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ALASTAIR McDONALD "Bears, Crows & Centipedes"
Corban Records CBNCD021

Many years ago, when I went out more with my MOGSY (children's entertainer) hat on I had a couple of Singing Kettle tapes which were great to 'set the mood'. They were splendid and I have fond memories of working with the Singing Kettle once. All of which has come flooding back to me as I've listened to this CD.

I guess there's nothing too new in it but what you get is a smashing set of songs well performed with lots of gusto. I no longer have a live-in young audience to try it out on but I'm sure it would have been well received by my daughter twelve or thirteen years ago.

There's nineteen music tracks which include twenty-two songs ... and what a mixture they are. I love "Sam the Skull", especially the manic laughter and the effects and chorus at the beginning of "Ice Cream" are very well done. Some of the songs will appeal to the older audience and if I had a tiny criticism it would be the inclusion of the imagery of "Twa Corbies" on what could be a bed time CD for the tinies ... but I'm sure I'm just being over protective. Amongst the other songs for the older ones is "The Whistle" which is a delight.

Right at the end there's a story ... the tale of the "Three Bears". I'm not altogether sure why ... the telling is okay though the addition of keyboard makes it a bit too much of a children's 'talking book' type of thing for my personal taste. The track seems a little out of place and maybe should have been saved for a specific 'story' tape. On a CD I appreciate that you can either cut straight to it or miss it out but it wouldn't be very convenient on a cassette (assuming this is also available in that format, and it has to be, as it's ideal for long car journeys and I don't know many people rich enough to have a CD in the car).

To sum up ... with this sort of recording I know that if the kids take to it the parents will get to hear it lots and lots. All I can say is that it set my feet tapping and I enjoyed all the songs very much even though they are in quite strong dialect in places. I might even squeeze a couple of tracks into my radio folk show.

Richard Walker

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This album was reviewed in Issue 24 of The Living Tradition magazine.