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LEON ROSSELSON "Perspectives" Fuse Records CFCD006

Amid general rejoicing, Leon returns from his third foray into the vinyl mine clutching further gems from a bygone age. The original compilation was called RosselSonGs, a not-quite razor-sharp pun complete with mixed higher and lower case lettering. Then, perhaps on the advice of the marketing tycoons at Fuse, the second had the almost positive but utterly obscure title "Guess What They're Selling at the Happiness Counter". It's reassuring to see evidence that we don't all get dafter as we get older - Leon's latest collection has the eminently sensible appellation "Perspectives", with the apt addition "Eighteen of Rosselson's finest and most ambitious songs". Now, why didn't he do that in the first place?

The format is now familiar - a mixture of original recordings from the vinyl and new recordings of pre-CD songs with due deference to the text (and when the keyboard chair is in the safe hands of Fiz Shapur, often some extra musical subtlety). But whether the recordings are new or merely digitally remastered (whatever that means), the results are the same - songs crammed to the gunwales with words, yet not a word wasted or misplaced. Urban planners, smug fence-sitters with hypocritical boffins all stray into Rosselson's line of fire and are skilfully dispatched, while he deals with our (and his) human and emotional failings with the utmost sensitivity and humanity. It's all summed up neatly by the chorus of "Plan" - "That's not the way it's got to be, people before property"!

Leon has guests a-plenty to draw from - Roy Bailey's golden throat graces several tracks, Martin Carthy's guitar provides constant wonder (as does Leon's own). While extra spice is added to "Ballad of a Spycatcher" by the Oyster Band and Billy Bragg with an uncredited but unmistakable vocal on the "did-it-buggery" line!

Although Leon is not a traditional singer - he could be called fiercely contemporary - his music is rooted in the tradition, drawing its inspirations from timeless themes and drawing its listeners' attentions to society's ills. His songwriting skills are of such quality that in a country more sympathetic to its folk arts than England he would be a national treasure. The best we can hope for in the current climate is that "Perspectives" will introduce his back-catalogue to a whole new audience while providing dewy-eyed old Rosselophiles like me with temporary relief as we await the next new album.

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 20 of The Living Tradition magazine.