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  1. I was told about this album by my brother, Miles. Ever since I was a kid I’ve had a fascination with space, astronomy and sci-fi and Milo’s description of “The Race For Space” convinced me to buy it.

    Working with sound samples again from the British Film Institute, the album tells the story of the US/USSR space race from 1957–1972. It begins with President Kennedy’s speech at Rice University on 12th September 1962 when he announced “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth”, the speech that fired the starting gun on the race for space.

    The album then takes you through that space race, from the launch of “Sputnik” to the first manned space flight by Yuri Gagarin, cosmonaut Alexei Leonov’s first spacewalk in “E.V.A” to the tragic disaster of Apollo 1 in “Fire In The Cockpit” and then the radio silence as Apollo 8 disappears behind the moon in “The Other Side” and you literally hold your breath waiting for them to reappear. 

    There’s tribute to Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, the pure danceable euphoria of “Go” as all the flight controllers at Mission Control confirm they are ready for Apollo 11 to land on the Moon (“RETRO? “GO!”, FIDO? “GO!” GUIDANCE? “GO!”, CONTROL? “GO!”). It all finishes with “Tomorrow”, based around the words of Gene Cernan (the last man to walk on the Moon) as he steps off the surface to begin Apollo 17’s journey home.

    “The Race For Space” is a superbly constructed story and a must if you have any interest in music and space.

    The Other Side - https://youtu.be/fIuSq5nAUSQ?si=Zkmi0QNwrgmDu0ma

  2. Public Service Broadcasting somehow got access to the archives of British Film Institute (BFI) and The National Archives (UK) and trawled through old public information films to lift snippets of dialogue that could be set to music to form “songs”. It’s a weird yet intriguing idea, and it really works.

    PSB are a 4 piece who go under pseudonyms adding an air of mystery to the whole thing. Mainman is J. Willgoose, Esq. who handles stringed instruments and samples,  Wrigglesworth plays drums, piano and electronic instruments, J F Abraham plays assorted other instruments and finally there is Mr B who looks after visuals for live performance. I’ve never really had it explained how they got access to the BFI and National Archive collections but the “songs” on here cover subjects like road rage, the navy, Spitfires, Mount Everest and overnight mail delivery.

    Opening and title track “Inform-Educate-Entertain” is like an overture, featuring snippets from other tracks on the album. It’s on second track “Spitfire” whet it becomes clear how this idea can work. Over a thumping dance beat including a groovy guitar riff we have snippets from he 1942 movie “The First Of The Few” a bio pic about  RJ Mitchell the designer of the the Spitfire aircraft. The track is interspersed with spoken pieces by Leslie Howard playing Mitchell, things like “The birds fly a lot better than we do…It isn't exactly a bird I'm creating, is it?…A bird that breathes fire and spits out death and destruction” and my particular favourite “It's gotta do four-hundred miles an hour, Turn on a sixpence, Climb ten thousand feet in a few minutes, Dive at five-hundred without the wings coming off…”. All this and still a dancefloor banger.

    “Theme From PSB” features Marie Slocombe, who founded the BBC Sound Archive in 1936 talking about it in 1942. “Signal 30” hurtles along and is based on a film shown to high schoolers in Ohio right up to the 80’s about the risks of dangerous driving. The film features actual dead people ! I’m sure there’s some dialogue in here from a 50’s Looney Tunes style cartoon about the same thing but I can’t be sure. “Night Mail” is another subtly groovy thing with dialogue from a 1936 film about the trains that transported mail across the country overnight. I’m vaguely recall seeing that film in the cinema when I was a kid. Read the “lyrics”, they have a lovely natural rhythm to them

     This is the Night Mail crossing the border

    Bringing the cheque and the postal order

    Letters for the rich, letters for the poor

    The shop at the corner and the girl next door

    Side 2 has two really cool tracks. “Lit Up” is based on commentary by Thomas Woodrooffe at the Coronation review of the Fleet at Spithead in 1937.  Woodrooffe was a former Navy Lieutenant Commander turned BBC commentator who, before watching the fleet, met up with some former colleagues on his old ship HMS Nelson from where he was to broadcast. The old friends had a few drinks which led to Thomas being extremely inebriated and by the time he got on air it was obvious not only was the fleet lit up, as he kept telling listeners, but so was he! He was taken off air after a few minutes and the BBC suspended him for a week, later saying he was “tired and emotional”.

