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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb album..., 3 Sep 2002
By 
Amber (Durham, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Unity (Audio CD)
John Tams is best known among the general public as the "shaggy guy who sings" from the "Sharpe" films. This does him a serious injustice - over the years he has been a member of a number of bands (including "The Albion Band" and "Home service") and has been very involved with a large number of theatre and radio productions, both musically and as an actor.
All this has given him a phenomenal amount of experience. For this reason his first SOLO album (he has been involved in countless compilation albums or as a member of a band) is superb. Testament to this are the two awards it won at the BBC folk awards in 2001 - best album and best song ("Harry Stone").
If however, you think folk is not your thing, don't reject "Unity" out of hand. This album is immensly approachable from almost any aspect largely due to the way it tackles modern social issues that affect us all. This coupled with Tam's unique voice lends real feeling to the songs - somehow, you know this is a guy who cares.
All in all, Unity is a fantastic album, full of feeling, it can be enjoyed by people from many musical persuasions. Highly recommended...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What makes John Tams' songs so special?, 11 Mar 2006
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This review is from: Unity (Audio CD)
What makes John Tams' songs so special? Well, he has a genius for melody, and his words are intelligent and imaginative. His obvious sympathy with the underdog, both past and present, lends sincerity to his singing and provides much original material.
But musically, the reason why these are songs are so unusual is that they are obviously written by a singer, not by a guitarist or a pianist. The melodies seem unrelated to any obvious chords. The rhythms are hard to pin down. They change and develop as Tams shortens or lengthens his lines and changes his pace. The musicians have to follow along as best they can (and they do so brilliantly). The folk-rock of the past was generally driven by the rhythm section of a band. Although Sandy Denny would sometimes lag behind or forge ahead, Tam's goes one stage further. His strong vocals definitely lead the band. The musicians accompany him, and the accompaniment itself has endless variations.
Another delightful touch, probably owing something to Tams' early contact with Joe Boyd (original producer for Fairport, Sandy Denny etc.) comes in the odd little musical digressions, unexpected and delightful: a change of rhythm, an unexpected instrument, a snatch of melody or harmony unrelated to the main song, leading into it or out of it.
The end result is not merely a dozen familiar tunes you like to whistle while walking the dog; neither the melodies nor the rhythms will allow for that. They are songs (or rather cycles of songs and snatches of songs) that you want to hear again and again, to rediscover exactly how they went. Some musical moments will appeal more than others, but none are so easily remembered that you grow weary of them. Their appeal is a lasting one.
"Home" was the first of Tams' solo recordings that I heard and (perhaps for that reason) remains my favourite. But the whole trilogy (with "Unity" and "The Reckoning") remains an ongoing delight.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars just put this cd on repeat!, 21 Nov 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Unity (Audio CD)
If this isn't in the mandatory "folk" album slot at the next Mercury Music Awards then there is no justice. John Tams has built on his years of involvement with the folk scene, in the excellent Home Service, and in the theatre to produce music that can not only stir up your blood to stand up for your rights as in "Unity"and "Harry Stone" but also reach your heart as in "Winds of Change" with its evocative feel. This music can cheer you up and make you think at the same time.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tams returns to brilliant form, 22 Oct 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Unity (Audio CD)
John Tams has been around for a mysteriously long time, and has written some truly great songs about gritty issues such as mine closures, redundancy and the First World War. Here he continues in great style. The lyrics on this album are well worth listening to and yet the style is as far from gritty as you could get - it is mellow and seductive. Highlights include a piece on the plight of hill farmers which is brilliantly paired with a lullaby about counting sheep, and an epic on the soldier's wife left behind at the end of the Napoleonic wars. Too polished to be folk, too intelligent to be rock, just a hint of American country and a voice like liquorice toffee - totally recommended.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Suprise Find, 21 July 2001
This review is from: Unity (Audio CD)
I found this album by chance while looking for something else, and I am very glad I did. Home Service produced superb music (their 'Alright Jack' is a classic must-have), and here John Tams has built and developed that sound. I've had the record two weeks and played nothing else in that time!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent mix of folk music, 27 Mar 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Unity (Audio CD)
this album has a very good mix of the styles of music that John Tams is best at and includes music from the Sharpe TV series. His voice has a quality you cannot find words that do him justice. I would recommend this to anyone
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5.0 out of 5 stars Visions, 27 Nov 2014
By 
GlynLuke (York UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Unity (Audio CD)
May I happily add my voice to the praise being heaped here upon the sublime John Tams?
Believe me when I say that this is one of the most moving, most surprising, and most beautiful albums I have ever heard.
I already had the Tams compilation available (which is excellent) but to hear the very well-titled Unity in all its coherent glory is to be in the presence of musical gold. At around fifty minutes in length and recorded in 2000, it consists of a generous eleven songs with not one you'd want to be without.
Spanish Bride is so glorious I can hardly speak about it soberly. JT was of course one of Sharpe's 'Chosen Men' for several years on TV - as actor and occasional singer as the situation demanded - and in each episode he would sing a self-penned variation on the Napoleonic-era song Over the Hills and Far Away, as indeed he does here, written no doubt on location in Ukraine, where much of the series was filmed. He interweaves his own verses with the older chorus, and the result is seven minutes of sheer heaven.
The opening track Whole New Vision is another highlight, with a witty, pointed lyric. He wrote all the songs here, including the brilliant title song, and Harry Stone (subtitled Hearts of Coal) which hides a love song amid its restrained rage at the iniquitous 1980s pit closures.
On Somewhere The Sun Is Shining/Hold Back The Tide, guest singer Linda Thompson, an old friend and colleague of Tams, is a welcome female voice on a superb song.
Otherwise, Barry Coope admirably handles backing vocals (and lead with Linda T) on some tracks.
Winds of Change was written 'On Yalta Beach 1992' - no doubt during a break from filming Sharpe - and is the more poignant to me since I myself sat on Yalta beach six years later when working in Ukraine. (The actual beach is a meagre affair, but it's there if you look for it; the town itself is more interesting.)
John Tams hasn't quite made National Treasure status yet (not that he'd probably want to) but that can only be because folk albums have never tended to sell in vast quantities. When they are as sublime as this is, it seems like there's no justice.
However, this did win Radio 2 Folk Album of the Year in 2001, so someone's on the ball.

Eternally recommended.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Birthday Gift, 22 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Unity (Audio CD)
Already knew of John Tams. His voice is unique and his music and songs are great. I bought this for my husbands birthday as he has always been a fan. He has yet to play it as he hasn't had his birthday, but I know he will be greatly pleased.
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Unity
Unity by John Tams (Audio CD - 2000)
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