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DAVE SWARBRICK AND FAIRPORT CONVENTION Cooking Vinyl MASH CD001
EWAN MacCOLL AND PEGGY SEEGER Cooking Vinyl MASH CD002

The current climate in which the BBC has been "encouraged" to support its public service finance by generating a trading revenue is arguably good for it and for those of us who pay for our television licences. One byproduct of this is that "Folk on Two" has decided to release material from its archives on CD.

There's a potential danger in this. What may be an exciting live concert when heard the first time on the air can turn in to a bit of an embarrassment when released in a more permanent form. (There are, presumably, still recordings of certain of my performances from the '70s in the BBC archive, and I'd pay a great deal of money to make sure that they never see the light of day ...!)

The Dave Swarbrick album is an excellent retrospective look at the man's work. Recorded at his 50th birthday concert in Birmingham Town Hall, during 1991, it shows the breadth of his activities over the years. I was particularly pleased to hear his playing with Beryl Marriot, which underlines the strong Scottish roots of his fiddle style, and there's also, for me, a nostalgic reprise of his days in the Ian Campbell Folk Group. The Carthy/Swarbrick partnership is well represented, and there's a lovely trio where the pair are joined by the Savourna Stevenson on harp, playing the tune which Seamus Ennis used to call "I Will Follow My Love Over the Mountain". Then there are the Fairport's Greatest Hits tracks ...! This is a first-class album which roundly contradicts my initial comments!

When I put the Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger album into the CD player, I got a shock. !That's not Ewan McColl! I thought. It wasn't. It was Ian Campbell! The first part of this album was recorded at a symposium entitled "Seventy Years of Creative Struggle" celebrating the man's 70th birthday in 1986, and contains mainly what in pop industry they'd call "tribute tracks" with good, solid performances from Ian Campbell, Ray Fisher, Peggy Seeger, and Belle Stewart. The one track here, which I suspect was a cracker live, but which should never have been released on the CD, is the "White Wind", a cycle of songs written in the aftermath of the Sharpeville Massacre in the early 60s. On this, Ewan and Peggy are joined by their children Neill, Calum, and Kitty. This is, unfortunately,a scrappy performance, not helped by some dodgy sound balance. It's only saving grace is that it's the first time that you actually hear Ewan McColl sing on the album, and the sheer authority of his voice comes cutting through.

In 1987, there was a great hatchet burying when Auntie EFDSS presented Ewan with its Gold Badge. The concert following the presentation was recorded; songs from this form the second part of the album. Although he was by that time not a well man, there are some emotionally charged performances which jump-out from the CD. The final four tracks; "My Old Man", a song about his father, the "Spinning Wheel", learnt from his mother, and the deeply affecting "Joy of Living" along with an interview compiled by Jim Lloyd could probably justify the purchase of the album.

Chris Bartram

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This album was reviewed in Issue 18 of The Living Tradition magazine.