Chris George, Terry Hiscock and Doug Morter formed Hunter Muskett in 1969 whilst still at college. The band was lucky in having access to the clubs and colleges of London, including The Marquee and The Troubadour where they were finally spotted.
Within a year they were signed by Decca producer Kim Margolis and booked into the company’s West Hampstead studios alongside bassist Danny Thompson. Arranger Richard Hewson was commissioned to write orchestral parts for a number of the songs.
The album ‘Every Time You Move’ Decca Nova SDN20 (vinyl only) was released in October 1970. The trio, complemented by bass and strings, played acoustic guitars on all 12 tracks, 11 of which were band originals. A proposed single, ‘There’s A Day’ with ’Gypsy’ as B side, was recorded but not released.
Decca Nova was a short-lived venture and over time albums on the label gained ‘collectable’ status; of these ‘Every Time You Move’ was the rarest. With the coming of the internet a number of bootlegs duly appeared. Finally in 2009, growing interest in the band’s music led Cherry Red records to release the first official CD of the album featuring master tape quality, the original artwork and a 16-page booklet on the history of the band.
“First reissue from new Cherry Red offshoot is a folk blast. This debut from little-known, but highly regarded folk trio Hunter Muskett is an underground gem. The opening title track lays out their stall perfectly: layers of acoustic guitars, a delicate beat and some lush vocal harmonising. The songs are purposely poetic but it never sounds forced, even on the darker tracks, such as Midsummer Night’s Dream, where the melancholy just about hangs together without sounding passé. It’s a delicious balance.
Released here with a full account of the band’s history, laid down for the first time, this is a quintessentially English folk record that has waited a long time for the audience it deserves. Highly recommended.”
Packed full of earthy, original songs, it masterly skirts the boundaries of baroque pop and folk-rock.
“A folksy trio, but one with a very sophisticated sound — thanks to some added arrangements from Richard Hewson — who gives the record a much fuller feel than you might guess from the acoustic image on the cover! Hunter Muskett’s a UK trio featuring Chris George, Terry Hiscock, and Doug Morter — all on vocals and acoustic guitar — sometimes singing solo, sometimes in a warmly harmonic mode that really sounds great with the fuller backings. And the backings are subtle enough, just a bit here and there — in the way that Nick Drake’s albums were augmented at points, but not all the way through — a wonderful balance that never softens the sound at all.”
Following the release of the first album in late 1970 bass-player Rog Trevitt completed the line-up. With their studies now finished the new four-piece finally went on the road full-time (the first gig was at ‘Safari Village in Morocco in September 71) and toured continuously in the UK and on the continent for the next three years.
With the demise of Decca Nova the band talked with a number of record labels before signing with ATV music to become part of the new Bradley’s label. The second album ’Hunter Muskett’ was recorded at Island’s no2 Basing Street studio late in 1972 with Keith Relf producing. By now electric guitars were very much part of the sound and drummer Michael Giles played on 5 of the 9 tracks (all band originals), Jim McCarty added percussion and Ken Freeman synthesiser. A further synthesiser section by John Bundrick went uncredited (as had Danny Thompson on the Decca Nova recording).
The album “Hunter Muskett’ was released in March 1973 (on vinyl, cassette and 8-track), a single ‘John Blair’, a shorter re-recorded version of the opening song, again featuring Michael Giles, came out a month earlier, and two Muskett performances appeared on the sampler album ‘Bradleys Roadshow Live At The Marquee’.
The ‘Hunter Muskett’ album is now officially unavailable although a number of bootlegs exist. ‘Silver Coin’ (also the B side of the single) has been recorded by various artists including Bridget St John, Archie Fisher, Ken Campbell and Derek Brimstone as well as being performed by Alan Taylor and Barbara Dixon.
The band considered adding drums to replicate the new album sound on stage, but, in the event they were used on only two other occasions: Roger Swallow sitting in on Pete Drummond’s ‘Night Ride’ radio show and Andrew Steele at the Festival Hall during the Ralph McTell tour.
Once again there was to be no follow-up album. Within a year Bradleys had decided to change direction, off-loaded all of their existing acts and signed up The Goodies. This was the beginning of the end for Muskett who finally called it a day in mid-74 returning from Holland and Belgium to fire their last shot at The Brunswick in Preston.
Although the last-minute demo tapes (again with Andrew Steele on drums) didn’t change the minds of the men at Bradleys, two of the songs, ‘Steel Guitar’ and ‘Best Thing In My Life’ were to re-emerge 40 years later.
In 2010, following the Cherry Red re-release of ‘Every Time You Move’ the four Musketteers decided to meet up again for the first time in 30-odd years and a ‘one-off’ performance was arranged at The Aspinall Arms near Clitheroe. This had led to new dates, new songs and another album.
That Was Then, This Is Now (Limefield, 2013) The new CD was made at Limefield Studio, Manchester, with John Ellis and Bill Leader (who almost recorded Muskett 40 years earlier) helped along by the likes of Paul Burgess, Jerry Donahue and Ray Jackson. Ten of the eleven songs were band originals.
‘..a lovely, warm bath of a record, unpretentious, classy… It’s much better than it has any right to be.. ‘
‘The album has a lovely, unhurried warmth. Mellow, laid back vocals drift around the common thread of some wonderful guitar work…as well as being extremely talented players these gentlemen know how to write a lyric. 8/10’
‘…a very classy affair… ‘
‘THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW is a gorgeous record. Welcome back Hunter Muskett.’
‘…agreeable acoustic roots and rock ...it’s sunny, grin-inducing and a run through of Walk Away Renee adds the icing.‘
‘…a surprisingly palatable cake. This is one band that doesn’t have to stand on past glories ... worth catching live, too.’
BBC Radio Scotland - Ian Anderson’s album of the week (18th November)
‘…a fine group of musicians and songwriters.’
With new songs entering the set it was time to record again, this time at Spencer Cozens’ Steinway Studio in Fulbeck, Lincs. Started in autumn 2015 the fourth Muskett album was completed a year later for release in early 2017.
Unafraid and Sober (SPC 2017) :
‘…a gentle album of mainly self-penned songs, fine guitar solos, mature arrangements… enchanting‘
.‘…tightly woven folk flavours propelled by some great instrumentation and carefully balanced harmonies. The songwriting is uniformly strong….Investigate with confidence. 7/10.’
Must be one of the best album titles of recent years…good stuff…nice to have them back
.. a lovely album full of great songwriting, lush vocal harmonies and superb musicianship..
… remarkable that a band can get back together after forty years and produce an album which sounds so fresh and relevant to today.
‘…fine songs, great playing and even a guest vocal by Jacqui McShee. Definitely recommended.‘
…vocal and instrumental support combine to deliver a haunting and spiritual series of ballads. Absolutely marvellous! Everything I want from a true Folk album.
...distinctive features are the guitar interplay, beautiful harmonies, and thoughtful songs of retrospection.
Unafraid and Sober is expertly co-produced by the band and the talented Spencer Cozens.' 4 stars