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ERIC BOGLE - "Mirrors" Greentrax CDTRAX068

Three well respected Scottish writers/singers have C.D.s newly released. Of these the most "weel kent face" is Eric Bogle, who gives us fifteen new songs on "Mirrors". Unfortunately they don't sound all that new, but on many occasions seem pale reiterations of the unforgettable songs Eric gave the music world over a decade ago. Perhaps this is part of the problem, i.e. with a back catalogue like his, how do you keep the standard up? On closer inspection the answer seems to lie elsewhere, if one listens closely to "The Song" which he says was "written during the great depression of '92. I've shaken it off now". The content of the song is about the difficulty with the creative process.

"Somewhere there's the song, deep inside of me I feel it tearing at my heart, in its longing to be free But when I try to let it fly, it fades and then it's gone If I can't free the heart again, I'll never write the song"

Containing only two more verses this song has more genuine anguish than all the other apocalyptic re-treads on the album put together. The opening track "Refugee" in dwelling over the misery of life in the transit camps says,

"There but for the grace of god my friends Go you and me"

the type of statement that parodists of the social conscience genre would delight in seizing upon. "Welcome Home" has at its centre that other worn character of (no so) contemporary concern, the traumatised Nam Vet. Riveting when comtemporaneously portrayed by John Voight in "Coming Home" or in John Prine's "Sam Stone", beginning to lose its effect by the time of the "Deer Hunter" and definitely looking tired by the time of "Born on the Fourth of July" and the hundred and one T.V. movies and videos in between, this theme is now well ready for its own body bag. "Never Again/Remember" are the messages arising from Eric visiting a WWII concentration camp, but the song has none of the poignancy of "Willie McBride". The album divides into three broad groups of songs - the apocalyptic/social concern material (Chernobyl; Child Abuse; Brazilian Death Squads) smaller scale more personal items and humorous endeavors. On the humorous ones he's missing the mark too, on this outing. "Big (in a Small Way)" contains lines like "But my ego's the size of Bob Geldof's nose" which are more worthy of Bob Monkhouse than Eric Bogle, and other attempts similarly fail to raise a smile.

"Where does Eric Bogle go from here?", is a question that might have elicited gloomier speculation had it not been for two other tracks. "Wouldn't Be Dead for Quids" is about the joy of being alive on a fresh dawn walk through the Bush, and itself is fresh and invigorating, whilst "Somewhere in America" is about touring and missing his wife. The latter theme is hardly new but the song comes across with great feeling and the sentiments expressed are much more attractive than some of the spoiled mewlings of some punk moaning about the suffering for his art, that have been recorded.

Three out of fifteen ain't a great score, but on the strength of these I'd hazard a guess that the loss of form won't be terminal.

"You win some, ..."

Hector Christie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 4 of The Living Tradition magazine.