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VARIOUS ARTISTS "The Bird in the Bush" Topic TSCD479
VARIOUS ARTISTS "English & Scottish Folk Ballads" Topic TSCD480

"The Bird in the Bush" is subtitled "Traditional songs of love and lust" and "Erotic folk song". Unmentioned are: dubiety, farce, suggestion, rejection and a touch of incomprehension. Erotica? Don't expect to see this release listed in Ann Summers' catalogues (at least not the current edition!). (What would you know ??!! - asst Ed.) Still, whatever turns you on, and if like myself, your vices include good songs and the sound of great singers then this should quicken the pulse and bring a twinkle to the eye.

"The Bird in the Bush", is a re-release of the Topic LP of the same title, originally on sale some thirty years ago, with a few additional tracks. The subject of how wholey traditional included texts and singing styles truly are, is a sleeping dog who's claws I'll leave for someone else to trim. However, the recordings are commendably direct, straightforward and well-paced, bringing essence and spirit to the storylines. Not surprising since the performers are, Anne Briggs, Louis Killen, A.L. Lloyd, Frankie Armstrong and Norman Kennedy with occasional accompaniments from Alf Edwards and Dave Swarbrick. Reminiscent of the often enjoyable "theme nights", which were at one time the rage in folk clubs. The common concern of the nineteen songs, is achieving or avoiding the possibility of one plus one becoming three. A subject often returned to on another release compilation, "English and Scottish Folk Ballads".

Master of the ballad, Ewan MacColl, this time joins the ranks of the Lloyd, Briggs, Killen and Kennedy collective, as they foray through some of the better known British ballads. Among the classic versions recounted here are, "The Bramble Briar", "Willie O Winsbury", "Jack Orion", "Hughie The Graeme", "The Demon Lover", "Lord Randal" and that fine bothy ballad, "Drumdelgie". Ballads are not for everyone (so I keep hearing) but the singers here are in their element and the likes of Anne Briggs or Norman Kennedy in full voice, comes as close to an irresistible force as I can imagine.

Yet another welcome trawl through the Topic record vaults bringing a couple of albums brimming with good stuff, underlining how shortweight and fragile many performances from to-day's "singers" can be.

Peter Fairbairn

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