Chapter 9: The Reunion
Cupboards, lofts and spare rooms in London, Los Angeles, France and Scotland were searched. Over a period of weeks various cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes were unearthed. The faded labels finally confirmed that copies of what looked like those early Cressida demos were still in existence. The tapes, having lain untouched for 40 years, were obviously in a fragile state and it was decided to first send them away to tape repair specialists for restoration before attempting to play them.
Iain: “We thought they had all been lost or destroyed over the years, so we were amazed to discover they still existed. After the tapes were restored, they were digitised and we could then listen to the audio files and find out just what we had unearthed. Whilst the performances had all the flaws of demos they really reflected the spirit of the band in its earliest days, and the recordings still sounded remarkably fresh.”
The band members had kept Damian Jones in the loop and he had been in touch with Ian Shirley of Record Collector Magazine with the news about the discovery. After hearing them he knew that these never previously heard recordings would be of great interest to progressive music fans.
Record Collector approached the band with a proposal: a high-quality, limited edition 12” vinyl LP of the recordings. Even for Record Collector, the world’s leading authority on rare and collectable records, this was something rather special. The band discussed the proposal and in September 2011 agreed to license the recordings to Record Collector, who would release them under their new Rare Vinyl Series. Things rapidly took off from there.
The recordings were taken to Fluid Mastering Studios in London in September for re-mastering while the band hunted out previously unseen photographs to give to the sleeve designers. The album was to be called Trapped in Time: The Lost Tapes.
To coincide with the interest now being generated in Cressida, a web site was constructed and shortly after it went live Iain received an interesting email from a visitor to the the site. It was from Mikael Åkerfeldt of the Swedish band Opeth who introduced himself and said how pleased he was to read about Cressida as he was a huge fan of the band, who had been a big influence on his writing for Opeth.
At some point in the discussions the idea of the band doing a reunion gig was mooted. The suggestion was initially dismissed as unrealistic – some of the original members had not performed for many years and were no longer involved in music – but eventually everyone agreed to meet and see what transpired.
Arrangements were made for the original members to get together for the first time in more than 40 years. Sadly, it would be without Cressida’s first guitarist John Heyworth, who had passed away the previous year, and his successor John Culley, who was living in the Isle of Man, was also unable to join the reunion. No matter, in September 2011, Angus, Kevin, Peter and Iain finally gathered together at Iain’s home in Scotland for the first time in forty years to discuss and try-out what seemed like a far-fetched and incredible proposition – to make music together again.
After an evening of food, wine and reminiscences they gathered the next morning in a rehearsal room where they were joined by Inverness-based guitarist Roger Niven, who had been in local bands with Iain for many years. With a few nerves about, they tentatively began to play some of their old songs for the first time in four decades.
Not surprisingly, the first hour was rather tentative as they felt their way back into the music. But as they began to relax, they started to gel, and it became clear that despite the many years since they had played together, there was still that chemistry and the familiar voice and sounds that defined Cressida and made them such an exciting live act. They could scarcely believe it. Cressida had re-emerged.
Kevin: “It took a little while to blow the cobwebs away. We played a lot of our old numbers and the suggestion that the music would immediately come back to us was soon dispelled. In some ways it was like going back to the start, asking how this section went and what those chords were! At the same time, once we relaxed, the improvisations were just great, and we all knew the band had not lost its touch. It felt really good to be playing together again.”
The band members departed after their reunion in Scotland delighted that they had all met up again and more importantly, that musically they still gelled as a group. The idea of Cressida reforming for one last gig was no longer so far-fetched.