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37 Reviews
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the wait!
Those who own 'Eponymous' or have been to a live Bellowhead gig will know in part what to expect - a big brassy folk sound with the attack Spiers and Boden bring to all they do, but here there is a new ingredient to the fore, sublety. Almost every song has musical surprises. The big brassy sound usually works best on upbeat tracks, but as always the exception proves the...
Published on 26 Sep 2006 by Richard

versus
11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Communication breakdown ?
I was really looking forward to hearing the first Bellowhead album in its entirety. A great live band who had built up a cult following and brought on board critics such as Mr Folk, Mike Harding and the music critics from the 'serious' newspapers.
Bellowhead could be seen as an English Pogues. Quirky and left field. Offering their own unique interpretations of...
Published on 21 July 2008 by Arthur Dooley


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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the wait!, 26 Sep 2006
By 
Those who own 'Eponymous' or have been to a live Bellowhead gig will know in part what to expect - a big brassy folk sound with the attack Spiers and Boden bring to all they do, but here there is a new ingredient to the fore, sublety. Almost every song has musical surprises. The big brassy sound usually works best on upbeat tracks, but as always the exception proves the rule; the hauntingly beautiful 'Courting Too Slow', from an earlier Spiers and Boden CD, enters a new dimension thanks to Boden's sensitive arrangement and some glorious playing. Is there a quibble? It is very minor and probably just me, but the odd arrangement seems almost over elaborate, as on the stark little song 'Death and the Lady', but this is a splendid CD. Buy it now and revel in its delights.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating blend of traditional and contemporary, local and global, 28 Sep 2006
Foot tapping and brain tickling. The tunes are traditional but rearranged and adapted by members of Bellowhead drawing on various styles, even Brazilian. This is not old guys in woolies droning on about authenticity. The result is certainly resplendent, almost baroqe, burlesque perhaps, in its glorious excess. It comes with extensive liner notes detailing the known origins, discovery and development of the tunes. Its fun to listen to the thumping brass backing while recalling that the song you are hearing was sung in fields in 18th century Sussex or on 19th century cotton transport ships. But this is not an academic record. It's a hoot. And you can dance to it. It ought to be much more widely known.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars exhilarating experience, 10 Oct 2006
I have to say that I'm not normally a folk fan but this album is not folk as you know it. It's almost as exhilarating as the eleven-strong band LIVE -- I was lucky enough to catch them in Blackheath earlier this year and I still feel charged up by the experience. The melodies are memorable, complex and evocative. The lead singer has a very seductive voice, but he's not the only one -- there are other good voices here, and fine close harmonies. You can listen to any part of the music and find rich texture there to reward your focus. You will hear shades of Les Negresses Vertes at times, meshed with English ballads, Celtic jigs, Arabic strains, anarchy, jazz... And one more thing: wit. There's intelligence and humour in both the lyrics and the music, down to the last percussive frying pan or drunken violin.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Aptly titled musical caricature - grotesquely brilliant, 19 April 2007
By 
Huck Flynn "huckleberry" (northern ireland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This is a stunning experience and lots of fun unless you're a po faced folkie purist. Certainly sounds like the group (in reality a cross between a chamber orchestra and a colliery brass band) is having fun revisiting, dissecting and reassembling this frankenstein monster of an album. It's a collection of traditional folk songs and new tunes, arranged brilliantly for about a dozen players lead by Boden and Spiers who add a bewildering mixture of musical influences, from classical, jazz, rock - you can hear Jethro Tull, Frank Zappa, Herb Alpert, ELO, parodies from pop, funk, world genres and more - Millennium music for morris dancers, snake charmers and courtiers. The arrangements are truly phenomenal - from the intro to Rigs of the Time, a sort of orchestra tuning up followed by what sounds like the theme from The Simpsons before the thumping brass and woodwind driven melody behind the wonderful folk singing. Martin Carthy it's not. Standout track is Jordan (an American gospel song) featuring bagpipes !!! and sounding like the Michael Nyman soundtrack for Peter Greenaway's Draughtsman's Contract. Why wasn't this picked for Eurovision - fantastic, theatrical, daring ? There are a few more conventional songs - the bouzouki, accordion, cello on Across the Line with its infectious chorus is very effective; Courting Slow shows a more typical fiddle and box Spiers and Boden combination on an old love ballad; One May Morning is a carol arranged for voice parts and some brass accompaniment. The tunes are less immediate in their appeal but soon grow with their variety of dance rhythms to keep the toes tapping. An awesome effort from all involved. Open your ears and minds - it's really worth it (almost for the beautiful packaging alone).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So glad I'm in Flash Company!, 11 Feb 2007
By 
Andy (from South Wales) - See all my reviews
Heard the excerpts on the website and thought I had to hear more - have been totally blown away by this band - seen them live now and have become a die-hard FAN! Even the odd little ditty Flash Company gets me going. They are true to the English folk tradition on some tracks and refreshingly eccentric in their energetic approach on others. I cannot recommend this album highly enough! I'd give it 6 stars if I could!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific achievement, 18 Sep 2006
By 
T. Brown "NorwoodTom" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Eleven of the brightest young talents on the folk scene today, brought together by established duo Spiers & Boden, deliver their first full-length album - and what an experience it is.

