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VARIOUS ARTISTS "To Be a Nation Again" - Ceol 1001 (Songs that have reflected and informed opinion in Scotland)

What's this, a new genre arising from the creation of the Scottish Parliament? If so and there's a Mersey Sound type of "boom" just around the corner, then Jack Evans and his compatriots (reviewed in the last edition of L.T.) are the equivalent of the Beatles, whereas this is more in the Brian Poole and the Tremeloes league.

The reasoning behind an album that begins "No Gods" and ends with "Flower of Scotland" is hard to follow, as the latter song evokes the "tartan messiahs" that McNeill abhors in "No Gods". In his sleeve notes, Fred Freeman talks about "F.O.S." being so often misrepresented. That may be and I remember very early versions where the arrangement and accompaniment were more pensive/reflective than the eventual chug-a-lug that the song mutated into. Nevertheless, even in the better original, it still showed a predilection to define ourselves nationally in terms of our next -door neighbours and at worst, it now equates to a Nuremberg beer hall rant, complete with red-faced, booze-swilling dunderheids. "Oh Floo-yer o' Scotland?" I'll get me coat!

Sandwiched between the opener and closer is a real curate's egg. Ian Bruce does a commendably fresh "Jamie Raeburn" sensitively accompanied (the undoubted highlight of the album) and James Malcolm is an outstanding singer but was the choice of "Erin-go-bragh" all that apposite? Similarly Marras' "Hermless" is good as a bit of "live" fun poked at Scotland's past homicidal militarism, but doesn't warrant repetition, especially when done by other than he, as it is here.

"Give us our Glens" (Glenfiddich, Glenlivet etc) belongs to the act of someone like Dorothy Paul and in spite of the justification for its inclusion, as an inward looking piece of satire, is simply excruciating. Pete Clark, whose Niel Gow album is one fine piece of work, crops up on a number of tracks and is fine but I would have to master the hi-fi technology a bit better that would allow me to play three or four tracks repeatedly and exclude the rest. File under "misadventure".

Hector Christie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 36 of The Living Tradition magazine.