Cosmic Rough Riders

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1998-2002)

- Mark Brown -- drums, percussion, backing vocals

- James Clifford -- bass, backing vocals

- Gary Cuthbert -- guitar

- Stephen Fleming -- vocals, guitar

- Daniel Wylie -- vocals


  supporting musicians: (1998-2001)

- George Dunnachie -- bass

- Harriet Glover -- violin

- Andrew Philips - keyboards, bells

- Jimmy Stirling -- mandolin

- Tom McGarrigle -- synthesizers

- Stephen Tyler -- acoustic guitar, mandolin


  line up 2 ()

- Mark Brown -- drums, percussion, backing vocals

- James Clifford -- bass, backing vocals

- Gary Cuthbert -- guitar

- Stephen Fleming -- vocals, guitar






- The Thieves (Daniel Wylie)

- Daniel Wylie (solo efforts)



Genre: pop

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine

Company: Poptones

Catalog: MC5015LP

Country/State: Castlemilk, Glasgow, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes lyric insert

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 32109

Price: $70.00


I have to admit I came to the party a little bit late - twenty years after the fact.  The only good thing about my late discovery of Glasgow's Cosmic Rough Riders is that rather than having spent uncounted hours listening to The Cosmic Rough Riders' musical catalog, I hopefully accomplished more useful things with that time.  Maybe not.  


There's plenty of Cosmic Rough Riders biographical material available online, but here's the executive summary.  Under the Cosmic Rough  Riders nameplate singer Daniel Wylie recorded a 1999 private press album "Deliverance" (Raft catalog number RAFT 001).  The project was funded through crowd sourcing revenue.  With no resources for promotional efforts, the CD did little, but that didn't stop Wylie from recording a follow-on effort.  Singer/guitarist Stephen Fleming was brought in to engineer  2000's "Panorama" (Raft catalog number RAFT 002) at which point he was offered a chance to become a full time member of the band with a commitment to sharing half of any future profits.  Fleming accepted the offer.   The second CD didn't do any better commercially, but the hand of fate intervened.  After receiving a copy of the debut CD  from a friend, Poptones owner Alan McGee expressed an interest in seeing the band.  The problem was there was no band, so Wylie and Fleming quickly recruited drummer Mark Brown and bassist James Clifford and started rehearsing.  They must have worked their asses off as McGee was impressed and signed the group to his Poptones label.   


While the marketing logic was lost on me, 2001's "Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine" was a 15 track compilation pulling together material drawn from the two earlier releases.  Two tracks were pulled from "Panorama".  Ten tracks were lifted from 1999's "Deliverance" and the collection was rounded out with three new compositions ('Baby, You're So Safe', 'Sometime' and 'Morning Sun').  So, I'll go out on a limb and tell you this is one of the best albums I've heard in the last five years.  There simply wasn't a bad performance on the album.  Admittedly 'Brothers Gather Round' and 'Morning Song' were more like song fragments than full compositions and the longest song on the album ('Baby, You're So Free') only clocked in at a radio-friendly 3:45.  Big deal - The Ramones made a career out of short songs.   As lead singer Wylie had a fantastic voice that was very commercial, but he was also capable of handling tougher material like 'Revolution (In the Summertime)'.  Given the band had not been playing together all that long, they reflected a surprisingly tight sound.  Exemplified by songs like 'Sometime' and 'Glastonbury Revisited' their harmony vocals were simply gorgeous.  Unlike so many of their contemporaries they also sounded like they were enjoying themselves - as far as I could tell there was nothing overly contrived or calculated here.  They were also willing to experiment with different genres; tracks like 'Baby, You're So Free' readily mixing in Indian influences.   Maybe I'm making this up, but my ears heard lots of '60s, '70s and even '80s influences.  The band's affection for jangle rock, psychedelic and power pop was scattered throughout the collection with various songs recalling the likes of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Byrds, Tom Petty even Michael Stipe and REM.  Because there were so many good songs, it was simply hard to know where to start.  Certainly the five singles were all impressive - The Brian Wilson influenced 'The Loser', 'Melanie' (glistening power-pop), 'Baby, You're So Free' (with its Indian raga influences), the Byrds-styled jangle rocker 'Revolution (In the Summertime)' and 'The Pain Inside'.  Personal favorites - the lysergic 'Value of Life' and two of their more pop-tinged efforts; 'Have You Heard the News Today?' and 'Sometime'.   Hard to find flaws in the set other than there was an overwhelming wealth of treasure here.  There were simply too many great songs.   It's one of the few albums I own that I can effortless listen to from start to finish.  No need to lift the tone arm to skip one or two sub-par performances.


