on 19 September 2011
This is a great album by accomplished musicians. It is majestic and moving, a tremendous achievement.The band creates all that is best in folk-rock. June Tabor sings the best she ever has. The choice of songs is impeccable, from Scots ballads (complete with glossary of words translated), to modern popular hits, given a glorious arrangement e.g. "Love will tear us apart" and "At the dark end of the street". The traditional ballads are sung with reverence but also with powerful energy, my favourites being, "Son David", and " The Leaves of Life".But all the tracks are there on merit, not a filler to be heard. There's a well designed leaflet, giving all the words of traditional ballads with credits as to where collected and from which singer.The whole CD cover is beautifully designed too.Go out and get it, make it a massive hit. Very highly recommended.
Having seen June Tabor and Oysterband in concert most recently, where they were playing several songs, which they said they were playing for the first time live (bet they said that to all their fans in recent concerts!) and which were previews from what would be on this album, I've been impatiently counting the days down till the release. And it's been well worth that wait!
I went to that concert because of Tabor, but have now been seduced by Oysterband as well. Tabor's dark, brooding voice still reaches most deeply and soulfully I think on the very simply accompanied The Hills Of Shiloh, and/but she is equally at home as chanteuse with the driving rhythms of Oysterband, and a more folk rock fusion. From the exciting opening track Bonny Bunch Of Roses the listener is taken unstoppably through Tabor and Oysterband's John Jones duetting on Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart and Son David.
It's probably wrong to expect a studio album to quite reach the excitement of a live concert, but Jones' voice seems a touch more exposed, on piano high notes in the studio, against Tabor's powerful, but never straining vocals, specifically on Love Will Tear Us Apart. Notes which seemed to be pushed through only through felt emotion from Jones in that live performance here seems almost to be the result of technical strain on Love Will Tear Us Apart, though in the tight duetting on Dylan's Seven Curses Jones soars freely, and he is beautifully tender with Tabor on the closing track The Dark End Of The Street
Highlights for me are the excitement of the opening track, the aforementioned The Hills of Shiloh, the dynamism and vibrant excitement of If My Love Loves Me - particularly Ian Telfer's violin, the folk/religious ballad The Leaves Of Life, contrasting again, the driving, punchy beat and some beautiful acapella from Tabor and Oysterband.
But, hey, on subsequent plays, I find myself adding more tracks as highlights!
Oysterband and Tabor seem to spur each other enjoyably on. My big regret on this album is the non-inclusion of a couple of numbers from the live show last week - an electrifying performance of Jefferson's Airplane's White Rabbit and Velvet Underground's All Tomorrow's Parties (admittedly the latter one featured on the previous album 21 years ago) both proving Tabor can out Nico Nico and out Slick Slick. Her voice is truly amazing, and Oysterband have just the energy to match it. Rock's loss has been Folk's gain, with Tabor. She could I think sing almost anything .
I love the dark and painful reflective melancholy of Tabor's vocals, but the drive imposed by Oysterband's more urgent music works as a brilliant accelerator to Tabor, and she imposes a discipline and restraint well on them, so the balance point between the two is wonderful, electrifying.
on 26 February 2012
This album brings together Britain's foremost female interpreter of traditional songs and a band who are basically journeymen of the folk/rock genre for a second album 21 years after Freedom and Rain. It is also,IMHO,very, very good. I can't remember the last time an album had such an immediate effct on me, (it was probably Steelye Span's Please to See the King or Sergeant Pepper as a matter of fact), and it has rarely been off the stereo since I purchased it.
June Tabor has a truly unique, deep voice with a timbre that lends itself particularly to melancholy material but here, with the backing of the Oysterband, she slips off the shackles and delivers a wonderful selection of songs ranging from the traditional such as Judas to the contemporary That Was My Veil. For me the outstanding track, (from an outstanding album), is the interpretation of Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart which is both beautiful and moving. Alan Prosser's vocals work nicely with Tabor's simple yet rich delivery,and instrumentally the band is superb and very tight. In fact both parties benefit from this collabaration and are greater than the sum of their parts, which is as it should be!
I can't recommend this album too highly and would politely suggest you give it a listen.
on 20 September 2011
I always thought that the collaboration between June Tabor and The Oysterband (there was a previous album many a year ago)was a strange one but strange partnerships often work well and this is certainly a case in point. The covers will probably be the initial points of interest and they don't disappoint particularly That Was My Veil. I was never a huge fan of the original (from the first PJ Harvey collaboration with John Parrish) but here it fizzes and kicks from the speakers egged on by great drumming; a feature on several tracks here. Love Will Tear Us Apart is lead by slow finger picked guitar with cello providing the main melody. The duet makes sense in the context of the lyrics and although the two voices are similar in pitch and tone (no harmonies here) they manage to drag a good deal of emotion from the piece. The Dark End of The Street is perhaps the most disappointing moment on the album; a lacklustre dirge which seems to lack the melody and emotion of the Van Morrison original.
The "folk" songs on the album are almost exclusively great with "Bonny Bunch of Roses" kicking off the album in great style. The key to the Oysterband style is rhythm and the drums and bass really kick up a storm on this one, never missing a beat. Other songs are lead by mandolin-driven rhythms and on several songs hammered dulcimer provides melody making for an interesting and varied listen. Tabor's vocals are as good as you'd expect throughout the album although, perhaps because of the nature of the backing music she fails to conjure up the emotion that listeners might expect from her recent solo albums which feature a smaller ensemble and generally stick to a repertoire of slower, folk material.
