafferty (the Minnows), Rick Monro (Sweet Mary Jane), Alison O’Donnell (Mellow Candle), Ciaran Gribbin (INXS) and Lyndsay Crothers (Wookalily). The 32-page booklet includes Harper’s telling of the secret history of the ensemble and a ‘reunion photo session’ bringing together almost all of the featured vocalists along with Harper and his key collaborators over the past 25 years: Ali Mackenzie (bass), Cormac O’Kane (keys, production) and Mark Case (graphic design/promo videos).
Promotion will include promo videos of the two new tracks: ‘Better Weather’ by acclaimed animator Marry Waterson, including film of vocalist Katie Spencer; and ‘All We Need is Love’, an ersatz performance video shot at a Belfast club by Mark Case.
Colin Harper is an established music historian – author of six books including acclaimed biographies of Bert Jansch and John McLaughlin and a history of uillean piping, and curator of increasingly colossal box sets for various labels on the likes of Ian Carr’s Nucleus, Pentangle, the Pretty Things, Horslips and Lindisfarne. His current project is a 20CD Martin Carthy at the BBC for Snapper.
In the 90s, Colin was a full-time writer for Q, Mojo, The Independent, The Irish Times and others, and chronicler of the vibrant Northern Irish live scene for the Irish News. Discreetly, he began a parallel path as a recording artist and songwriter. In 1997, the first Legends album – featuring 33 musicians – was ‘released’ in a run of 200 cassettes. Most further works were similarly low-run affairs – but demand for Sunset Cavaliers (2016) and Titanium Flag: Expanded Edition (2017) (both released nationally under his own name but effectively Legends projects) convinced him there was no longer anything to be coy about.
‘It started as just scratching a creative itch,’ says Harper, ‘and it became a festival of friends over the next 25 years, appearing and disappearing like the Cheshire Cat. It spans generations – Mia O’Donnell (21) to Alison O’Donnell (69, no relation) on this album – and it ignores status. I’ve had the likes of Jan Akkerman, Chris Spedding, Martin Hayes and Duffy Power on previous releases – but I’m just as honoured to work with unsung heroes and rising stars. There’s a line in ‘Be the One’ (1997): ‘I met my heroes then / I made them all my friends’ – and by and large I did. These days, we huddle together for warmth – creating music ‘because it’s there’. Too late to stop now!’