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The Mick West Band - The Right Side o' the People
THE MICK WEST BAND "Right Side o' the People" KRL CDLDL1262

Mick West's first album for KRL - "Fine Flowers and Foolish Glances" - was a revelation. Well known as a session singer but rarely taking centre stage, Mick had gathered around him some young talented musicians with a jazzy background and came up with an album which was a breath of fresh air. Subsequently going out as The Mick West Band, they went on to receive critical acclaim for their live performances - definitely one of the hits of the last couple of years.

After a year or more performing as a band it was always likely that this second album would have the musicians exerting their own musical ideas rather than being accompanists on a solo album.

The musicians display great taste. The jazzy content has increased but not by so much as to move the album too far into a middle ground where it might satisfy neither camp but inevitably some people may feel the focus at times is too wide.

Fraser Fifield, now also playing with Old Blind Dogs shows he can trade pipe tunes with the best. The backing to "The Highland Muster Roll" is superb and all through the album the musicianship is faultless.

On some ways - particularly "The Propeller Song" and "The January Man" the song becomes subservient to the style imposed by the accompaniment. Having said that it is this mix which makes the band so fresh and interesting and elsewhere we get fresh interpretations of songs including a superb version of Ewan McVicar's "Shift and Spin". Mick bravely tackles some songs which have had classic versions recorded by others. "MacCrimmon's Lament" has been done by Dick Gaughan, Heather Heywood and Sheila Chandra but perhaps his greatest success is with "Freedom Come All Ye" taken at a lovely show pace and building majestically in both vocal and instrumental texture.

Mick West has little to prove in the singing stakes. This is an excellent album with lots of high points despite at times drifting - this is West not Sinatra. Mick has it in him to make a classic album of traditional songs which will stand the test of time - as good as this album is, I don't think some of the tracks will age well. The success of this and his earlier album should give the confidence to exert his authority and put the songs first. In the meantime this album will do nicely.

John Muirhead

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This album was reviewed in Issue 25 of The Living Tradition magazine.