    That is followed by “Everest” and whoever thought that gentlemen describing the climbing of a mountain in textbook Received Pronunciation could be funky, I certainly didn’t but here it is ! A beauty of a keyboard driven dance tune featuring poetic dialogue like “Two very small men cutting steps in the roof of the world, Why should a man climb Everest? Because it is there

    “Inform-Educate-Entertain” probably shouldn’t be quite as successful as it turned out to be. The very idea of it is strange, one or two tracks maybe but a whole album…naaaaah. You may need a vague interest in social history for it to appeal but I’m weird like that.

    Everest - https://youtu.be/vhgfzEm3CWU?si=7bMsVglJshVH2-Fh

  3. I was there the night this album title was birthed, up in the South Shropshire hills on a beautifully clear, star filled July night having celebrated the birthdays of two of my very favourite people on this whole planet (my wife and my brother share a birthday). Those clear summer nights in South Shropshire are unpolluted by city lights and the sky is sometimes awe inspiring. Ian Prowse was at the same celebration and that sky took his breath away while walking back to his B&B that night, it affected him so much he worked it into his album title. 

    “Battle” is quickly developing into one of Prowseys signature songs. Written in the aftermath of the lockdowns ad Prowseys legendary Frida night Facebook live streams he conjured a lyric full of hope, strength and solidarity, a message to cling to when times feel tough. In “Holy, Holy River” Ian presents a joyous tribute to Liverpool’s mighty Mersey River, inspired by the public ferry which on occasions will stop mid-river so the ashes of departed Scousers can be scattered on the tides to make their way to “…Sausalito, Then down to Rio,…bangin on the door in Singapore”. We shan’t dwell on “Diego”. Prowsey knows how I feel about it, a waste of what could have been a wonderful song on a completely undeserving subject. We’ll agree to disagree.

    “No Trial” suggests a short sharp solution to ultra right wing thinkers come the glorious revolution, set to a thumping rock ’n’ roll backing “Antifa’s alright”. “My Old Black Tie” is a gentle, heartfelt tribute that I relate to wholeheartedly. I’m sitting writing this while to my right is the shelf in our living room holding the service cards from the funerals of five dear friends we’ve lost over the lockdown years and after, all gone way to young and we miss them all for exactly the same reason, they are people who affected our lives and we wish they were all still here “Do you remember the walk of shame, When we were so young, I’d do it all again”.

    "Swine” rocks and perfectly expresses my feelings about the guy that pissed me off in the pub a couple of Fridays back, moaning about taxi drivers who “come to our (he’d probably write it “are” !!!) country and can’t even speak English”…did he get you home for the price they quoted you, if so what’s your problem ? Thank your lucky stars you don’t have to work ’til the early hours driving ungrateful, drunk pricks like you home (</rant_mode_off). “Big Feelings” is one for all us parents, it changes us. Now, I know the subject of “Dan” and it nails him perfectly in song, I just wish this was a better song. “Go Livio” is an adult nursery rhyme for a kid that Ian met when he came to stay. 

    “…Starry Plough” winds up with “He Sings I Cry” which has the best intro on the whole album and a lyric into which, as the sleeve notes tell us, Ian poured “mystery, wonder, revolution, music, faith, death, love and the sky at night”. There’s a couple of tracks on this record I could happily leave out but I’m also sure that most others who have taken Ian Prowse into their musical world would disagree with me, it’s why music is such a beautiful thing, none of us are right or wrong. I’ve now finished writing about Ian Prowse (until his next album) whether that be solo or with Pele or Amsterdam and one thing I know I am right about is I thank whoever arranged it for him to enter my musical world almost 20 years ago.

    He Sings I Cry - https://youtu.be/fWNoNN_ClgE?si=GWVtnG4BqDlGRkM-