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Ragged Kingdom CD

4.7 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (19 Sept. 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Topic
  • ASIN: B0056ZWYRQ
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 17,991 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

Product Description

Twenty-one years after June Tabor and Oysterband collaborated on the classic 'Freedom And Rain' album they've reconvened to record the magnificent 'Ragged Kingdom'. June Tabor & Oysterband's 'Freedom And Rain' remains one of the finest collaborative albums of the past three decades. Bringing together the immense, individual talents of the sublime English folk singer Tabor and the raucous roots rebels Oysterband, it produced something quite new and enduring. When they reunited last year to perform at fRoots Magazine's 30th birthday party at The Roundhouse, they felt the chemistry spark again. And 21 years on, they've made the brand new 'Ragged Kingdom', a brilliant, belated follow-up that mixes the traditional with the contemporary in startling fashion. The trad. 'Bonny Bunch Of Roses' rubs shoulders with PJ Harvey's 'That Was My Veil'; a lush, acoustic version of Joy Division's 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' nestles beside the Scottish trad. song '(When I Was No But) Sweet Sixteen'. Stylistically, the participants have each grown even more in stature in the intervening years. June becoming an eclectic song interpreter, drawing inspiration from many sources, and Oysterband systematically re-exploring their own acoustic folk roots. Together, they bring all of this added artistic weight to the project yet with a deftness of touch. "The spark" says Oysterband's Ian Telfer "is we really feel we do something together which is different from what we do as separate acts. There is something in the combination of June's exquisite dark voice with the supple energy of Oysterband that greatly pleases us. June comes to recording fantastically well prepared: every nuance of meaning and feeling considered in advance and plotted in her mind. Then she stands in the studio and delivers one perfect take, like an act of Chinese calligraphy. Or maybe Chinese cooking: the work is all in the preparation. We deliberately left some of the tracks just a little raw: the current zeitgeist definitely favours sounding 'real', and that's just fine by us." Ragged Kingdom was recorded first at Rockfield Studios near Monmouth and then at Metway Studios, Brighton, with Oysters' regular producer Al Scott, Feb to April 2011. "What unites the material on Ragged Kingdom" Telfer continues "is finding the story in the song, and the exact drama in the story: pop songs are often story songs too, and we tried to find things where the story wasn't banal, which had some shading in them.' Love Will Tear Us Apar't is a great lyric, and so is 'The Dark End Of The Street'." "Glorious" Colin Irwin Mojo *****

BBC Review

In 1990 June Tabor surprised everyone who had her pegged as the archetypal traditional song interpreter by linking up with the feisty Oysterband for the rocky Freedom and Rain album and promotional tour. It worked spectacularly well, enhancing the reputation and, perhaps, broadening the horizons of both parties, yet the experiment was never repeated. Until now, 21 years later, with Ragged Kingdom.

Most reunions or visitations to the past are doomed to failure and - invariably tackled for the wrong reasons - run the risk of tarnishing the reputation of the original. No such cynicism surfaces here as the relish, joy and mutual understanding clearly invested by all concerned contribute to an immaculate performance and presentation that surely surpasses even its celebrated predecessor.

On her second album of 2011 (her solo album, Ashore, is a tour de force in its own right) Tabor sings better than ever, responding to the simmering power of the band behind her to bring real depth and intensity to familiar traditional songs like Bonny Bunch of Roses, Son David and (a particularly fine version of) Fountains Flowing. These appear along with more leftfield choices like PJ Harvey's wonderful That Was My Veil, Shel Silverstein's The Hills of Shiloh and Bob Dylan's Seven Curses.

Tabor's anguished duet with John Jones on Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart has been a showstopper on the rare occasions they've performed it in the past, and it is no less moving here - the Oysterband singer's own empathetic vocal interplay with Tabor throughout the album is another key reason why it works so well. It feels like a genuine union which takes both Tabor and the Oysters beyond their normal realms, with stimulating results for them and us. Later, there's almost a Byrds-like quality to the jangling rhythms driving The Leaves of Life.

From Ray Cooper's raging cello on Seven Curses, to the majestic, ceremonial arrangement of The Dark End of the Street and the eerily humming backing vocals on the otherwise unaccompanied (When I Was No But) Sweet Sixteen, this is an album that constantly scores on almost every level.

--Colin Irwin

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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