And like all good things, it had to come to an end.  Four of the five singles charted in the UK with the band starting to get considerable publicity.  That led to a world tour.  And then, taking a page from the rock and roll self-destruction manual, personalities and creative differences started to take their toll and during recording sessions for what was to be their follow-up album "Too Close To See Far", Wylie quit, striking out in pursuit of a solo career.


"Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Brothers Gather Round   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming - Gary Cuthbert) - 1:12   rating: **** stars

Geez, I don't think I could have ever imagined a strange mash-up like this one ...  'Brothers Gather Round offered up a hybrid of glistening English folk  with Indian percussion .. Stunning and you were left to wonder why it was such a short song snippet.

2.) The Gun Isn't Loaded   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 2:51   rating: **** stars

'The Gun Isn't Loaded' featured a mesmerizing, slightly stoned vibe and the band's lovely vocals ...  the strumming guitar and violin powered riff made the track all the more impressive.

3.) Glastonbury Revisited   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming - Gary Cuthbert) - 2:46   rating: **** stars

'Glastonbury Revisited' was one of two songs lifted from their debut collection "Deliverance".  Opening up with twelve strings seemingly tuned to evoke sitars, 'Glastonbury Revisited' was one of the most stunning country-rock tunes ever wial. en.  Brian Wilson?  No.  Late inning The Byrds?   Maybe.   Not sure the lyrics are going to encourage parents to let their kids attend outdoor music festivals ...   I would have given it a fifth star, but I'm one of those parents with young kids.

4.) Baby, You're So Free   (Daniel Wylie) - 3:45   rating: **** stars

'Baby, You're So Free' was one of three new songs, though technically it was an update of the previously released 'Baby'.   If you're one of those folks who looks for musical comparisons (I am), then I'd suggest The Byrds hanging around with George Harrison after the Fab Four visited India.  Plenty of Indian touches wrapped around lots of sparkling twelve string guitar and a killer top-40 jangle rock melody.  Released as a single it's hard to believe it wasn't a major hit.  



- 2001 's Baby, You're Free' b/w 'Nothing To Lose' (Poptones catalog number MC5042S)


The band also recorded a promotion video for the song - don't expect to see a big budget production, though it made me smile:






5. Value of Life   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 2:38   rating: ***** stars

Okay, I broke down and gave one of these tunes five stars ...  'Value of Life' would not have sounded out of place on "Revolver".   It had the same mesmerizing lysergic vibe that a classic like 'Tomorrow Never Knows' had, but with a bouncy melody that was even better.   Gawd these guys new how to layer on harmony vocals.  You should listen to this one with a good pair of headphones.

6.) Revolution (In the Summertime)   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 3:20   rating: **** stars

'Revolution (In the Summertime)' toughened up the sound, mixing  jangle rock with a bit of Neil Young styled grunge and a touch of social commentary (which would have made Roger McGuinn and company happy).  The song even included references to Darwin and evolution.   It was a tune where I could clearly hear the McGuinn and the Byrds analogy.


