This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 3/98
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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This CD, released in 1995 in the U.K. by Transatlantic and now picked up for U.S. release by Red House Records, reintroduces veteran singer-songwriter Ralph McTell to this country's folk music fans with a bang.
A mostly acoustic release, filled with introspective, relationship- examining, society-questioning songs, McTell provides grist for the mill for anyone who enjoys pondering and philosophizing over the "big" questions in and of life.
There are many standout songs contained here--my favorite being "Jesus Wept" which, when I first heard it on the radio, made me drop everything I was doing to listen to it. "Jesus Wept" relates the doubts, fears, and confusion of Jesus of Nazareth with some of the most incisive and heart-rendering lyrics ever written:
"Was he supposed to bear it
like a man or like a God,
would tears show a weakness
or a strength by their effect
Would they be viewed as compassion
or failure and self pity,
and that's why Jesus wept..."
The strongly ironic song, "The Enemy Within (The Band)," details the closing of numerous coal mines in the U.K., juxtaposed with local colliery (brass) bands appearing to make everything seem all right for the miners when, in fact, unemployment and the resulting loss of a generational way of life were the bleak future at hand:
"The gates are closed the shops are shut
Our very jobs they stole
The bandroom's just a shell that keeps
An echo of our soul"
A bluesy, jazzy number, "Care In The Community," utilizes string bass, trumpet, sax, and clarinet to good effect. In the song, McTell points out that isolating oneself or taking steps to avoid the homeless and mentally ill doesn't mean the problems (and people) don't exist or that somebody else is taking care of these community issues.
In "Daddy's Whistling Home," McTell sounds like a crooner with a 1940s Big Band, detailing, in an ironic upbeat tempo, the difficult adjustments all veterans face upon returning home. McTell also puts to rest the often-repeated bromide that family life was so much more wonderful in that era. Just like nowadays, it all depend on which family you're talking about.
McTell also deals with the Nazi deportation of the Jews in World War 2 with "The Case Of Otto Schwarzkopf." The last three lines cry out with this plea:
I do want to note that this is not a brooding, dark album, despite the subject matter covered. McTell's baritone voice works well with the different musical styles he utilizes on this CD, and the music and lyrics mesh well.
All songs published by Misty River Music Ltd.
Copyright © 1998-2015 Kevin & Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews. All rights reserved.
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