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4.4 out of 5 stars186
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 17 October 2012
I must confess at the outset that I am a fan of this band and so I was eagerly awaiting this new release. On first hearing it I thought it was not as immediate as their other albums. However, after a couple of days listening I am not disappointed. It is a rich, heady concoction. Some of the songs grab you immediately - eg 'Roll the Woodpile' Down' and '10,000 Miles'. Also loved the sad love song 'Betsy Baker', with its Beatlesque feel, from the first moment I heard it. Other songs take a few listens - they sound strange at first and then worm their way into your brain and won't let go. In this category I would put 'Old Dun Cow', 'What's the Life of Man' and the haunting (in every sense) 'The Wife of Usher's Well'. The choral arrangements in 'Usher's Well' remind me of Orffe's 'Carmina Burana' for some reason; but this track is my favourite - a real grower. 'Black Beetle Pie' is another track that takes a few listens - it is quite, quite brilliant in a bonkers kind of way.

There is so much to enjoy in these tracks - particularly the layers of vocals, although sometimes these almost overwhelm Jon Boden's lead. (Found I need to listen on really good headphones to get the best effect). There seem's to be so much depth and so much to discover from repeated listening. Another triumph - can't wait to hear it all live!
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on 17 October 2012
I have always had a bit of a soft spot for Bellowhead, I have seen them play live a couple of times and I defy anyone to go and see them and not return happier for the experience, but have struggled a bit with their recorded material as it didn't quite capture the sheer exuberance of their live performances.

But I really think they have started to perfect things with their last couple of albums, by taking a different tack, not by trying to emulate their live performances, but by in a sense doing quite the opposite, dare I say it, as I am not too sure how the folk purist think of this, they have done this by focusing more on the production side of things. There seems to be greater level of more subtle orchestration on the last couple of albums, using a wider range of music instruments, I swear I even heard a touch of synthesiser in this new one! But it has not been to the detriment of their wonderfully eccentric and playful spirit or the integrity of their folk music heritage. Broadside is a really listenable album that pushes musical boundaries, I recommend you buy it and enjoy! I think they probably have to thank John Leckie for this gear shift.
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on 23 October 2012
Bellowhead are on the brink. Well, maybe they're on several brinks.
Firstly they are on the brink of crossover-mainstream success. This new album has broken records for first week sales of a (real) folk album. They get invited onto Jools Holland's Later with a full share, not the usual "one song, acoustic" token folkie. People are noticing.
But they're also on the brink of being too clever for their own good. Despite the fact that this is a very enjoyable, full of confidence blast of a collection, there are indications that there perhaps needs to be a little "reining in".
It all starts well enough. Byker Hill is given the sort of treatment you might expect and all is well. Unfortunately The Old Dun Cow (track two) doesn't fare so well. It feels like someone's come up with a great arrangement without having a song to fit it, and this old club favourite has been forced in like squeezing Cushy Butterfield into a size 8 strapless frock. It squeals like it hurts. Thousands Or More isn't quite so bad but the old Copper's might have pulled a face and tutted a bit.
The other brink they need to be watchful of is Jon Boden's vocal limitations. On more than one occasion he is buried under the power of all that brass and you have to be grateful they've printed the lyrics in the booklet. They do use the chorus more often which makes me wonder if there's another voice there that could take an occasional lead just for variety, but for an album that's been recorded at Rockfield Studio, famous for "Bohemian Rhapsody" amongst others, you might have thought they might have taken more care of the vocals.
Ok, so grumbles out of the way, there is much to like about this. Yes, really, I did enjoy it. Black Beetle Pies is joyous and creepy; The Wife Of Ushers Well is intoxicating as an eery chant; it shouldn't be possible to have so much fun with What's The Life Of A Man; and Lillibulero is pure Bellowhead party time. Whatever you may think of my reservations, you still won't find anything else quite like this and, if you turn it up loud, you'll still end up exhausted from foot-tapping and aching from grinning. Now, I need a breather. Where did I put my Unthanks cd?
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on 16 October 2012
Have been wanting some new Bellowhead for a while now and this'll do nicely! Loved every track on first listen - usually not a good sign, but still playing every one all the way through 3 days later. Would have liked a couple more instrumentals, but then, what could beat Sloe Gin? Go my Way and What's the life of a man have played in my head at work for the last two days and 10,000 miles is an instant singalong. Well done, Bellowhead - worth waiting for!
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on 19 October 2012
Having seen them twice this year and going to see them at the Lowry next month there is no doubt that they are at their best live. BUT - the intricacy and theatricality of their arrangements can get lost in their live fervour. Not on this CD. I have been waiting for recorded material since Hedonism and this doesn't disappoint. The clever and witty arrangements are so tight that their musician's craft comes to the fore. Like any Bellowhead CD you get a tune in your head immediately( currently Lillibulero) but as you get to know the CD other favourites will grow on you. As ever there are bonus tracks not available on the basic CD but join their mailing list and you will get them as Christmas presents on down the line.

