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Graham & Eileen Pratt - "Early Birds" - Grail CD002

Beginning as a duo in 1967,Graham and Eileen Pratt made five albums between 1973and 1985, going into "semi-retirement" because of family responsibilities, thereafter re-emerging with a more recent album in 1997 and now another with new material also available in 2000.

This is a compilation re-issue however, and represents oft requested favourites from vinyl days. There is an ever present danger when evaluating such work, that the listener gets inextricably involved in measuring to some degree, emotions from their own past, evoked by the music instead of the actual music. Although I liked the Pratts at the time I think I avoid this pitfall, as I was not familiar with much of the material. The strengths of this album lie in the material which is very strong indeed (floor singers wishing to refurbish tired repertoires need look no further) plus ungimmicky, uncluttered arrangements and of course Eileen's voice which, though having a Baez-like purity, nevertheless has also a sinewy toughness just under the surface which steers it well clear of saccharin territory; "She moved through the fair" is a good example of this.

There is a fair amount of Irish and Scottish songs here with two Hebridean and another Gaelic (geographically unspecified) nestling alongside "Lambs on the green hills", a French carol "Patapan", and strong songs such as Grahams own "The Black Fox".

I feared that the passing years might cause a cringe or two and a "did I really used to like that?" reaction. But no fear - the lack of the ubiquitous clan of "friends" (who often contribute nought much but their names) and with the songs themselves being given the foreground made me think instead that perhaps we've lost something, and at times in the studio get a bit too clever at the expense of emotion getting stifled under instrumental virtuosity.

Music from the last century - albeit only the last 20 years or so of it - to usher in this new one? Strange but true. A good, solid satisfying album which has already stood the test of time and will continue to do so, when perhaps more 'flash' products will have lost their original appeal and be confined to bargain bin or the 'never-played' section of the CD rack.

Hector Christie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 37 of The Living Tradition magazine.