Thirty-eight years on, and Hyde Park Free Concert 1970 sounds like the kind of thing that would have present day festival goers running for cover from something other than the weather. In other words, it's a set of songs loosely jammed and punctuated by freakouts; a record of a moment in time when audiences expected something other than predictability.
They got it in abundance on this occasion. "Clarence In Wonderland" is punctuated by Lol Coxhill's always scintillating soprano sax and Robert Wyatt's drumming (despite being buried in the mix to a certain extent) driving the music forward. On "Red Green And You Blue," bassist Mike Oldfieldin those happy days before he inflicted Tubular Bells (Virgin, 1973) on usserves the same cause, before Coxhill gets the chance to put out one of his patented solo inventions and the whole descends into a form of cod reggae, the sheer fun of which is beyond words.
"May I?" affords exposure to guitarist/vocalist Kevin Ayers's lugubrious voice, punctuated by Coxhill and the siren of a passing ambulance just to add period color. Again, Coxhill takes the music somewhere else over David Bedford's electric piano before the brief "Hat Song" gives him the chance to hold forth on the slide whistle.
"Did It Again," the same song known elsewhere as "We Did It Again," amounts to an English take on the Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat (Verve, 1967), but with Wyatt providing something other than Mo Tucker's nihilistic drive.
In a setting such as this, "Why Are We Sleeping?" is not only a title but a debatable question, especially as it offers ups more of the same but with even more punk drive. The question becomes something more than rhetorical as the band freaks out, in what would have been the prescribed fashion under the circumstances; the result is a blast on a number of levels.
The sound quality here isn't extraordinary; it's the kind of thing that might get audiophiles sobbing. However, it's also a clear picture of how the music might have sounded on the day, and that's good enough.
Track Listing: Clarence In Wonderland; Red Green And Blue You; May I; Hat Song; Did It Again; Why Are We Sleeping?.
Personnel: Kevin Ayers: guitar, vocals; David Bedford: electric piano, organ; Lol Coxhill: tenor sax, soprano sax, Gibson Maestro, slide whistle, percussion; Mike Oldfield: bass; Robert Wyatt: drums.