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SODS OPERA "Come on Lads" Beautiful Joe Records BEJOCD7

"Come on Lads", an album of songs from World War Two performed by Sods' Opera has had a lot of publicity because of its use of the original words for the songs. It would be impossible to do justice to the songs otherwise. I can remember that when I did national service I was not surprised to hear the word "fuck" but to hear it used so relentlessly. It is a fact of army life; we may regret it but we cannot change it. And the first time I heard the song "Bless 'Em All" sung in the army, I realised what an inappropriate euphemism "bless" was.

There are twenty-five songs on this album most of them sung concert-party style - male voices accompanied by a variety of instruments. Most of the songs convey a cheerful, anarchic laddishness, laughing in the face of adversity. "Come on Chaps" is an excellent example - one of those songs that builds up to an obscene rhyme at the end of each verse - only to disappoint! And "Bloody Orkney" brilliantly conveys the "if-you-didn't-laugh-you'd-cry" philosophy so typical of army life. "Tins" and "When This Bloody War is Over" gain their effect by the use of well-known hymn tunes to express non-spiritual sentiments.

But the album isn't all good humoured. The dark side of army life is remembered in "The Dying Soldier" and "Down the Mine"; and the marvellous "D-Day Dodgers" - when it has finished slagging off Lady Astor - has a very poignant last verse about the "dodgers" who didn't come back from Italy.

The best song on the album is the weakest track. I have never heard an English singer attempt Hamish Henderson's "Farewell to Sicily". Ian Giles makes a gallant attempt but a guest appearance by Dick Gaughan was needed.

Play this album when you're feeling fed-up - with life in general and with the bastards who try to grind you down.

Howard Baker

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This album was reviewed in Issue 12 of The Living Tradition magazine.