Don't hesitate BUY this and go and see them Live. OR Go and see them live and you will BUY this!

Really looking forward to seeing them at the Lowry in November -Fantastic Job Lads and Rachael
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on 10 November 2012
I was late in discovering Bellowhead ('New York Girls' hooked me) but after buying Hedonism & then seeing them live there was no turning back. They haven't made a bad album yet but this one is a real statement of intent. They've gone for a BIG sound & in my opinion this is probably the nearest they have come to capturing the WOW factor of their gigs. I am not going to single out individual songs as my favourite keeps changing but there is a good deal of variety here & enough to keep you listening from start to finish without a weak link. They continue to push the boundaries & will no doubt upset some of the folk purist snobs but they have taken this music into the top 20 & if it reaches a wider audience why should that be a bad thing?
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 15 October 2012
Hopefully I have covered at least some of the genres that to my ears at least appear to have been poured into the making of this strange and wonderful album. Using instruments and styles that may not normally appear in "folk" music, Bellowhead have hit upon a unique amalgam that gives us music that entertains as much as it challenges. Where else are you going to find tuba (I think) clashing then blending with clattering, banging drums, raucous brass and swirling strings? It is also music that rewards persistence and repeated listening as there are so many layers that need to be discovered and savoured long after the first listen through. By taking traditional music on such a journey Bellowhead are making music that is actually at the cutting edge and deserves to have a larger audience.
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on 28 April 2013
Possibly my favorite album of 2012 even though in recent years I've been gravitating toward new releases by classic artists like Hackett, Hiatt and Hunter. Bellowhead finally caught my full attention in '12 after being on my radar for some time. I'm not quite sure how to categorize this outfit - some inaccurately consider it traditional (and while they perform trad material, this is anything but), others insufficiently call this folk while still others more aptly deem this folk-rock. But none of the designations capture the full scope of Bellowhead's music. Oh, there's also an obvious cabaret/theatrical twist to their music. Bellowhead is redefining the concept of the contemporary folk orchestra. They utilize elements of the brass section employed by the early configurations of Ashley Hutchings' Albion Bands and subsequently refined by John Tams in Home Service. But it's not just the bodacious brass (with four players on tuba, trombone, trumpet and bass clarinet) that captures one's attention - there also seems to be a "full string section" of four individuals featuring three fiddlers and a cello player - among them 1/2 of the brains of this operation in lead singer/fiddler Jon Boden. The other half being button pusher John Spiers.

There are so many exceptional tracks illustrating the creative melding of strings and brass like 'Roll the Woodpile,' '10000 Miles,' 'Betsy Baker,' 'Thousands or More' (do I hear 'Wild Rover'?), 'What's the Life' and my favorite 'Go My Way' which was first introduced to me by Home Service under the variation 'Walk My Way.' In addition to the creative minds of the musicians is the focused input of producer John Leckie, a legendary behind-the-scenes-er (like Tony Visconti) whose name seems to grace the credits of so many of my favorite albums from Be Bop Deluxe to Muse. One might think that he is out of his element working with an ensemble like Bellowhead but Leckie's expertise is drawing out melody and shaping sound. It is well-documented throughout the decades whether he's engineering MOTT or producing Radiohead & The Stone Roses, he will yield a quality product. I believe Bellowhead has delivered their best album yet with many thanks to their producer. BROADSIDE is far more focused and engaging than previous efforts.
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on 25 January 2013
Only discovered Bellowhead after hearing Roll the Woodpile Down on radio 2. I then went and downloaded Hedonism and Broadside immediately. Since then I've been listening to them non-stop. My kids all enjoy them too (ages 13, 11, 10 and 8). My daughter asked what sort of music was it? I answered, It's just great music!
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on 6 November 2012
At first listen this album was a solid 4/5 for me but it's definitely grown to a 5/5 on further listens! The songs on this album are deeper than their previous work and the orchestration has really improved. My personal highlights include 'Old Dun Cow' (fantastic song which for me covers pretty much every genre that Bellowhead dabble in... And what a sax solo) and 'The Wife of Ushers Well' with its moody story telling atmosphere. All in all it's a really solid album which I would encourage anyone who appreciates real music to have a listen to. Bellowhead have done a great job yet again.
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