A Review of the SWARB'S LAZARUS CD
"Live and Kicking"
"Live and Kicking"Squiggle Records SquiggleCD2
by SWARB'S LAZARUS
Copyright Squiggle Records firstname.lastname@example.org
This review is written by Dai Woosnam, email@example.com, 10/06
Well, even Lazarus came back from the dead no more effectively
than British Folk icon Dave Swarbrick did. For if Swarb's premature
1999 obituary in the (London) Daily Telegraph was not proof enough of
his demise from emphysema, then his desperately sick appearance for the
best part of 7 years seemed to suggest that the game was up. But lung
transplant to the rescue, and a very real miracle has occurred. Indeed,
just before I sat down to write this review, he was rapturously
received returning this August to the Cropredy Festival stage: the
scene of so many of his former triumphs.
Now, this is a live CD: an amalgam of 4 gigs around England in March
and April of 2006. It is a CD that has also according to the
liner notes - “a whole extra CD ROM section on the CD which you can
locate if you put your CD into your computer”.
Apparently this section contains all sorts of goodies.
Note I say “apparently”. Alas my modern DELL computer could not detect
the CD Rom section in this disc: nor could the PC of a friend living
local to me. Neither computer has never had a problem doing so with
previous such “bonus” offerings. One wonders whether it was just a
rogue copy, and that 99% of the others work just fine. Let's hope so.
Indeed it probably IS the case since I note that Squiggle Records of
Harlech leave mastering and production to that most proficient of
labels, Sain of Caernarfon, North Wales.
But whatever the whys and wherefores, there was quite enough of the
“conventional CD” of this release for me to be able to enjoy, and
more-than-enough for a reviewer to talk about.
“Swarb's Lazarus” consist of the great man himself on fiddle and
mandolin, Kevin Dempsey on guitar and Maartin Allcock on bouzar and
guitar. The main vocals on the songs are the responsibility of Kevin,
with Maartin adding harmonies (with the exception being a touching
version of Cyril Tawney's “Grey Funnel Line”, where the roles are
There is the usual mix of songs and instrumentals, and of course with
three virtuoso musicians like these, the latter take pride of place. As
someone who used to regularly attend Digbeth Town Hall in the late 60s
to see Swarb when he was still a member of the Ian Campbell Folk Group,
I now close my eyes as I listen and still marvel that if inevitably a
tad of the phenomenal drive and energy has gone from his playing, the
fact still remains that Swarb's playing has a DNA and authority all of
its own. And even non-fiddle players like me can tell it his him from
virtually the first note.
The instrumentals dazzle. They put me in mind of the great
much-lamented Whippersnapper, a foursome of which Dave and Kevin were
members. (A group furthermore that have never since been matched by all
the various permutations on the Folk scene.) You can just hear in every
note the fact that the trio all hold each other in the highest regard,
as they make room for their colleagues' playing in a way that goes
beyond what is purely “good musical common sense”.
But me being a song lover, it is natural I guess that the two highlights of the CD for me were SONGS.
The aforementioned Tawney classic has a nicely understated Allcock
vocal with a glorious vocal harmony from Dempsey. Their twin guitars
marvellously evoke the metronomic quality of the swell of the waves.
But it was that great Copper family song, “The Forsaken Mermaid” that
was to prove the real high. Never did I think that any vocal could
replace Bob Copper's in my affection. And I was right. This one
doesn't, decent fist though Kevin makes of it.
But as a VERSION, it is as good as this song gets. When Dave's fiddle
is showcased 4 minutes into the 6 minute 30 second track, I defy you
not to find the whole thing terribly moving.
So then, is the CD a delight from start to finish? No, not quite.
Indeed the only two moments of irritation come AT the very start and again toward the very end.
We start with an introduction by Pam Aird at the Unicorn Theater in
Abingdon. Now as introductions go, it is unexceptional, and perhaps has
in being just a total of 37 seconds - the added bonus of brevity.
So what's my beef?
Simple. Squiggle Records have the chutzpah to show it as Track One! And
when toward the end of the album Dave asks “are we doing alright for
time?”, this too finds itself listed as a track: a track of 8 seconds'
Now someone is taking the proverbial here, and it won't do.
You might say, it is harmless enough fun, and add that there have been
many instances of this little dodge being pulled before. And in some
ways you'd be right. But try telling that to Trading
Standards. The fact is that potential buyers taking a cursory glance at
the back cover of the CD will figure they are getting 13 tracks for
their £13: whereas the reality is that they are getting 11.
Don't do it chaps. You have FAR too much class for that.
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