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Derek A Collins "Derek A Collins" (London, UK)

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Friday Night Train Home
Friday Night Train Home
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly, Utterly Beautiful, 18 Oct. 2013
Liz Simcock, Friday Night Train Home, Letisha Records, 2013
When you're been listening to a singer-songwriter of any depth of skill for some twelve years, they worm their way into your affections like an old friend. You kid yourself that indeed they ARE old friends, that you have a special insight into their lives, their minds and emotions, and they into yours, because their songs express ideas and feelings that speak to you, that tell your stories and say things that you wanted to say yourself but could never quite find the words.
Not a word of this is true of course. It's a ghost relationship. You know nothing about their lives and they know nothing about yours. You don't even know who the songs are written for, who their significant others are and what are the daily nuts and bolts of their lives. If you're really lucky, and the songwriter in question is word-famous, like, say. Jackson Browne, and the details of the break-up that produced the songs that make up an album like I'm Alive (1993) are festooned across the gossip columns and you see the visceral pain that produced the fraught poetry of Take this Rain or Sky Blue and Black, or the title track itself. In the end it's just that the songwriter happens to tap into something that is similar to your own visceral pain and find words that pluck the strings of your own life.
So it is with the songs of Liz Simcock and me. Liz is not so well known as Jackson Browne, but she deserves to be. This is her fourth album in twelve years (Really only four?) Not so much visceral pain, admittedly; this is a collection of mature and well thought-out songs that document the ordinary ups and downs of life: the perils of the jobbing musician and avid reader (The Bouzouki and the W3); the need to get out of the city occasionally (City Girl, Walk These Blues Away, Friday Night Train Home), that slightly annoying mutual friend (Harry's Eyes); the poignancy of relationships past and present (The Long Haul, By the Way, Blow Me Home) and knitting. Don't knock it! The lyrics are clever and witty and celebrate a skill this reviewer will never be able to acquire!) The melodies are precisely matched to the lyrical subject. Bouzouki is insouciant and philosophical; The Knitting Song and Harry's Eyes are chirpy and upbeat and the love songs have such tender beauty that they carry you back to those moments in your own life with unfailing accuracy.
The talents of Dave Ellis and Boo Howard complement Liz's work brilliantly. And the voice? There are traces of Baez and Denny in there, but in the end, comparisons are invidious; the voice is her own; it's 'just' Liz Simcock, warm and inviting, full of longing and joy by equal turns.
This album finds Simcock in greater control of her skills than ever before, like this is the album she has been waiting to make. It's one of those albums where, as a song finishes, you're heartbroken for its ending, but then the next one begins and you're OK again. And when the whole album is finished you just put it on repeat again because you don't want it to end. It is a thing of utter beauty and deserves to take her to the same heights of world acclaim as the afore-mentioned master of the fine art of songwriting, Mr Browne.


Self-Titled
Self-Titled
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, sensitive songwriting looking back at the travails of youth., 30 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Self-Titled (MP3 Download)
After atwenty year career as singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding and a string of fine albums, Wesley Stace has finally decided to come out under his own name.

This is a collection by a man gracefully approaching the autumn of his years and looking back, sometimes with fondness, someetimes with chagrin. It is gentlrt, more mellow than earlier albums and shows that he has polished his craft of songwriting until it shines.


Is God Still An Englishman?: How We Lost Our Faith (But Found New Soul)
Is God Still An Englishman?: How We Lost Our Faith (But Found New Soul)
by Cole Moreton
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The death of the English God, 30 April 2010
Is God Still An Englishman?
How we lost our faith but found new soul.
Cole Moreton, Little Brown, 2010

If you only read one book about religion this year, make sure it's this one. Cole Moreton has produced a fantastic social history of popular faith in England over the last thirty years. It begins with the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981 and takes in every major event from then till now, tracing how each event has been a nail in the coffin of the established Church of England as the arbiter of the nation's spiritual beliefs. In 1981, the great English God was still more or less in control though his days were numbered even then. Since the Elizabethan Settlement in 1559 when the Church of England was formally established defined but the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity in pretty much the form we knew it in the 80s. The tenets of this national religion, were fair play, the stiff upper lip and knowing one's place in the great scheme of things. Over the last 30 years, Moreton maintains, the high place of this God, his national church and the Establishment which maintained them have been gradually eroded, till Anglicanism is just one of the possible faiths on offer in the post-modern market place and has lost its distinctiveness, splintering into several different tribes, all fighting for the dwindling stock of believers and adherents.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. While this great national faith gave the nation a shape and form which held it together over five hundred years, it had become stifling, crippling creativity and new expressions of faith. Moreton outlines how the Soul of England is changing to become more accepting, more honest, less rigid and buttoned-up. In the process he tells his own story of being let down but the certainty-riddled faith of his youth and his search, still not entirely over, for something more real.

The book is powerfully written in an informal style, taking chart hits for chapter headings, yet it is a serious piece of social history which gives us an entirely consistent interpretation of the events of the past thirty years and the transformation of the God of the English from Colonel Blimp and sends him out naked for a gambol in the forest. The kinds of Christians who still pine after the certainty of their youth will no doubt find its conclusions unsatisfactory, but they cannot deny its argument and will need to take it into account in any self-assessment they attempt in the future. For the rest of us, this book is a Progressive Patriot of the Spirit and a rallying call for a more open-ended truth and a spiritual search which, like the spirit, blows where she will.

Derek A Collins, Editor, Another Plane


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