- Judge Smith
Judge Smith performing The Climber in USF Verftet, Bergen, Norway, 9 May 2009
Background information Birth name Christopher John Judge Smith Born 1948
Genres Progressive rock, alternative rock, avant garde, musical, opera Occupations Singer, songwriter Instruments Vocals, drums, euphonium Years active 1967–present Labels Masters Of Art Associated acts Van der Graaf Generator, John Ellis, David Jackson, Lene Lovich, Arthur Brown, Mr Averell Website Judge Smith
Christopher John Judge Smith (born 1948 in England), is a songwriter, composer and performer, and a founder member of progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator. Initially working under the name Chris Judge Smith, he has been known simply as Judge Smith since 1994.
In 1967, with Peter Hammill, Judge Smith founded the band Van der Graaf Generator. He was originally a singing drummer and percussionist (sometimes playing a typewriter), but after drummer Guy Evans joined the band, Smith realized that there wasn't a great deal left for him to do, since his role was reduced to being a harmony singer. After recording the first Van der Graaf Generator-single ("People You Were Going To" b/w "Firebrand"), Smith amicably left the band in 1968.
He went on to form a jazz-rock band called Heebalob, which included saxophonist David Jackson (who would later join Van der Graaf Generator). After the demise of Heebalob, Smith pursued a solo career, and wrote and recorded many songs, some of which appeared on his (currently unavailable) first solo album Democrazy (1991). Smith also wrote several stage musicals as lyricist with composer Maxwell Hutchinson, including The Kibbo Kift (1976) and The Ascent Of Wilberforce III (1981) and his own chamber opera, The Book Of Hours (1978). Mata Hari (1982), was his last musical, co-written with (and starring) Lene Lovich.
Around 1973, Smith, together with Van der Graaf Generator co-founder Peter Hammill, began work on an opera based on the short story The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, Smith writing the libretto and Hammill composing the music. The album was finally released in 1991 on Some Bizzare Records, with a cast of singers including Lene Lovich, Andy Bell, Sarah Jane Morris and Herbert Grönemeyer. A reworked version, entitled The Fall Of The House Of Usher - deconstructed & rebuilt, was released on Hammill's Fie! label in 1999. The new version is notable for having a cleaner, better produced sound, additional guitars and (unlike the first version) no percussion.
Peter Hammill has recorded a number of songs written by Smith, including "Been Alone So Long", "Time for a Change" and "Four Pails", and plays them live on a regular basis. Lene Lovich also recorded songs written by Smith, including "What Will I Do Without You" and "You Can't Kill Me".
In 1974 Smith wrote and directed a short film entitled The Brass Band, which has won several international awards.
Smith also wrote music for the television comedy series Not The Nine O'Clock News in the 1980s, including the punk rock parody "Gob on You".
In 1993 Dome Of Discovery was released, Smith's first CD proper. Apart from the vocals, virtually every note on the album came from the sampled sounds of real instruments. Smith spent months making his own samples, hiring various musicians and recording individual notes. Since 2006, a remastered version has been available for download at iTunes.
After many years of work developing a new form of narrative music he calls "Songstory", Smith completed and released, in 2000, the double CD Curly's Airships, about the R101 airship disaster of 1930. Amongst many others, Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton, Arthur Brown, David Jackson, John Ellis and Pete Brown performed on the project. Smith believes that the 2 hr 20 min work might be the largest and most ambitious single piece of rock music ever recorded. Curly's Airships was to be the first of three Songstories so far written and composed by Smith.
On the same day that Van der Graaf Generator played their reunion concert in the Royal Festival Hall in London, 6 May 2005, Smith played an afternoon concert, his first for many years, at the Cobden Club in London. This concert launched his new album The Full English, and featured (amongst others) all the songs on it. He was accompanied by John Ellis on electric guitar, Michael Ward-Bergeman on accordion and René van Commenée on percussion.
2006 also saw the release of The Vesica Massage, an album of instrumental music designed for use by massage therapists.
In October 2007 Smith released a two-song single CD, "The Light of the World" / "I Don't Know What I'm Doing", under the name of The Tribal Elders. This band consisted of Judge Smith, David Jackson, John Ellis, Michael Ward-Bergeman and Rikki Patten.
