If talent were the secret to success in the music business and not ambition, Mick Softley would probably have been a star. This 1965 release is an essential purchase for anyone interested in 1960s folk music, protest songs or just great singing. Softley was an early influence on Donovan who recorded his song The War Drags On - a protest classic which is still as fresh and outrageously relevant as the day it was written. Bob Dylan and Bert Jansch are other obvious comparisons. But Softley is an infinitely better singer than Dylan or Jansch and a better player than Dylan or Donovan, versatile enough to mix delicate finger picking with aggressive strumming to underpin his powerful vocals.
In a way, this album is a monument to a kind of folk-protest singing that was just about to go out of fashion as hippie psychedelia took over from the political concerns of the folk movement and Dylan 'went electric'. Later, Softley was to admit that he hadn't enjoyed the solitary aspects of making a solo album, but Songs For Swinging Survivors shows him as a leading light in the early 1960s UK folk scene. Softley's arrangement and performance of folk standards, especially The Bells of Rhymney - made famous by the Byrds - is often outstanding. Other covers include Strange Fruit and Woody Guthrie's The Plains of Buffalo. Softley was still developing his own writing voice, but some of the originals like Jeannie are fresh and distinctive.
I have given this album 4 stars instead of 5 solely because the mid 1960s political flavour dates the overall feel of the album and the balance between originals and covers isn't quite there. However, this album belongs in the library of every folk and acoustic fan.