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I was lucky when I was at school in that I was taught about the unrest that engulfed industrial Scotland at the time of the First World War and told about the efforts of John Maclean to "turn Glasgow into a Petrograd." It was only much later in life that I learnt that this history was not routinely taught, and that many, if not most, Scots are unsure of this era. If you want an insight, then all you need to do is listen to this long-awaited release and read the excellently researched notes, complete with bibliography, which accompany it. Alistair tells the story of the struggle in songs that are variously stirring, poignant and humorous, but always well-crafted, sensitively arranged and passionately sung. Alastair's commitment to the left-wing cause is obvious to all who have spoken to him, and here he shows that he can convince by his singing approach as well.

The nine original songs on this CD are no mere political rants, however, but skilfully constructed to obtain the maximum effect from the lyrics by drawing word-pictures that convey the spirit of the times when the Government sent tanks and armed soldiers to disperse mass rallies of ordinary workers. Alistair is also admired as a traditional ballad singer and here he uses his knowledge of the style and format of the muckle sang to tell, in John Maclean and Agnes Wood, the moving tale of the inner conflict between love of an individual and love of a cause. He is in jauntier mode with When Johnny Came Hame Tae Glesca, giving an insight to how celebrations could become euphoric, or Mrs. Barbour's Army, outlining the role of women in the rent strike. A return to the grimmer realities of the times in Don't Sign Up For War reminds us of the global setting that prevailed and The Granite Cage invokes the depravations of prison life. Throughout, Alistair's tasteful guitar accompaniments are subtly enhanced by Dave Swarbrick, now happily recovered from the illness that caused his obituary to appear in some newspapers! The CD is also enhanced by the facility to read and print the song lyrics and to access web links. An outstanding release.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 48 of The Living Tradition magazine.