In January 2008 the full-length album Long-Range Audio Device was released, under the name of L-RAD, a collaboration between Judge Smith and American artist Steve Defoe. Defoe is a founder of The Larry Mondello Band, who released numerous cassette tapes of their lo-fi music in the 1980s and 1990s.
In May 2009 Smith performed the premiere of his second songstory, The Climber (written in 2005). The work was performed with a Norwegian male-voice choir, the Fløyen Voices, and no other instruments apart from a double bass, at USF Verftet in Bergen, Norway. A studio recording was released on 17 May 2010.
In 2007, 2008 and twice in 2010 Smith and David Jackson performed their piece The House That Cried live in Italy, with a choir and orchestra.
Smith released his third songstory, Orfeas, on 9 May 2011. It is a retelling of the ancient myth of Orpheus, performed by seven separate ensembles, each playing an entirely different kind of music. It features performances by, amongst others, John Ellis (as George Orfeas), Lene Lovich (as Eurydice) and David Jackson (as the saxophone player in the George Orfeas Band).
- Democrazy (a collection of recordings from 1968–1977, 1991)
- Dome Of Discovery (1993, remastered version available on iTunes only, 2006)
- Curly's Airships (songstory, double CD, 2000)
- The Full English (2005)
- Live in Italy 2005 (DVD, 2006)
- The Vesica Massage (2006)
- The Light of the World (two-song CD single, 2007, as The Tribal Elders)
- Long-Range Audio Device (2008, as L-RAD)
- The Climber (songstory, 2010)
- Orfeas (songstory, 2011)
At the official Judge Smith Musicography you will find an attempt to create a complete list of all Judge Smith's musical activities.
- ^ Smart, Phil, and Christopulos, Jim, Van der Graaf Generator - The Book, p. 12 and 21, published by Phil and Jim, 2005, ISBN 0 9551337 0 X
- ^ Album notes for four-double CD box The Box by Van der Graaf Generator (2000), page 6. Virgin Records
- ^ Smart, Phil, and Christopulos, Jim, Van der Graaf Generator - The Book, p. 28, published by Phil and Jim, 2005, ISBN 0 9551337 0 X
- ^ Interview with Judge Smith by Jim Christopulos, February 2003, retrieved 5 Sept 2009
- ^ a b Interview with Judge Smith by Dutch magazine "Muziekkrant OOR", December 1978, retrieved 5 Sept 2009
- ^ Judge Smith's biography on his website, retrieved 20 June 2010
- ^ Album notes for The Fall Of The House Of Usher - deconstructed & rebuilt (1999). Fie!
- ^ Fuzzlogic about Judge Smith, retrieved 5 Sept 2009
- ^ a b Judge Smith about Dome Of Discovery on his website, retrieved 20 June 2010
- ^ Interview with Judge Smith by Belway Thomas, 14 May 2000, retrieved 5 Sept 2009
- ^ Album notes for Curly's Airships (2000). Masters Of Art.
- ^ Line-up, setlist and pictures for the Cobden Club gig, retrieved 5 Sept 2009
- ^ LOL Productions about the DVD, retrieved 5 Sept 2009
- ^ Latest news on Judge Smith's website, retrieved 20 June 2010
- ^ Latest news on Judge Smith's website, retrieved 9 May 2011
- ^ Judge Smith's website about Orfeas, retrieved 10 May 2011
- Official website
- Curly's Airships (official website about the Curly's Airships songstory)
- LOL-records (Judge Smith's recording-mixing studio and label for The Full English and Live In Italy)
- The Larry Mondello Band (official site)
- Judge Smith at the Van der Graaf Generator fan site
- Judge Smith discography at Discogs
Van der Graaf Generator Peter Hammill · Hugh Banton · Guy Evans
Former members: David Jackson · Nic Potter · Keith Ellis · Chris Judge Smith · Graham Smith · Nick Pearne · Charles Dickie
Studio albumsThe Aerosol Grey Machine (1969) · The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other (1970) · H to He, Who Am the Only One (1970) · Pawn Hearts (1971) · Godbluff (1975) · Still Life (1976) · World Record (1976) · The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome (1977) · Present (2005) · Trisector (2008) · A Grounding in Numbers (2011) Other albumsTime Vaults (1982) Live albums
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