on 4 August 2012
The brilliant Leon Rosselson is underrated only because his ideological leanings don't conform with the mainstream. He has been recording since the early 1960s, and this 4CD overview offers a superlative selection of his oeuvre, including material from vinyl albums that, unfortunately, are ever likely to be reissued in any other format. As a British songwriter, Rosselson is unequalled in the past half century. Much of his oeuvre is in the French chanson mould of Brassens, although he is invariably categorised, not surprisingly, as a folk singer. He surfaced in the early 1960s as Britain's answer to Tom Lehrer -- but with a great deal more gravitas. His collaborators over the decades have included Martin Carthy and Roy Bailey, both of whom are well-represented on this collection. My only quibble is that this excellent compilation features his Blair-era revised version of "The Battle Hymn of the New Socialist Party" rather than the Hugh Gaitskell-era original, issued on a Topic 10-inch more than 30 years earlier. But that's a minuscule criticism of a set I will cherish for the rest of my life, not least because it includes contemporary songs such as "Where Are The Barricades?" that are year to appear on any regular albums. I sincerely hope ALL of Rosselson's recordings will, before, long, be made available, at least in a downloadable format.
on 3 October 2013
For fifty years Leon Rosselson has pursued the songwriter's art, not as a fashion based skill, but as deeply felt, carefully crafted, historically aware construction. His is the work of the architect or sculptor, and it is for the ages, not the moment. That said, he has commented acerbically and satirically on many of the follies of our age, from punitive punishment to nuclear weapons. Many of his songs are complex, but many are aimed at children. Leon's childlike spirit stays with him still - call it naivity if you wish - but these are real grown up songs. The box is brilliantly annotated by Leon himself, well presented and fantastic value. Buy!