This review is written by Dai Woosnam, email@example.com, 5/08
Thirty years ago, people used to call English folk
artiste Fred Wedlock a Bristolian version of Billy Connolly. I
could never see it. I suppose it was that Fred always seemed to
me to be rather gentlemanly by comparison. (I nearly said “genteel”,
but that was never the adjective for Mr Wedlock.)
However now, playing this double CD reissue of his two best-known albums (with five bonus songs added), I suddenly begin to “get it”. It is the combination of the “very funny” juxtaposed with the deeply serious, Trad Folkie delivery of a ballad.
And golly, these albums from 1971 and 1973 respectively, hold up rather well. Of course they are highly uneven, but hey, that was always part of Wedlock's charm. He was a bloke who as a folk comedian always flew without a safety net: some of his parodies hit the ground with a resounding thud. But at their best, these parodies – or perhaps “re-workings” would be a better term – are positively DIVINE. His magnificently funny lyrics set to the melody of Paul Simon's “The Boxer” frankly even gets my vote over the very worthy Simon & Garfunkel original. (After “Walk Round The Harbour” – not alas featured here - it has to be the best track he ever laid down.)
True, “The Folker” here sets an artistic high water mark right at the very start: a mark that nothing that follows can quite match. A truly touching version of “Spencer The Rover” comes close; and the 5 bonus tracks from 2 mid sixties EPs, also provide a vital spark. I had never heard the best of the 5, “Virtute et Industrial” a song written by his much–missed fellow Bristolian, Adge Cutler. And which of us, not from the West Country, knew that it was the motto of the City of Bristol? I am indebted to the two of them for that.
And that song has Adge Cutler's fingerprints all over it. To think it is 34 years now since we heard the shocking news that he had been killed when his sports car overturned on a roundabout near Chepstow in Gwent, South Wales.
But The Oldest Swinger in Town is still going strong ... albeit close to chatting up girls in Darby & Joan clubs now! No doubt however, if you want to know just what Fred was like in his prime, then this double CD needs to find its way into your shopping bag.
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