A Review of the Maggie Holland CD

by Maggie Holland

Weekend Beatnik WEBE 9044

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 10/07

Maggie is an English singer and song writer who gives free rein to “angst in one's pants”, like few others. And I applaud her for her naked honesty: a truthfulness coupled with a fine intelligence.

If I had to choose only one adjective to apply to Maggie Holland, I would be tempted to choose that word “intelligent”. With her, there's the wonderful sense that you get with a great artiste like say, Glenn Gould, where you feel that the music is being composed at the very moment it is being performed.

And it's an intelligence that also manifests itself in her glorious ability to spot someone else's song that had often passed most of us by unnoticed. This skill of hers had its finest moment with her wonderful interpretation of Al Stewart's “Accident on 3rd Street”. Alas, that splendid offering doesn't make this retrospective (which largely contains the “best of” her albums made between 1983 and 1992, with the addition of a few previously unreleased tracks) as it has already reappeared - by popular demand - on her 1999 album, “Getting There”.

But here, she similarly scores a bullseye with Stewart McGregor's “Coshieville” and Adrian May's “No Good At Love”; and even with such a well-known audience-pleaser as Robb Johnson's “Overnight”, she delivers it like it was newly-minted.

But, when looking for that one word to sum up Maggie, if “intelligent” has a serious competitor, then it surely is the adjective “fearless”. Songs like track 18, her “Perfumes of Arabia”, are songs that do not sit on the fence. And her gorgeously rich Hampshire accent – one could write a thesis on her startlingly open vowel sounds alone! - helps somehow to expose her to the forensic gaze of friend and foe alike, in a way that many fellow artistes would be to too timid to risk emulating.

This keenly priced and attractively Digipacked album contains an astonishing 24 tracks. Her own works take up about a third of the album, along with songs by such writers as Peter Rowan, Bruce Cockburn, Billy Bragg, Tymon Dogg, Dave Evans, Chris Smither, Randy Newman, John Tams, Richard Thompson, Tommy Yates (and not to forget, a certain Mr Robert Zimmerman!), and with a couple of traditional songs thrown in.

Not one is a dud: several are rather fine, and one is a masterpiece. The chef d'oeuvre is of course her (co-written along with Jon Moore) song, “A Proper Sort of Gardener”, a veritable 4 minute masterclass from her, in teaching aspiring lyric writers just how to compress so much thought and incident into just a four line stanza. A song that will be sung 200 years from now.

And not many of her peers have a hope in hell of that happening to them.

This is one review album that I assuredly will not dispose of to the charity shop. And it is not just the musical content that dictates that: the liner notes by Colin Irwin and Maggie, are a cut above the average too.

Days like this, one feels one is rather lucky to be a reviewer.

Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England.

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