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PHIL BEER "The Works" Old Court Records OC01

Phil Beer, one half of the excellent Show of Hands, ex-member of the Albion Band, part of the brilliant Alianza. (I still feel privileged to have seen them), partner to Paul Downes many years ago, in the Arizona Smoke Review, he's even been on a Stones album. The list goes on ...

Now a solo CD of mainly instrumentals has appeared, his first I think - unless you count the Bootleg - but I'm open to correction. I've long been an admirer of his violin playing, he's not bad on many other mainly stringed instruments either, and The Works is a good showcase for his talents. Phil is not an acoustic fiddle player as everything is pre-amped to get the sound he wants. In fact he has recorded this himself. There's a good mix of tunes, some traditional, some written by Phil himself, going back some twenty years. Some have already appeared in Albion collections but have been given new arrangements here. As you would expect from a performer of Phil's calibre, they are all top quality. He mixes violin, always my favourite of his instruments, with guitars, mandocello etc. and although described as an instrumental album, includes two songs. Somehow he has often seemed more at ease playing, or as backing vocals, rather than singing lead so his vocal talents are often understated. I still think "Blind Fiddler" is amongst the best Show of Hands songs. "Flash Company" is an enjoyable take with nice harmonica from Julia Dawson but is faded much too early though.

The tunes include "Soldiers' Joy" - my all time urghhhhhh track, visions of too many plodding Morris sides accompanied by dire versions - although it's done here as well as is possible. However, there is plenty to enjoy here especially "Michael Turner's Waltz", used in a production I saw of "Larkrise" at Leicester many years ago. "Lost in Space, Altan and Teetotalers" is a good set, but I'm sure others will have their own favourites.

Plenty to enjoy and I hope it does well as this is Vol. 1, for one, hope there is a Vol. 2 soon. It's available from gigs and from various mail order outlets, and may be your local high street shop as well.

Dave Beeby

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