Jim Morton

Three out of the four Dave Sinclair albums being released on the new Crescent label have artwork done by Jim Morton. (The fourth, for piano solo, features a dramatic photo of the Fox glacier in New Zealand as its front cover.)

Jim Morton is an American artist who came to live in Kyoto, Japan nearly 40 years ago in order to study za-zen and calligraphy, and has remained there ever since.

It is a well known fact that many of the progressive rock albums from the 60s and 70s have conceptual themes running through them, and their artwork tends to display the same kind of imagery. Quite often it is possible to guess who the artist is just by seeing the accompanying front cover artwork. Looking back, it seems that the cover design could almost be seen as the trademark label of the band or artist. (This was also apparent in the logos that were used by the artists and bands of that time.)

This was very much in the back of my mind when I set out to find a suitable artist to produce artwork of a similar kind for the Stream album.

But not long after I started my search, Dave phoned me to say that a friend of his, whom he often went walking with, was keen to prepare the artwork for this new album and had already made a few sketches.

At that time Dave and I didn’t realise just how great a talent this friend had for the visual arts, but all the same we later decided to have a meeting with him.

Dave and Jim both live near to each other on the eastern side of the city at the foot of the slope which leads to the mountains up behind their homes. (In fact mountains almost completely encircle Kyoto.)

Soon after moving there, Dave - who has always been a keen sportsman and sailor as well as a former high-jump champion - was soon frequently walking up the slope to the mountain base and climbing the remaining 700 steps to the summit as a daily exercise.
(I tried it one time with him, but wouldn’t attempt it again in a hurry!)

During those walks Dave would sometimes pass another European man, quietly greeting him with a courteous nod or wave. Eventually they started speaking and came to be on friendly terms with each other. The other man’s name is Jim Morton.

Later, after Dave visited Jim’s home and saw some of his work lying around, he instantly realised that Jim would be exactly the right person to do the artwork for his Stream album, and therefore decided to play Jim some of the music from it (which at that time was still only in demo form). After that, Jim started working on the front-cover and soon had a rough impression for Dave and me to look at.

Looking back to that first meeting, Jim arrived on his bicycle with a very large shoulder bag. Once inside the house he opened the bag and showed us what he had done so far.
I’ll never forget the moment when I looked at the picture for the first time. It showed an image of two women in water, one with an outstretched arm with a Buddha-like hand.
The eyes seemed to stare right through me. But what amazed me most of all was the blending of Western and Eastern art in a way I had never seen before. This was extremely beautiful and individual work accomplished by using traditional Japanese brushes and paper, and it was exactly what I had been looking for.

I decided at once to ask Jim to complete the work for the Stream album, just altering a few details to fit our requirements.


Another time when I visited Jim’s house I was able to see him working on his calligraphy seated in the seiza position and wearing traditional Japanese working clothes. In this room, hanging from a roof beam, there was a very large selection of expensive looking fude brushes ranging in size from tiny to very large. Also there was a striking carved figure of a Buddha in the corner of the room completed by Jim many years ago. Looking at that carving I could better understand why he was able to produce such amazing work for the Stream cover. The accompanying “Dave Sinclair” lettering work had also been accomplished after years of practising with the fude brush, and again showed Jim’s originality as well as his skill.

Later, when we had tea in another room, Jim pulled out an old European instrument from a case and started to play it. It was the lute.

Jim and Lute (320x240).jpg

So now I feel that just as the connections between Paul Whitehead and Genesis, Roger Dean and Yes, and Hipgnosis and Pink Floyd are legendary, I have the same feeling about Jim Morton and Dave Sinclair. This is the reason why I also asked Jim to work on the En-Circle and Moon Over Man albums. All three albums show Jim’s distinctive calligraphy, using the “Dave Sinclair” lettering set into a cloud form.



Also, all three pictures are double-jacket size (i.e. only half of the picture is being shown in these web pages), and of course they can be better appreciated in their full form.
In fact, the original front-cover picture for the Stream album is now on the inside but will open out in such a way that it forms a single, continuous image with the front-cover artwork. (All will be revealed after purchasing the album!)

But anyway, here is a hint of what to expect: Think back to King Crimson’s classic album In The Court Of The Crimson King, where the gatefold cover opens out to reveal the man’s screaming face on the front receding into interstellar space on the back!
posted by Crescent Label Master at 05:36| English Version


Now available

Now "Pianoworks I" album is available.
posted by Crescent Label Master at 00:44| English Version


From "Grey & Pink" ( side one ) to "Pianoworks"

The "In The Land Of Grey And Pink" album has four tracks on side one (of the vinyl LP). Track 1, 2, and 4 were composed by Richard Sinclair, and track 3 by Pye Hastings.
It is generally recognised that Dave's main keyboard feature sound on that album is his organ solo sound, particularly on side 2.

G&P jacket (160x157).jpg

Actually I agree that Dave's Hammond organ sound is an integral part of Canterbury Music from that period along with Soft Machine's Mike Ratledge's use of the Lowry organ.

Much later in Dave's career, in 1980, he opened a shop near Canterbury restoring and selling acoustic pianos. During the following 25 years, ( doing a 'Proper Job',... ref: Caravan Back to Front album 1982 ) he spent most of his time in front of, on top of, inside, underneath, and behind, many thousands of pianos. It is not surprising therefore that his association with the instrument became even more pronounced.
In point of fact, over that quarter century, when time permitted, he spent far more time playing the piano than the organ.

With reference to the Grey and Pink album, Dave's fluent and unique piano style is particularly noticeable in the middle section of track 4, where his pointillist artistry allowed the piano notes to create a colourful canvas of delights. The amazing finger work of genius sends the notes skipping and dancing through the passage.
When chatting to Richard about this, he agreed with me that it was also for him the highlight of side 1.

Since first being mesmerised by that piano solo, it has long since been my desire to produce a series of Pianoworks albums trying to capture the essence of that original sound and feeling. Whether I have achieved my aim on this, the first of the Pianoworks albums, I'll leave it up to the listeners to decide, but for me, I am very pleased with the final results.
Although I continue to love the music from Mendelssohn's piano suites “Songs Without Words”, for me this “Pianoworks” album has now taken precedence.

posted by Crescent Label Master at 18:40| English Version