In Search of Amelia Earhart
|In Search of Amelia Earhart|
|Studio album by|
|Genre||Country rock/Folk rock|
|Ian Matthews chronology|
Plainsong was a British country rock/folk rock band, formed in early 1972 by Ian (later Iain) Matthews, formerly of Fairport Convention and Matthews Southern Comfort, and Andy Roberts, previously of The Liverpool Scene. The band's line-up consisted of Matthews, Roberts, guitarist Dave Richards (died January 2019) and American bassist Bob Ronga (died November 2012). The original group lasted basically a year, splitting up in December 1972. Ronga had already left the band by then due to a drinking problem and Matthews and Richards did not see eye to eye over their musical direction during the recording of a planned second album, the unissued 'Plainsong III'. Both Matthews and Roberts resumed making solo albums in 1973 following Plainsong's demise.
Ian Matthews played in four different band incarnations within three years. He had left Fairport Convention to form his own band, Matthews' Southern Comfort, put out two solo LPs for Vertigo Records, and then started the band Plainsong. It is probably fair to say that In Search of Amelia Earhart is the pinnacle of Matthews' work in the 1970s. Working with producer Sandy Roberton (Hard Meat, Steeleye Span, Shirley Collins), Ian and bandmates, notably Andy Roberts who shared vocals on the album, created an atypical British folk album conceived around the idea of the legends surrounding Amelia Earhart and her supposed demise. Both Matthews and Roberts had read the 1966 book The Search for Amelia Earhart by CBS news correspondent Fred Goerner hypothesizing that Earhart and her flying companion Frederick Noonan had crashed around the Japanese held Marshall Islands area and been taken prisoner by the Japanese on Saipan, in the Marianas, in 1937. Their plane had supposedly been outfitted with aerial cameras and had a bigger fuel tank than anyone outside of the US government knew. After being grilled by Japanese interrogators Earhart would perish of dysentery, and Noonan was beheaded by the Japanese according to this still unproven theory.
The album at the time was widely perceived as being a concept album, but not all of the songs on the album are directly about Amelia Earhart. But the album carries that somber, mellow tone in which so much great folk music of the early ’70s was in touch. Many of the songs are about seeing and reaching for light, whether they be the light of day or the light of death. So in a way the album is more about the way people felt about, cared about and thought about Amelia Earhart and her death. That she is still considered a heroine of aviation and a distinctly American hero keeps the mystery of what happened to her in the greater cultural imagination.
'In Search of Amelia Earhart' in its original form was unavailable on CD for many years, being issued as a Japanese-only CD by Warner-Elektra in 1991 and then reissued by Matthews' own label Perfect Pitch in 2001, and more recently by Man In The Moon Records in 2016. The unissued 'Plainsong III', now entitled 'Now We Are 3', finally saw the light of day as the second disc of a 2CD re-issue in 2005 by Water Records just entitled 'Plainsong' where both Plainsong albums featured along with various radio recordings, demos and singles.
- "For the Second Time" (Ian Matthews) - 3:51
- "Yo Yo Man" (Rick Cunha, Marty Cooper) - 2:13
- "Louise" (Paul Siebel) - 3:18
- "Call the Tune" (Ian Matthews) - 5:22
- "Diesel on My Tail" (Jim Fagan) - 2:03
- "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight" (Dave McEnery) - 4:05
- "I'll Fly Away" (Albert E. Brumley) - 2:03
- "True Story of Amelia Earhart" (Ian Matthews) - 4:32
- "Even the Guiding Light" (Ian Matthews) - 4:12
- "Side Roads" (Ian Matthews) - 3:29
- "Raider" (Jerry Yester, Judy Henske) - 4:32
- Ian Matthews - guitar, vocals
- Andy Roberts - guitar, Kriwaczek string organ, dulcimer, vocals
- Dave Richards - guitar, vocals
- Bob Ronga - bass, vocals
- Martin Jenkins - mandolin, cello, mandola
- Dave Mattacks - drums (4)
- Timi Donald - drums
- Producer: Sandy Roberton
- Recording Engineer: Jerry Boys
- Art Direction: n/a
- Photography: Jeremy Ensor
- Liner Notes: Fred Goerner