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THE HOME SERVICE "Early Transmissions" RGF CD028

The Home Service was formed by a group of jobbing musicians who were basically working the London theatres, and they became the house band for the National Theatre, where they provided the music for, amongst other things, Bill Bryden's spectacular vision - the production of The Mysteries, a way-marker for English theatre and also an acknowledgement of the English folk revival. It was an eight-piece band with Bill Caddick on vocals and guitar, Jonathan Davie on bass guitar, Howard Evans on trumpets, Michael Gregory on drums, Steve King on keyboards, John Tams on vocals, Graeme Taylor on guitars and vocals, and Roger Williams on trombone. The brass and drums allied with electric guitar and keyboards generated a powerhouse of music, and made Home Service a band with attitude, a band with balls, and a band with the skill and the confidence to let the music dominate. This album is a compilation of their first LP recording of 1984 plus their 45rpm single (remember them?) from 1981.

The opening track, "Don't Let Them Grind You Down", written and sung by John Tams and sounding, superficially, as bright and bland as a Beatles tune, but the lyrics bite! And they are surprisingly still remarkably pertinent thirteen years after they were written, as are the words to the anthemic "Walk My Way", which Tams co-wrote with Caddick. Tams has to be regarded as one of our major songwriters, but when he combined forces with Bill Caddick they became a truly formidable force. The pair also wrote "The Old Man's Song" for the NT's production of Quixote - a beautiful song, a classic later taken-up and re-interpreted by June Tabor. She also re-worked another Early Transmissions track, Caddick's "She Moves Among Men" (or "The Barmaid's Song") - another classic. If you've only ever heard the unaccompanied Swan Arcade version of "The Peat Bog Soldiers", then Graeme Taylor's interpretation will be an absolute revelation, with trumpet and trombone intro before the drums and guitar come in, underlining the vocals from Caddick and Tams. Masterful. As is the celebratory final track, the instrumental "Bramsley" composed by Graeme Taylor as the "b" side for the single.

This CD is notable as an historical record of an important period in the development of modern English folk music, and interesting as a product of the gigs at the Half Moon, Putney. But more than that, it is a re-issue of some excellent songs and music performed by a band unafraid of innovation and new directions and with a belief in the strength and value of their material. It deserves a place in your collection.

Mel Howley

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