STEVE Harley, the original Cockney Rebel, will lead his Acoustic Band in an Uncovered gig at Harrogate Theatre on February 21, the very day he releases his album of the same title.
Uncovered features interpretations of “nine painstakingly chosen songs” created in many instances by peers and contemporaries of 68-year-old Harley; those with shared histories and some that he admired from afar.
These are songs with heft and honesty, Harley says, that have always connected and resonated within him; material he has always wanted to perform and may even wish he had written.
Those tracks are David Bowie’s Absolute Beginners; Robbie Burns’s Ae Fond Kiss; Hot Chocolate’s Emma; Cat Stevens’s How Can I Tell You?; The Beatles’ I’ve Just Seen A Face; Jagger and Richards’s Out Of Time; the traditional Star Of Belle Isle; Longpigs’ Lose Myself and Bob Dylan’s When I Paint My Masterpiece.
These are complemented by two re-worked Harley compositions: (Love) Compared With You (Your Eyes Don’t Seem To Age), replete with a new third verse, and Only You, played live for several years but here recorded for the first time.
This diverse collection of Interpretations is “in some ways an almanac, rather than a set of great tracks”. Harley’s links with some of the songwriters go back to the start of their careers: Bowie in Beckenham; Dylan throughout his early teens; Cat Stevens/Yusuf and Paul McCartney, both early influences.
The newly founded Steve Harley Acoustic Band features Barry Wickens on viola, violin and acoustic guitar; Oli Hayhurst on double bass; Tom Hooper on percussion and roots music luminary Martin Simpson on the album, although the unavailable Simpson will be replaced by David Delarre on lead acoustic guitar on tour.
At the recording sessions, Scottish singer Eddi Reader joined Harley on Star Of Belle Isle, while Jim Cregan contributed a stirring guitar solo to Emma.
Those sessions were a joy, full of virtuosity and grit, recalls Harley. “I was roaring with stamina and passion when I went in to sing the final versions. I sang all 11 in one and a half days,” he says. “The hunger and desire to perform was almost primitive. Engineer Matt Butler has recorded my voice up-close and unaffected. I sing out but seem mostly restrained.”
Londoner Harley is no stranger to acoustic music, having toured with his Acoustic Trio – as well as the full Cockney Rebel rock band – for years en route to receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award for Acoustic Music in 2018.
His acoustic set at Harrogate Theatre will combine songs from Uncovered with such Harley highs as Mr Soft, Judy Teen, Sebastian and Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me).
Looking forward to touring with his new line-up, Harley says: “We have real adventures on tour. I’ve seen the Northern Lights, the Midnight Sun and dozens of wonderful galleries, museums and great cities, all on my down-time. I have a great life as a wandering minstrel.”
Tickets for February 21’s 7.30pm concert are on sale on 01423 502116 or at harrogatetheatre.co.uk.