A musical story which began in Rochdale 40 years ago finds its later chapter delivered several miles down the road and across the border in the Calder Valley.
Favourites of the late pioneering Radio One DJ John Peel, The Way We Live, who were also known for many years as Tractor, made their recording debut for his Dandelion label with their acclaimed A Candle For Judith album, following it up with the Tractor album (racking up some very healthy sales) and other recordings.
Their early sound, which still attracts new devotees of those original albums four decades on, was developed by musicians Jim Milne and Steve Clayton with their friend John Brierley, whose interest in shaping sound led him to found Rochdale’s famous Cargo Studios, where he worked with artists like Joy Division and Teardrop Explodes in the post-punk boom.
John, who lives in Todmorden, has linked up again with drummer and percussionist Steve, now resident in Hebden Bridge, and guitarist and songwriter Jim, who lives in Liverpool, for the band’s third album, Learn From Yesterday, Live For Today, released on Kargo Records.
The music was recorded by Jim at Evolution Studios in Liverpool before being mixed and produced by John at Calder Recordings, Cragg Vale, and Cargo Studios, the finished music being mastered by Calder Recordings’ Steve Fenton.
While retaining the experimental edge their unique brand of rock music had to grab listeners’ attention all those years ago, John decided to go for a punchy modern mix - and it works well.
The trio are augmented by a number of musicians this time around - ranging from string players to some mandolin work from actor and musician Dominic Brunt, who plays vet Paddy in television’s Emmerdale.
Unable for legal reasons to use the name Tractor, they reverted to the original The Way We Live - the name under which Jim and Steve plus John operated.
Jim said: “I worked on an album John was producing and we both enjoyed it and said ‘we can do this’.
“I have my own studio and had some songs around on which Steve could make his contribution. There’s far more to it, a lot of different percussion and instruments on there, and more musicians - we know a lot of people now and they’re talented musicians.
“Dominic Brunt I heard play on TV’s Family Fortunes! Presenter Vernon Kay surprised him on one of the celebrity editions with a mandolin for him to play. I knew he knew John and we came up with a schedule.”
Musicians and producer all came up with telling contributions to the final sound, said Jim.
“We’re 40 years older than we were but we have more knowledge about music and capable of playing it, I like to think.
“And what I gave John from my studio here and what we came up with was not how it finished up - it’s like a different beast altogether. There are elements of the old sound and textures but more to it from John’s years of experience at Cargo.
“He’s done a cracking job on it,” he said.