My Dad bought The Three City Four LP in 1965 after reading a review of it in The Observer (Sunday Newspaper). It was brilliant and I soon knew all the songs by heart. I moved away and lived in a miserable hostel in another part of the country where I had my first job as a low paid library assistant, and struggled to pay the rent and feed myself. I used to imagine the songs of The Three City Four in my head to cheer myself up during the long boring hours, and sing them to myself when I was alone. Since then my fortunes have improved, I changed jobs to do something more interesting and eventually got professional qualifications, and have had a happy life, but I never forgot the wonderful songs of The Three City Four and wished that I could hear them again. When I saw this recording advertised I was tempted to buy it, but it was VERY EXPENSIVE, and it did not include all the tracks from the record which I remembered so fondly. Perhaps I would be disappointed in it and it would now sound dated. It might not have transferred well to CD and the recording might sound a bit distorted. However, I thought that if I did not get it I would always regret it, because even after all these years I am still grateful to The Three City Four for helping me get through a difficult time of my life with their music. It was almost my birthday (71st), and I decided to send for it as a present for myself. When it came I put it on in the car, and it was wonderful! Even better than I had hoped. I was soon singing along to all the familiar songs, and the songs from the other LP which were less familiar were really good too. The recording quality is excellent and all the songs sound fresh and new. I NEED NOT HAVE WORRIED. I still think it was expensive, but for me it was worth it for the nostalgia value. If another CD were to be produced which included the tracks which were omitted from this one I would buy it. I certainly think that The Observer got it right all those years ago when they gave The Three City Four such a brilliant review that my Dad decided to send for the record.
A few years before Martin Carthy recording his debut solo album he was a member of this short lived group The Three City Four. This is a welcome CD release that contains some wonderful recordings. The sound that the group produced is a delight. The harmony singing and acoustic sound is a joy. The sound is not unlike The Seekers or Peter, Paul and Mary but perhaps the songs are more subversive. And yet it has a uniqueness that has class. The group was formed by an English Songwriter called Leon Rosselson. He had already had success in the early folk music revival in Britain. He had been part of a group called The Galliards. He played five string banjo and guitar. They specialised in British traditional folk music and appeared on BBC radio. This had led to him writing and singing his own satirical songs on a TV show by the BBC called "That was the week, that was" in the early 1960s. This satirical show hosted by David Frost was short lived but the contribution of songs by Rosselson made him famous. The Galliards split up and Rosselson formed this new group The Three City Four The British Folk revival was helped by new songs of political and social awareness of the times. The revival mirrored the American folk revival that had produced songs such as "The times are a changin" by Bob Dylan. And Rosselson wanted to form a British folk group to perform new subversive folk songs of the day. The Three City Four are Marian McKenzie and Ralph Trainer on vocals, Martin Carthy on vocals and guitar and Leon Rosselson on vocals, guitar and banjo. Also on the second album there is Roy Bailey. The songs they recorded came from many established song writers such as, Ewan MaColl, Pete Seegar, Cyril Tawney, Jim O'Conner, Sydney Carter, Stan Kelly, Ian Campbell, Bob Dylan and Alasdair Clayre. Also Leon Rosselson contributed many of his own songs. The original first album "The Three City Four" had fourteen tracks on it. The second album "Smoke and Dust" had twelve tracks. This CD is a compilation of tracks from both albums and does not contain all of the tracks from either album. However all of the tracks from the second album, except one track, do make up most of this release with selected tracks from the first album added. There is no consistency with the original running order but it does not matter since all of the tracks sit comfortably together. This CD is most welcome because to date the albums in the original running order do not appear on CD and this release is the only way to get these recordings. The sound on the CD is very good and the CD packaging is good with a small booklet with extracts from original sleeve notes. After Two albums the group split up and Martin Carthy went on to record many albums by specialising in mainly traditional folk music. Leon Rosselson went on to write 17 children's books as well as more satirical songs.
This is a rare chance to hear a great folk act from an important part of folk music history. The CD is very interesting and the music and performance are of high quality.
I came to buy this album because I love the work of both Leon Rosselson and Martin Carthy so much. 5 of the 19 tracks are songs by Leon, a further 3 consist of 2 poems by Adrian Mitchell and 1 by Charles Causley which Leon has put to music, very successfully in my opinion. There is a very nostalgic feel to this album (the songs were recorded circa 1963-64) but it is definitely nostalgia with bite! The songs are quite subversive and there is a pride in working class identity that is very lacking in the 21st century UK. "Keep Me Busy" by Jim O'Connor and sung by Rosselson, with stunning harmonies provided by the rest of the band, is about a barrow boy's pride in the bananas he sells and expresses his scorn for new fangled supermarkets. "The Apprentice's Song" and "The Shoals of Herring" both tell of the genuine pride hardworking men felt for their labour. Marion McKenzie's input is extremely enriching both musically for the wonderful harmonies, and also because she expresses concerns of women and this makes the overall album more complex and gives it a greater subtlety in feel and mood. There is quite a strong socialist feel to this album, which would irritate the pants of any true blue Tory, despite the exquisite singing - you have been warned! I was not expecting this album to be so wonderful, I just wanted to see what Rosselson and Carthy sounded like when they were that young - I can't stop playing it and I bought it about 8 weeks ago!