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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Teetering on the brink, 23 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Broadside (Audio CD)
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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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 23 Oct 2012 19:08:09 BDT
P. Mayle says:
agree about Jon's vocals, it's a shame they don't make use of Paul Sartin's wonderfull voice, check out Faustus or Belshazzers Feast.

Posted on 1 Nov 2012 14:16:04 GMT
I think your review is pretty much spot on. Jons vocals are the weak link, which is a shame because they have been one of the compelling features of the band both on record and live. I too worry that they are trying to be too clever at times, though Old Dun Cow is my favourite track!
I just hope they keep in touch with their roots and dont go the way of Steeleye Span of old.
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J. Booth
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Location: Cheshire, UK

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