The track was tapped as the album's third single and was accompanied by another promotional video (they spent more money on this one).  The introduction with the guy talking about riding his bike with the Cosmetic Road Runners was classic, though I hope it was a gag and not a real life clip.  Guess they didn't trust Wylie and company to ride solo:


- 2001's 'Revolution (In the Summertime)' b/w 'The Charm' (live) (Poptones catalog number MC5074S)


If anyone thought these guys were just a studio creature, YouTube has a clip of them performing the song on The Top of the Pops.  Awesome and love the fact they dedicated it to their neighborhood "This one's for Castlemilk" !!!

7.) Have You Heard the News Today?   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 2:51   rating: ***** stars

I saw someone describe this as "twelve string heaven" and that's a near perfect description for 'Have You Heard the News Today?'  Cloaked in an easy-going melody and to-die-for harmonies, this was the band at their most pop and commercial ...  How was it Poptones didn't tap it as a single?


(side 2)
1.) Sometime
   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming - Gary Cuthbert) - 3:31   rating: **** star

'Sometime' was one of the three new tunes and another tune that underscored the band's amazing commercial potential.  Silky smooth power-pop tune that was perfect for a sunny summer beach day.  The ba-ba-ba-ba refrain has always reminded me of something an older version of The Cowsills might have recorded.  That was meant as a compliment.  Darn, now I can't get the ultimate kiss-off lyrics out of my head - "let's not buy the rings just yet ... let's live for today."

2.) Melanie   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming - Gary Cuthbert) - 3:23   rating: **** star

The second single released off the album, 'Melanie' was another slice of near perfect power pop ...  With those chiming jangle rock guitars and crystal harmonies, it's always reminded me of a strong Fountains of Wayne performance.  Always wondered if JFK customs agents actually refused Wylie admittance to the States.  You had to scratch your head and wonder how it did go higher on the British charts (it didn't even make the top-100).  



- 2001's 'Melanie' b/w 'Universal Thing' (Poptones catalog number MC 5033S)


And yes, there was a promotional video for the song:






3.) The Pain Inside    (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 3:22   rating: *** stars

The final and highest charting single, 'The Pain Inside' started out a little folky for my tastes, but then the strumming guitars and blended vocals kicked in things improved.   Awesome Gary Cuthbert solo.  The single featured a different and inferior mix from the album cut.




- 2001's 'The Pain Inside' b/w 'The Pain Inside' (live) (Poptones catalog number MC 5052S)


And of course there was a video (the quality continued to improve with each single):






4.) The Charm   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 2:03

5.) The Loser   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 2:24   rating: **** star

Twelve songs into the album the bouncy 'The Loser' finally displayed a Beach Boys vibe - particularly on the harmonies.  Another personal favorite off the album. The 45 was released as a numbered pressing in a diecut sleeve.





- 2000's 'The Loser' b/w 'The Pain Inside' (Poptones catalog number MC5015S7)






6.) You've Got Me   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 3:10   rating: **** star

Another rarity in that I wasn't sold on 'You've Got Me' until the refrain kicked in and drove itself into my head.  Almost criminal how many hooks Wylie and Fleming slapped on this album.

7.) Emily Darling   (Daniel Wylie) - 2:47   rating: *** stars

Easily the album's strangest song, 'Emily Darling' opened with what sounded like bossa nova influences.  Damn it, then the Beach Boys harmonies kicked in, followed by more another round of the jazzy/bossa nova moves; some scatting and a weird electronic finish.  Fascinating.   Minus one star for the scatting.

8.) Morning Sun   (Daniel Wylie - Stephen Fleming) - 0:56







Genre: pop

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Too Close To See Far

Company: Measured 

Catalog: 5 060053 850057

Country/State: Castlemilk, Glasgow, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes lyric insert

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $80.00


I was floored when I stumbled across The Cosmic Rough Riders' 2001 "Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine."  In fact, I was so impressed by the album, I ran out an bought a copy of their 2003 follow-up "Too Close To See Far."  And then the LP sat in my "to listen to" pile for the next thirteen months.  Part of the delay was the fact I enjoyed the prior album so much it stayed on my pandemic play list for months.   The other reason was fear of disappointment - particular after I read singer/songwriter Daniel Wylie had left the band prior to the follow-up's recording sessions.   Wylie was such a big part of the band and the handful of brief reviews I read were lukewarm.   I just didn't want to be disappointed by the next album.


