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BLOWZABELLA "Compilation" Osmosys Records OSMOCD001
BLOWZABELLA "Wall Of Sound" Osmosys Records OSMOCD005
BLOWZABELLA "A Richer Dust" Osmosys Records OSMOCD010

Overkill or what? More likely two that got away lumped together with their recently reissued "A Richer Dust". There's no doubt Blowzabella were brilliant, ahead of their time etc ... and the music still stands up. They were a dance band who produced extremely listenable albums, unlike many other dance bands. I'm not sure whether they introduced the hurdy-gurdy and pipes to the folk scene but they certainly popularised them. Add the bombard, curtail and shawn and a sound was produced which hadn't been heard before. Surviving various personnel changes, they lasted a dozen years or so and there's a reformed version due to take the festival scene by storm this summer.

The compilation is as good an introduction as you're likely to get. The tracks are taken from six albums and show how the band developed. Founder member Paul James was involved in all the albums and helped to choose the tracks. John Swayne was also in all of them so there is a degree of continuity. If you've not got any Blowzabella music then this is a must for you.

The "Wall of Sound" marked the arrival of Nigel Eaton arguably the finest exponent of the hurdy-gurdy. Ian Luff provided a thunderous bass time. There's also more of their own material and one of their finest tracks ever " Glass Island ", described as music for a soap opera. There was a rootsy feel to this album - hint of things to come.

For me their finest CD was "A Richer Dust" as it marked a change of direction with Jo Freya providing the vocals and sax (listen to "Our Captain Cried"). It also had the epic "Roses Suite" - worth the money on its own.

I only ever saw them once live, which is my loss, but with these three CDs I can relive what was the Blowzabella wall of sound. It also made me listen again to their final album "Vanilla" which saw Andy Cutting emerge as the talent he is now. "Vanilla" was wilder and more experimental. Maybe it's time to relaunch it but me, I'm sticking to these. Thanks Osmosys for these important English reissues. Highly Recommended.

Dave Beeby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 22 of The Living Tradition magazine.