This review is written by Dai Woosnam, firstname.lastname@example.org, 8/06
Last year I was privileged to review their “Hymn For A Glad
Tomorrow” album. I say “privileged” because although it was
not exactly an album made for me in Heaven, the fact was that I found
its curious mix of a potpourri of musical styles and philosophical
modes MUCH more to my liking than I'd have thought if you'd put the
whole package to me as a proposition beforehand.
And so I came upon their follow-up album with a certain expectation: and I am pleased to say that Wales-based Richard Ellin and his Band of Merrie Men (or more often than not, WOMEN) did not disappoint.
With regard to the name of this collective (I use the word deliberately, as I have a vision of them all living in a wigwam down in Teepee Valley down at Cwmdu near Llandeilo, with Richard being waited-on, hand and foot, by his two glamorous singing squaws, Ina and Cecilia!), I refer you to what I said in my last review:
‘…Well, any Brit reading the name of this music group, would latch-on straight away to the reference. The words are by William Blake, and they were made immortal by their fantastically good setting to music by Hubert Parry. The song/hymn “Jerusalem” is thus perhaps the most popular quasi-sacred piece in Britain today, despite many of my fellow Celts feeling a bit miffed that the England rugby fans have commandeered it. (From my point of view, if it stops them debasing that great negro spiritual “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” with their absurdly silly hand actions straight out of the “Birdy Song” - well, I'm all in favour of the rugger fans “stealing” it.)…'
And just like their last CD, they have again came up with an album to play by the fire on a cold winter's evening. An album to help you dream of the spring and summer to come, as you stare into the burning coals.
And DREAMING is the key to appreciating “And Did Those Feet”. Do ONLY go gentle into this CD. Do not go into it with the antennae of the critic out to score some points.
If you do, you may indeed find one can write a negative review that the critic CAN INDEED justify, but in the end it means that he/she has not enjoyed what the CD has delivered.
But me? I am something of a selfish blighter. And whilst I do indeed have a duty to the reader to advise them how to spend their money, I also have a duty to myself to enjoy a CD if I can.
So I saw it all as though I was entering through a portal named “Dream Sequences”. And precisely BECAUSE of the fact that I took on this album in the same way I took on Captain Beefheart albums 35 years ago, I found it an engaging experience.
In Ina Williams and Cecilia Jones, Richard Ellin has two songbirds that can challenge the nightingale in a Mother Nature's “Pitch Perfect Contest”. And get at least a score draw. In Harvey Summers, he has an eminence grise whose arrangements strike me as assured and imaginative.
But above all there is this rum cove, Ellin. I don't know what quite to make of him.
When I first heard he was a former member of the Portsmouth Sinfonia, my suspicions were that he was perhaps an impish fellow who was out to take the proverbial, and especially planning to get critics to take him much more seriously than he takes himself.
But guess what? I have now come to the conclusion that this is a deeply sincere man. And if I end up looking a mug, so be it.
He is a man who can spot a not terribly promising poem called “Reverence” by Hilary Stone, and just KNOW that with treatment from his “Collective” (in this case, with special help from composer Michael Cleaver) he can turn it with Ms Stone's narration into the best track on an album that has lots of goodies. “Who Fills These Eyes?” - with its mesmeric quality - runs it very close. This latter song like most on the CD have words and music by Richard Ellin.
Yes, I would love to live in this chap's head for a day or two. He is a man you don't meet every day.
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