The Beautiful Game


Release Date: May 23, 2000
Label: Higher Octave


Greg Carmichael – Nylon String Guitar
Miles Gilderdale – Steel String & Electric Guitar
John Parsons – Electric Guitar
Frank Felix – Bass
Fred White – Keyboards
Geoff Dunn – Drums
Scooter de Long – Percussion

Terry Disley – Piano

Track Listing

1 Angel of the South Greg Carmichael / Miles Gilderdale 6:41
2 The Panama Cat Greg Carmichael / Frank Felix / Miles Gilderdale 5:04
3 Trailblazer Greg Carmichael / Miles Gilderdale 5:00
4 The Beautiful Game Greg Carmichael 5:16
5 Hats of Magic Greg Carmichael 5:03
6 Tete a Tete Greg Carmichael 4:43
7 The Last Flamenco Greg Carmichael 4:20
8 Kidstuff Greg Carmichael 4:19
9 Big Sky Country Greg Carmichael / Miles Gilderdale 4:34
10 Hold Onto Your Heart Greg Carmichael 4:11
11 Jubilation Greg Carmichael 4:39
12 Trailblazer -Nashville Version Greg Carmichael / Miles Gilderdale 4:17
13 Big Sky Country -Nashville Version Greg Carmichael / Miles Gilderdale 4:41

Press Release

“Sensational!” That’s how Acoustic Alchemy’s Greg Carmichael describes the year 2000. With a new album, a new label and a newly configured band behind him, the man can hardly be faulted for his excitement.

This new chapter in Acoustic Alchemy’s storied history officially kicks off with the May 23rd release of The Beautiful Game, on the Higher Octave label. Carmichael was able to achieve a number of dynamic departures on the record, abetted by his collaborations with a variety of writers and musicians. Some of these were old friends who had lent previous support, others were new additions to the Acoustic Alchemy family. Collectively, they helped Greg coax a dramatic and open feel from the music, which was recorded at studios in England, Germany, and the U.S. (specifically S.F. and Nashville).

“The reason I surrounded myself with so many great people for this project is that I’ve longed to be part of a team,” says British native Carmichael, whose longtime guitarist partner and AA founding member Nick Webb passed away in 1998. “From the beginning, Acoustic Alchemy has been more about a musical concept than either of us as individuals, and so I felt inclined to simply find the right people to embrace the future. Rather than having rigid ideas of what I wanted the new sound to be like, I felt very open to exploring new ideas, responding to the input of these other co – writers. I was open to what they might have to offer, including working with a computer alongside live musicians. The result is that while we can’t possibly recapture the old band, you can still hear the signature sound of AA but with different and positive new influences.”

Carmichael’s collaborators include longtime band member John Parsons who took over Webb’s seat when Acoustic Alchemy toured in 1998; San Francisco based ex-A.A. keyboardist Terry Disley, whom Carmichael wrote with via tapes and international mail; album co-producer Miles Gilderdale, another of AA’s longtime backing guitarists; the young techno keyboardist Tony White, AA’s current bass player Frank Felix and producer Richard Bull, known for his soulful grooves with Incognito, George Benson and Workshy.

Another unique touch was producer Steven Jones’ idea to produce two tracks — the dusty, loping, dobro enhanced “Big Sky Country” and the snappy jazz/rock jam “Trail Blazer” –in Nashville, with the city’s top session players and a good measure of country attitude. Carmichael liked the lively re-productions so much he decided to include both the American and the English Versions of the two tracks as a special bonus. Other key cuts are the moody, retro-soul/blues flavored “The Panama Cat,” the rolling, bass driven Spanish adventure “The Angel of the South” and the hypnotic, reggae splashed title track.

“Nick’s and my rule of thumb was that everything would start with the two guitars,” says Carmichael, “but we break the rules here by starting with keyboards, kids voices (on ‘Kidstuff’) and other instruments. As for the album title, its immediate reference is to soccer, which is huge in England of course and which is a passion of most of the band members. Then of course, there’s the more ambiguous meaning, which refers quite intentionally to the game of life.”

Webb and guitarist Simon James were the original members of Acoustic Alchemy, which was formed in England in the early 80’s. The band didn’t achieve notoriety until Carmichael replaced James a few years later, and the release of Red Dust and Spanish Lace coincided perfectly with the new NAC radio format. Acoustic Alchemy has a rich legacy based on the extraordinary airplay, sales and critical reception given the many Webb-Carmichael recordings over the years. The duo’s tale begins with them providing the in-flight entertainment for a Virgin Airlines flight from England to America, playing their way to America and hoping to get a record deal. Signed to the MCA Master Series label by Tony Brown, their popularity took off with albums like Natural Elements (1988), Blue Chip (1989).

GRP bought their contract in 1990, reissuing the early work and also releasing Reference Point, Back on the Case, Early Alchemy (featuring Webb’s collaborations with James), The New Edge, Against the Grain and the live in the studio Arcanum, which featured new arrangements of classics, a few new tracks and full orchestrations. Recorded over three days at Pinewood Film Studios in England (home to all the James Bond films), the sessions were filmed by director Aubrey Powell for a television documentary of the band, released by GRP on video under the title Best Kept Secret.

Upon Webb’s February 1998 death from pancreatic cancer towards the end of The Recording of Positive Thinking, Carmichael found himself at a crossroads as to the course Acoustic Alchemy should take. At the time, he said, “the best tribute I can think of to someone who through it all just kept going, is to keep it going myself.”

Carmichael, however, was only sure Acoustic Alchemy would continue once he saw how the audiences responded to the reconfigured band in the live setting. “The decision to move on this way was a natural process because you can’t rush the mourning process or make big career decisions during that phase. I had to ask myself, am I really happy about this? Over time, I knew the answer was yes, and I knew we had to move forward for the long-term. Nick’s spirit lives in all the music I created with him and all we do now. That is my commitment to what he started and what we cultivated.”