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THE VARAFLAMES "Throwing Shapes" Neon Productions NEONCD001

The Varaflames are Rod Clements, guitars and mandolin; Rab Noakes, guitars and vocals; Fraser Speirs, harmonicas and percussion; and Pick Withers, drums and percussion. If that's not a keen enough collection to whet your interest, add in keyboards from Hilary Brooks, guitars from Colin Macfarlane, double bass from Ewen Vernal and the backing vocals of Gill Bowman, Karine Polwart and Chris Thow.

This album was started back in 1995 and, according to Rab Noakes "the tapes lay untouched in the studio for five years." Why, Rab? Material like this shouldn't be kept from the public! Fourteen tracks, mostly from the pen of Mr Noakes himself, all with a pent-up energy (comes from all that time lying about, no doubt) which comes across in a crisp and lively style, with tight arrangements and immaculate playing throughout. The only slightly worrying thing about this CD was the liner note which reminded me that it's now 30 years since Rab brought out his first album - I can remember that! Here, though are no signs of ageing, only those of maturing, like a good single malt, but without losing the enthusiasm or the slight edge that always marks out his music as bright and appealing.

Yes, Rab, it's a long way on from "The Great Fife Road Show" but you can still pen a mean song and put together a fine wee band - keep up the good work!

Gordon Potter .

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This album was reviewed in Issue 42 of The Living Tradition magazine.