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OLD SWAN BAND - "Still Swanning ..." - Free Reed FRCD 31

I'm not one for dancing - ask my wife and family about this. There have been some bands that have got me up on my feet. These are few and far between though - Old Swan Band in the late 70's were one of these. Their fresh approach, and obvious love of the music, was always evident. They took traditional tunes from the likes of Bob Cann, Scan Tester and the wonderful Oscar Woods, added Morris tunes from Bampton, and played in a way I'd never heard before. They slowed things down and gave people time to dance, where as other bands at that time played fast, expecting dancers to dance at 100 miles an hour. Their style was very much pub-session based, which, I think, contributed to their freshness. They had class too - any band which can boast the likes of Fi and Jo Fraser, Martin Brinsford and Rod Stradling amongst their varied line ups can't be bad.

It took a fair bit of persuasion to get them into a recording studio. They were a band for dances not a studio band. I wish some of today's bands would remember that there is a big difference between playing for dances, and recording an album of dance music which works. Peeping Tom and Gas Mark V have managed it recently, Tiger Moth a few years back and probably the best of all, New Victory Band's excellent "One More Dance And Then" (CD re-issue please, my vinyl's worn out!!). Old Swan's rare examples are also musts for any collection, their first "No Reels" was absolutely brilliant. Their other two weren't bad either.

This celebration of 21 years has been thoughtfully put together by Rod Stradling & Neil Wayne. There's only tunes here, the occasional songs they used to do have been left out, as have the "talky" bits from "Gamesters". The majority are traditional tunes, many of which are now in other bands repertoires, although the Swan's arrangements still seem as interesting now as they did nearly 2 decades ago. It's hard to pick a favourite track so I won't bother, suffice to say it changes every time I hear the CD.

There is an excellent history of the band by Dan Quinn of Gas Mark V fame, (and Desert Island Discs at Sidmouth!) as well as notes on all the tunes by Rod.

What more is there to say?

In our household Christmas has come in early August. Put it on your pressie list or, better still buy it now. Play it loud over and over again and dance around the living room. This CD is essential ... I just hope CD's don't wear out!!

Dave Beeby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 13 of The Living Tradition magazine.