With Wylie's 2002 decision to split in pursuit of a solo career (I'll have to check out his catalog), the remaining members of the band moved on releasing 2002's "Pure Escapism."  A compilation of singles, rarities, and odds and ends, the set was clearly a placeholder, giving Cosmic Rough Riders MK II an opportunity finish the self-produced, 2003's "Too Close To See Far."  With Wylie gone, singer/guitarist Stephen Fleming stepped into the creative forefront.  Admittedly he was already a band mainstay, co-writing most of the earlier material with Wylie, but his time out Fleming carried most of the burden himself.  He produced, handled lead guitar, sang most of the tunes and was credited with writing, or co-writing 14 of the 17 tracks.   Drummer Mark Brown and bassist James Clifford co-wrote 'Tomorrow May Never Come' with Fleming, as well as penning the album's final two tunes.  While you couldn't blame anyone for holding low expectation for the album (myself included), song-for-song the results were quite impressive.  By my count, at least a dozen of these tunes were worthy of inclusion on a future "best of" compilation.  Wylie's departure took some of the band's quirkiness with him, along with some of the earlier psychedelic influences.  Also, overall sound may have been a been thinner, but at its best, this collection easily matched some of their earlier aural glories.  The band's affection for '60s harmonies was scattered throughout.  Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys came to mind on 'She's Never Around' and the closer 'Smile.'  Folk-rockers like The Byrds popped up throughout - check out the twelve string guitar powered 'Blind.'  Add to that Fleming and company seemed to have been listening to more than their share of Del Amiri and Teenage Fanclub ('For a Smile').  In my book it would be hard to go wrong with such influences.  While he may not have been as strong of a singer as Wylie, Fleming proved a more than capable performer, turning in dazzling performances on the opener 'Justify the Rain', the single 'Because You' and the lovely ballad 'Life In Wartime.'


So where does this one stand?  Yeah, I'll agree with the crowd it isn't quite as enjoyable as "Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine", but it's still a winner.  It's more than good and given the circumstance under which it was recorded, the results are even more impressive.  How many other bands can you think of that would have released such a strong collection having lost a creative mainstay?  I'm at a loss to come up with any.   Good luck finding a vinyl copy ...



"Too Close To See Far" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Justify the Rain   (Stephen Fleming) - 2:42   rating: **** stars

Judging by the bouncy 'Justify the Rain,' in spite of Wylie's departure, artistically there was little to worry about.  With Fleming on lead vocals, the opener was easily as catchy and commercial as anything the band had recorded up to that point. Besides, I challenge you to find a better commentary on Scottish weather.   Imagine Justin Currie and Del Amitri on pop steroids.  Released in CD and limited pressing vinyl formats, the tune was tapped as the album's second and final single:

- 2003 'Just the Rain' b/w 'Take Your Time' (Measured catalog number MR COSMIC 3S)   The band also filmed a low-fi promotional video for the song.  The song was much better than the video: 

2.) For a Smile   ( Stephen Fleming) - 3:18   rating: **** stars

Maybe because I've been listening to a lot of Del Amitri lately, the comparison keeps popping into my head; particularly given the modest country-rock tinged melody that powered 'For a Smile.'  Nice baseline for hearing what a great voice Fleming had.   

3.) Because You   ( Stephen Fleming) - 3:24   rating: **** stars

A return to bouncy commercialism, 'Because You' simply screamed radio airplay.  Perhaps almost too commercial, kicked along by jangle guitars, it was a prime slice of ear candy.  Released in advance to the album, 'Because You' hit the UK singles chart, peaking at # 34, providing the band with their biggest sales success to that point.

