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THE HIGH LEVEL RANTERS, HARRY BOARDMAN & DICK GAUGHAN "The Bonnie Pit Laddie" Topic TSCD486

I remember LPs were expensive. I would just about manage to keep up with Topic's output but then Leader came on the scene and the supply of new LPS outstripped the ability for me to purchase them all. "The Bonny Pit Laddie" further compounded the problem because it was a DOUBLE LP in a lavish sleeve with fabulous artwork and an enclosed booklet. It was expensive but worth it. The High Level Ranters were one of the "big" groups on the folk scene and Dick Gaughan was carving out his reputation - it was a 'must have' album.

Now re-issued on one CD it is a gem of an album with twenty four tracks on a mining theme. It includes two tracks by Dick Gaughan, one unaccompanied and one accompanied by Alistair Anderson on concertina, plus two tracks by Harry Boardman and two instrumental tracks by The Ranters.

There are plenty of good songs, lots of good singing and straightforward effective accompaniment. With much of the coal industry now closed the songs will be the only link for many with this part of industrial history. Johnny Handle used to tell of his idea of running a "dude pit" along the lines of the American wild west theme parks - many a true word is spoken in jest. It is a pity then that the original booklet has not been incorporated in an appropriate form with this CD. It may have necessitated a double CD box, but surely it would have been worth the effort. There is also one track missing from the original, an instrumental track which was a particular favourite of mine. That omission takes very little away from the pleasure of the album - highly recommended either as an introduction to The Ranters, as a source of good songs about the coal industry or just as an album of good singing of traditional songs - something that is increasingly in short supply these days. Recorded by Tony Engle.

John Muirhead

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This album was reviewed in Issue 25 of The Living Tradition magazine.