The unifying factor may be English folk - and gloriously so - but, by heck, all musical life is here. From the macabre fury of Rigs of the Time, via the relentless rhythmic whirlpool that is Hopkinson's Favourite, to the irresistibly harmonious One May Morning Early, the arrangements and performances are dazzling - both remorselessly imaginative and thrillingly visceral.

As a folk album, it does what any good folk album should - give us a reason to keep listening, even after all these years. But in so doing, it achieves something more. It becomes a salute to eclecticism - a wonderfully inclusive celebration of music and dance per se, which anyone who possesses the slightest dram of musical curiosity, rootsy or otherwise, should check out with immediate effect.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The New Rock and Roll, 26 Sep 2006
By 
M. W. Hall "just_martin" (Guildford, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you've heard eponymous, then you've got an idea of what this is going to sounds like. English Traditional music by way of Kurt Weil and a circus. This 11 piece band makes an amazingly loud and complex music which shines throughout with humour and good cheer. Ranging from the raucous 'Rigs of the Time' and 'Flash Company' through to surprisingly sensitive versions of 'Courting too Slow' and 'One May Morning Early' this is a fantastic piece of work. English Dance Music? It's the new rock and roll, believe me.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bellowhead 1 - Doubting thomases 0, 3 Oct 2006
By 
Barman63 (Southampton, Hampshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Having seen Bellowhead live several times and fallen under the spell, having whirled my wife around the living room time and time again whilst listening to their earlier release EP.Onymous and been long time fans of the two Johns, Bowden and Spiers, we were really looking forward to this release, albeit with a touch of trepidation.

Well, we weren't disappointed with this at all; the wonderful version of Courting Too Slow brought tears to my ears, and the fantastically degenerate version of Flash Company brought tears of laughter.

Rigs of the Time and Sloe Gin capture exactly the essence of a live Bellowhead gig, and London Town is a well addressed version of an old standard.

Give your perception of Folk music the day off and listen to this album for it is surely destined to be a classic and remember - you heard it here first !
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, melodic, genre-defying LP, 28 April 2008
By 
Greg Farefield-Rose (Hertfordshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
It's very rare indeed that a band emerges as different and talented as Bellowhead. The 11 piece big-band collective play contemporary, innovative versions of traditional folk songs, which, despite the band's size, have excellent, uncluttered arrangements.

Bellowhead is the brainchild of singer / fiddler Jon Boden and melodeon playing John Spiers, both well-known faces on the English folk circuit. One or other of the Jo(h)ns arranged most of the songs on Burlesque or wrote an original melody or reel with the exception of Across The Line and London Town which were arranged by Pete Flood and Paul Sartin respectively, Both highlights, London Town has an almost ska-like feel courtesy of Bellowhead's superb four-piece brass section who are more like the Dirty Dozen Band than the standard soul or jazz influenced horn ensemble.

Yes the brass section are crucial to Bellowhead's sound. They also particularly shine on the clipped, almost calypso-like instrumental Sloe Gin as well as providing further sympathetic, funky emblishments throughout the LP. Despite their presence though, Bellowhead are essentially a folk group with extensive notes on the derivation of each song provided in the inlay, presumably by Boden and Spiers. If these two have ever had enough of music, they would make excellent archivists...

The Bellowhead sound is so different that it's hard to describe the band in terms of musical influences though the closest match is possibly The Pogues at their most sophisticated around the time of If I Should Fall From Grace With God. This only of course tells half the story at most. For further non-folk pointers, the superb Across The Line and Courting Too Slow would not be out of place on The Waterboys' Fisherman's Blues whilst the discordant, vaudeville Flash Company peters towards Tom Waits' territory.

Don't just think of influences too much when playing Burlesque though but just enjoy it for the incredible body of work that it is. It's far too rich to be pigeonholed as just folk music with Bellowhead having huge potential cross-over appeal if they want it though I suspect, as mostly family men nearer 30 than 20, they are happy enough to be a big cult act. Whatever their intentions, Burlesque is a magnificent, melodic, extremely original album and is very highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How does one become a Bellowheadhead?, 15 Oct 2007
By 
M. Demian (Canterbury, Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Wow! Wow! Wow! What a lovely, scrummy, dreamy, hoppy, happy CD! I bought it on faith, as I'm more or less guaranteed to like any band that is lazily classified as 'unclassifiable'. Now, this isn't actually unclassifiable, and there are precedents - think Squirrel Nut Zippers meet Brass Monkey - but they're doing it their way, and beautifully. First-rate musicianship and gorgeous arrangements, with more brass, strings and multipart harmonies than you can shake a baton at. Also, is it too geeky to praise their musical scholarship? They've really researched their sources, and I admire that. Their version of The Outlandish Night beats almost every other I know of. F.J. Child is applauding in his grave: this is how traditions keep going, through innovation and experimentation and sheer whimsy. Now, when are they going to come to East Kent??
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