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COOPE, BOYES & SIMPSON - "Falling Slowly" - No Masters Co-operative NMCD9

At last Coope, Boyes and Simpson have set aside their other interests to complete their second album of forthright unaccompanied singing. From the start their performance is as uncompromising as ever and "The Forward March", a call for a fairer society from Ernest Jones, is boldly taken up. To view progress towards this end, Jim Boyes retraces the steps of "Spencer the Rover" in the damning "Farewell to England", and Lester Simpson considers the state of the nation in "The Way of the World". Whilst the commitment is constant in each song, the three voices change parts, creating a continually shifting texture of sound.

The remaining songs cover an extraordinary range of subjects. The trio gaze up at a cosmonaut circling the earth but unable to return. Then from high in space they look down loftily on a planet so polluted that the inhabitants cannot remain. Could they, I wonder, mean us?

Ray Hearne is another distinctive songwriter in the No Master's Co-operative. In his song "Thurnscoe Rain", set to a familiar tune, blunt northern vowels express harsh reality. But the traditional Rufford Park Poachers shows how the underdog can snap back.

The First World War is not forgotten. In "Standing in Line", Lester has produced a song of enormous import, and to set it beside a children's song makes it even more telling. There is humour in "So Sincere" and romance in two contrasting songs from Lester. Barry contributes striking harmonies throughout, and his voice gloriously carries the melody of the final song, "The Ship". For once, the meaning is shrouded in metaphor as the mysterious vessel sets sail for an unknown destination.

The singing of Coope, Boyes and Simpson is inspirational - just as dissonance melts into irresistible harmony, so despondency gives way to hope. Their music is low in saccharin and sentimentality, and rich in enthusiasm and natural fibre - truly songs with nowt taken out!

Henry Peacock

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This album was reviewed in Issue 19 of The Living Tradition magazine.