So, a good album full of interest and plenty here to enjoy for fans of Tabor and of folk rock. The headlines will mention the choice of covers but it is the original folk songs that provide the highlights.
on 19 April 2012
It is no accident that this album picked up a clutch of awards at the BBC Folk Awards this year. June Tabor is still one of the finest interpreters of traditional songs and the Oyster Band arrangements and backing make for an exciting sound. This is folk at its best. The tracks are varied and a mixture of traditional and modern writing in the traditional style. There are no weak tracks although some will be liked more than others as the styles are so variable. For example, I love 'Love will tear us apart' but am less fond of 'That was my veil'. There are also some interesting variations on old standards - 'Fountains Flowing' and 'Seven Curses' being two examples. This album will rapidly become a 'standard' and would be a good introduction to non-folkies as a demonstration of just how powerful and musical this genre is.
on 22 October 2011
I am an unashamed June Tabor fan and a big Oyster Band fan too. What better to have them both back together after too long a gap since "Freedom and Rain"? Both parties have, of course, remained at the top of their game since then. Putting them together is one of those "marriages made in heaven".
The track selection is excellent. the versions of "Bonny Bunch of Roses" and "Sweet Sixteen" breathe new life into well-travelled classics. However, it is the imagination that led to "Love Will Tear Us Apart", Dylan's "Seven Curses", and an achingly good version of "Dark End Of The Street" that makes this collection so memorable. Just wonderful.
I'm finding this an album I cannot listen to just once. It gets played again almost immediately. Must be a contender for folk music album of the year, IMO.
on 4 November 2011
My only complaint is that there is room for another 30 minutes on the CD. This is such a stunningly perfect release that it has to be on every critic's "Album of the year" list and a Mercury nominee. If I was "internet savvy" I'd start a campaign to get "Love Will Tear Us Apart" to number one in the UK for Xmas. If "Mad World" can do it then so can this heart-rending reconstruction of a beautiful, highly emotive, song.
I wonder of the Simon Cowell 10 minute wonders realise that with care their voices could go on improving for another 30+ years? June Tabor has no equal in the English language but Johnny Jones is also amongst our leading voices.
20 years after the mould-breaking classic `Freedom & Rain' this 2011 release sees June Tabor reunited with Oysterband to release another 12 tracks in the folk-rock idiom. The origin of these numbers varies from ancient to modern but as is common with this genre, they are rarely frivolous in lyrical theme.
All these musicians are now middle-aged, youthful energy having given way to a mature gravitas. June Tabor's voice gives the album its defining sound; surely in the history of modern folk music there's none with such natural power and so able to convey depth of feeling.
The full-on amplified rock-folk numbers with Oysterband behind the vocals of Tabor (sometimes paired with those of John Jones) are uniformly excellent. The album opens with `Bonny Bunch of Roses' an imagined conversation between Napoleon Bonaparte's second wife and their son following the great man's demise, the boy being cautioned not to provoke Britain (the `bonny bunch of roses') lest he share the fate of his father. The song is Irish in origin, one of the lines ironically proclaiming "England, Ireland, Scotland, their unity has never been broke..." - well, it was written in circa 1820! The song gallops along in a minor key with power and pace, and has an anthem-like quality.
Others in the same musical vein are `Son David' with some great guitar work, `Judas' and `Fountains Flowing', all classic danceable folk-rock numbers guaranteed to get concert audiences on their feet.
The slower numbers don't always work so well, and whether you like them or not is going to be a matter of taste. The unaccompanied trad-ballad `Sweet Sixteen' on the theme of teenage pregnancy ruining the life chances of a girl in a traditional rural community is, frankly, a dirge which even June's angelic voice is unable to rescue from mediocrity. `The Hills of Shiloh' is an American song written in the 1960s - not the 1860s - about a Civil War battlefield and fares little better, unless this kind of melodrama floats your boat of course.
`Ragged Kingdom' has received universal acclaim from aficionados, claimed to be an `instant classic' and so forth. This acclaim is not wholly undeserved because the album is a fine piece of work with some truly great moments, but the choice of some of the material for inclusion, IMO, could have been wiser. The overall result is uneven, and IMHO does not eclipse Tabor-Oysterband's previous triumph, the unambiguously excellent and enduring `Freedom & Rain.'
on 19 September 2011
The album arrived today and I have not stopped playing it yet!From the heart rending version of "Love will tear us apart",to the more traditional, "(When I was no but)Sweet Sixteen",the selection of songs on the album share a timeless quality with meaningful messages for today.The quality of the musicianship is what you would expect from artistes of this calibre. An excellent and long awaited follow up to "Freedom and Rain",1990.If you liked that you will love this.
I look forward to the live performances on the current tour.
on 27 September 2012
I was at the Oysterband & June Tabor concert at the Sidmouth Folk Festival in August and enjoyed the performance so much that I immediately bought this CD. Previously I'd been aware of both the Oysterband and June Tabor separately, but I'd never heard them perform together. Tabor's voice has an extraordinary emotional quality but, to be honest, I find that listening to one of her CDs can be an overwhelmingly bleak experience. This combination is inspired: having Tabor around seems to lift the Oysterband to new levels and, although her bleakness is still there at times, the mix of material actually makes that quality more effective.
When I first played the CD some tracks immediately became favourites, but the more I played it, the more the others grew on me. Now when I play it my favourite depends totally on the mood I'm in. A well-balanced album from a match made in musical heaven.