- 2003's 'Because you' b/w 'Because You (live)' (Measured catalog number MR COSMIC 002S)   YouTube has an impressive  live performance of the tune: 

4.) There's Nothing Wrong   ( Stephen Fleming) - 3:32   rating: **** stars

The first couple of times I listened to it 'There's Nothing Wrong' struck me as the album's first mild disappointment.  A mid-tempo rocker, the tune had a smooth melody and nice refrain, but simply lacked the "oompf" factor found on so many of their other performances.  And that opinion changed when I realized I was hiking on a local trail humming the melody

5.) Life In Wartime   ( Stephen Fleming) - 3:50   rating: **** stars

Nah, it's not a cover of the Talking Heads classic ...  With Fleming and the band slipping into their higher vocal ranges, 'Life In Wartime' offered up a glistening ballad.  Powered by some sweet electric guitar, it was one of the prettiest tunes they've ever recorded.

6.) Sunrise   ( Stephen Fleming) - 3:27   rating: **** stars

Maybe it was the song's mandolin, or Fleming's crisp, dry delivery, but darn if I can't shake The Del Amitri comparison on 'Sunrise.'  Sweet and pastoral with a high hum factor that should have brought radio stations running.

7.) Tomorrow May Never Come   (Mark Brown - James Clifford - Stephen Fleming) - 1:11   rating: *** stars

Unlike anything else on the album and little more than a song fragment, 'Tomorrow May Never Come' stood as the album's lone band collaboration.  To my ears the acappella number sounded like something off a Crosby and Nash album - think along the lines of 'Whistling Down the Wire.'   Pretty, but little more than a brief sound experiment.


(side 2)

1.) She's Never Around   ( Stephen Fleming) - 3:49   rating: **** stars

So why not add a dollop of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys styled pop to the mix?   'She's Never Around' was simply awesome.  Another album highlight and the strumming acoustic guitars and burping synthesizers making me smile.  Ah, just another sunny day in California.

2.) Kill the Time   ( Stephen Fleming) - 3:04   rating: **** stars

The art, or science behind picking singles is something I've never understood - seldom more than how a record label could have bypassed a bouncy performance like 'Kill the Time' ...   Talk about a song that had radio airplay stamped into it's DNA.  Oh, it wasn't released by a Korea boy band; the band actually played their instruments, and there weren't any vocoder effects ...  I understand now.

3.) Blind   ( Stephen Fleming) - 3:29   rating: **** stars

Chiming twelve string guitars ...  I was won over from the opening chords.   Awesome folk-rocker and Fleming seldom sounded as good as on this one.

4.) The Need To Fly   ( Stephen Fleming) - 3:00   rating: *** stars

'The Need To Fly' found the band moving back to a slightly tougher sound. Another nice performance, but it somehow gets lost amidst all the other treasures on the LP.

5.) Now That You Know   ( Stephen Fleming) - 2 :46   rating: **** stars

These guys managed to toss out stunningly commercial melodies like most people generate trash ...  A classic slice of jangle-rock, 'No That You Know' was built on a mesmerizing little Fleming guitar riff that settled in your head and wouldn't leave.   How do I get it off my mental repeat list?

6.) Stupid You   (Mark Brown - James Clifford) - 3:50   rating: **** stars

One of three Brown-Clifford compositions, 'Stupid You' had a breezy melody with some classic Beach Boys-styled harmonies that was as good as any of Fleming's contributions.  Another must-hear performance.

7.) Smile   (Mark Brown - James Clifford) - 3:09   rating: **** stars

Ahhh - Brian Wilson would approve.  'Smile' was a lovely, soothing ballad that would have effortlessly fit on a mid-'60s Beach Boys album.  Not sure you can give a song higher praise.