100 for 2000 – #97. The Mummers – Tale To Tell

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2009 – #7. The Mummers – Tale To Tell
(Big Bass Drum)

I’ve tried many times to describe this band, and I always make a meal of it. Bjork meets Alice In Wonderland? Somehow that seems to miss the mark, although that’s how I’ve seen it described. It’s orchestrated pop with circus theatrics. In the middle of it is Raissa, as wonderful a voice as I’ve ever heard. The Mummers had a Tale To Tell, and it’s an amazing one.

Raissa actually had a music career that already ended, having a pop hit almost 10 years ago. Returning home to a life of the ordinary, she began thinking of this fantasy land in her head, and started writing songs. She met up with a few old musical connections, and met one new one – producer Mark Horwood. Together with Horwood, Raissa created this majestic soundscape, with the help of 20 odd musicians that filed in and out of Horwood‘s tree house studio.

The album itself, is magical. I caught the band on Jools Holland, and it blew my little mind. Raissa sang with all the joy of the world, and the band chirped away behind her. March Of the Dawn was the single, and it sounds like nothing else on radio. Rufus Wainwright might think it’s needlessly cinematic. And it only gets better from there.

Wonderland is so sweeping, you can see the dancers in the ballroom if you close your eyes. This Is Heaven shimmers with such joy, like a childhood cartoon on a spring day. My personal favourite is Nightbus, where the streets and fantasy come together. The fantasy is over, but just until tomorrow, but right now it’s the night bus home.

The band slowly climbed the ladder, playing Glastonbury and gathering quite an audience. And then out of nowhere, a few shows were cancelled. Then news came out that Horwood had committed suicide.

I don’t know what to say about this. I don’t know the band, or Horwood, or anyone. All I know is I’ve met many young talented people in my life, many who couldn’t handle the world they were given. Most of them survived, some didn’t. And that funny time when a band is taking off, and everything changes – becomes real. It’s a funny time. I am, still, feeling very sad about this guy I’ve never known. It’s some consolation that he crafted such an excellent album before it was all over.

I dragged a couple of friends to their next show. It might have been their last. The band seemed committed, more than ever, to survive. Raissa, who already had one dream fall apart, didn’t look like she was about to let go of this one.

This is going to be one of those records. Like the first Association album, or Murmur, where everyone from the band, the producers and history itself, came together. It’s a special album, and now, it will be unique. I do hope the Mummers continue. And perhaps, Raissa will just reinvent herself again.

There were no clips for Tale To Tell, but here’s that Jools Holland performance that turned me onto them in the first place.

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