Saturday, May 7, 2011

SHIRLEY COLLINS AND THE ALBION BAND - NO ROSES

I have to put my hands up and say 'I just don't get it'. This is fuzzy felt, it's blue peter, it's Pam Ayres riding a Shetland pony whilst she romanticizes corduroy and the three day week.

It is just not me. Now we've established that, I need to try and find out why it's anyone at all (except for the original listeners) in the year of our lord 2011. 'No Roses' doesn't have the curious instrumentation or acid tinged lyrics that make the Incredible String Band so appealing. Despite the inclusion of a couple of murder ballads, it's not dark enough to be 'death folk' and it isn't catchy enough to compete with Fairport Convention at their best. It's just a less than curious artifact from a time when other people were creating a lot more exciting or proficient music.

Add to this the fact that it was recorded in that sprawling metropolis of London and any visions of wooden caravans, camp fires and burning of wickermen should vanish in a puff of pipe smoke because the geography of it's recording betrays the sentiment sold on the sleeve and in the sound.

The front sleeve proudly lists the names of twenty seven players. You would expect a pretty huge sound from twenty seven people playing all at once but the reality is there's a lot of guesting through out, some of it very inappropriate like the saxophone on the opener 'Cloudy Banks'. Much of it sounds plodding, pedestrian, colour by numbers.

So does anything even come close to rescuing this from the 'File under: 'Maypole Dancing Shit' section?

Three things. The back of the sleeve (as pictured above) - Don't know who he is but that has to be contender for 'Neck Beard of the decade'.

There's a Jew's Harp on one of the tracks and let's be honest, who doesn't love a bit of the old Jew's Harp. It's an instrument so moronic that it comes full circle to being even more awesome than the triangle.

Finally there is the last track. 'Poor Murdered Woman'. Despite my playa hating I have to flag this as being a hell of a song. It's the only track where Shirley lets her 'hey nonny no' vocal stylings slip into something heart-felt and listenable and whilst the instrumentation is in no danger of setting the world on fire it does work, succeeding in painting a very dark picture of rape and murder from days gone by.

I'm assuming there's a rape in there anyway. As a rule of thumb I always assume that when they mention 'flowers' in folk songs they are actually talking about vaginas, and they mention flowers a couple of times.

Anyway. I'm glad I got rid of my vinyl copy of this. It had a weird clouding on one side when you held it up to the light and whilst it didn't smell of cat-piss it gave that impression.

This review was done from the Castle Recordings 2004 Release - Props as always to Castle for always dropping a couple of staples worth of insight, sleeve notes and pictures onto the CD as should I ever want a true insight into this patchy outing I am well armed.

So, 'No Roses'. Buy another copy of 'What We Did In Our Holidays' instead.

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