A Review of the Various Artistes CD
"Missing Persians File: Songs and poems of Les Barker"

"Missing Persians File: songs and poems of Les Barker"
by Various Artistes

Osmosys OSMO CD 032

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 3/06

This CD has a secondary title of “Guide Cats For The Blind, Volume 2”, and builds on the fine work done by Volume 1. “Fine work” on the artistic level, and also on the philanthropic one: the first volume has currently raised more than £21,000 for charities of the blind and the partially sighted.

When reviewing Volume 1, I remarked that whilst a bit uneven, there were some glorious flights of fancy. Well this is true of Volume 2 also, but with an even higher degree of success. This album has already had twenty plays from me (almost unheard of: three plays are usually my reviewing custom).

Again we have a host of celebrities contributing their interpretations of Les Barker's poetry, and a few of these efforts are put to music.

And when the poem as a song-lyric manifestly does not work ­ as in Dipsticks and Seals ­ we at least have the magnificent guitar, melody and vocal of Steve Tilston to save the day. Another even more illustrious Folk name ­ Tom Paxton ­ gives us a glorious version of “Will The Turtle Be Unbroken”, even though as a song lyric it does not quite cut the mustard.

But let us not quibble: most of the tracks work very well indeed, and there is some magnificent reading. I take my hat off to Roger Lloyd Pack for his version of Les's inspired “Non Sequitors” (presumably, a typing error on the back of the CD since it us spelt correctly as “Non Sequitur” in the liner notes). This is a delicious play on (non) secateurs, his wondrous imagination running riot in the tradition of his masterpiece, “Déjà vu”.

Other joyous moments abound. Nonny James and Emma Chambers both really deliver with their efforts, and how nice it was to hear the rasping Cardiff accent of Frank Hennessy read the appropriate (for a Welshman) “Death By Daffodils”. Ryan Kelly (a name new to me) really got the max out of “Self Knowledge” and veteran actor Joss Ackland shows his immense professionalism with his version of Les's reworking of Kipling's “If”. This last poem shows that Barker is not all soft-centre: there is a keen political sense there and an acerbic tongue when needed.

BBC personality Jeremy Vine offers perhaps a somewhat puzzling version of “Napoleon's Circular Retreat From Reading”, and BBC colleague Ed Stewart also could perhaps have made more of his poem. But what the heck! These guys are to be applauded for giving their services free, and for such a good cause.

Buy it. You will not be disappointed.

Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England

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