Four years or so ago when COVID ruled the world I responded to a Gumtree advertisement for four vinyl records. Three of those records were in the Val Dominican style and the fourth was Judy Bailey’s My Favourite Things… a benchmark of Australian 1960s Jazz.

I drove to the upper north shore of Sydney, excited to be getting a cheap copy of this valuable LP. I handed over the money and the seller handed me the records. At that stage the seller’s wife walked in the room, flung open the record cabinet doors and proceeded to remove 100 or so more LPs. She left the room hurriedly.

I asked the seller, “What was that about?”

“It’s a hint.”

“To sell the rest?”

“Yes” he said, somewhat disheartened.

I looked through and amongst the Jimi Hendrix, Yardbirds, John Mayall and Deep Purple a mustard-coloured cover piqued my interest. Said the Blackbird…Neil Gardner…never heard of it nor seen it before. No idea where it was from at all. I added it to my by-now largish pile, handed over the $$ and was on my way.

A quick check on Discogs told me it was from 1972 and from Tasmania. Further investigations led me to Neil’s website and detailed notes about the record I had by now on the turntable. A bit of Dylan, Donovan and progressive rock elements came to mind.

Facebook revealed the man himself…alive and well – writing and recording until this day.

The record was pressed up by PYE in New Zealand at the suggestion of Nick Armstrong, who owned the studio in which Neil recorded the LP. Nick Armstrong – this was an early incarnation of the Basket and Candle label.

50 copies were pressed up and housed in leftover (unprinted upon) sleeves from George Harrison’s All Things Must Passtriple album. They were screenprinted by an art school friend of Neil’s. His printing workspace limitations meant only one side of Neil’s album was printed.

Neil sold the Said The Blackbird by word of mouth and at his performances.

Even more remarkable is the fact that this was Neil’s second album. His first Anthem for Wednesday was produced in the same fashion a year earlier. Finances were so tight it came with white labels only, a white paper sleeve and an 8″ x10″ black and white photo of Neil. The first Tasmanian LP released consisting of entirely original songs.

Neil is truly a remarkable artist and a true independent who produced a work of subtle beauty in the pastoral surrounds of The Apple Isle.

– Kevin Blyth, June 2024