Brief Album Reviews

The Albion Band in all its guises has produced a wealth of material. Ashley has never been shy to release material so here they are with a few brief comments of my own. For the moment these are the studio albums, there are a number of live albums as well and these will follow! I'm missing full details of some of these and where I haven't a copy I have indicated this. Would appreciate further details or alternative reviews from anyone who'd like to contribute.

The Battle of the Field

The Prospect Before Us

Rise Up Like the Sun

Light Shining

Stella Maris

The Wild Side of Town

Under The Rose

I've Got New Shoes

Give Me a Saddle and I'll Trade you a Car

1990

Best of 89/90

Captured

Acousticity

Albion Heart

Demi Paradise

Happy Accident

Before Us Stands Yesterday

 

The Battle of the Field

Ashley Hutchings, Sue Harris, Martin Carthy, John Kirkpatrick, Simon Nicol, Roger Swallow

Side 1. Albion Sunrise, Morris Medly, I Was a Young Man, New St.George/La Rotta

Side 2. Gallant Poacher, Cheshire Rounds/The Old Lancashire Hornpipe, Hanged I Shall Be, Reaphook and Sickle, Battle of the Somme.

The first line-up of the true Albion Band kick off with a set of traditional based material supplemented by two Thompson penned songs, the first Albion Sunrise written for the Band and one of the few (only) songs I know devoted to Morris Dancing. This song became an anthemic opener for the group for a few years coupled with later tune sets and is the definite highlight of the whole album. Recorded in 1973 but not released until 1976 (after subsequent Albion releases) the album demonstrates Ashley's interest in the English tradition with a gentle rock edge. The cover is based a rather faux rural image with the members of the band dressed (in varying levels of enthusiasm) in English agricultural garb. The line up never toured but recorded for a BBC session later released in 1998.

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The Prospect Before Us

Ashley Hutchings, Shirley Collins, John Tams, Eddie Upton, Simon Nicol, Graham Taylor, Phil Pickett, John Rodd, John Sothcott, Michael Gregory.

Side 1. Uncle Bernards/Jenny Lind, The Hunt is Up, Varsovianna, Masque Tune, Huntsmans Chorus, Minuet, Wassail, Picking of Sticks/The Old Mole

Side 2. Merry Sherwood Rangers, La Sexte Estampie Real, I Wish I Was Single Again, The Whim, Hopping Down in Kent, Horse's Brawl.

 Assembling a band of awesome size ranging from folk rock stalwarts to early music specialists the Albions begin to reach one of their peaks. No self penned material, the most recent number being the 1930's 'I wish I was single again', the rest traditional material or early music culled from Playford, Purcell and the like. For me, one of the best (if not the best) openings on an Albion album. The double instrumental melodeon led opener leads straight to the (very politically uncorrect) hunting song onto another insturmental at fantastic pace. John Tams, one of the great voices of English folk, teams with Shirley Collins and probably the strongest instrumental line-up to produce high energy folk rock at its best. Part recorded semi-live in the studio a highly recomended introduction to the band.

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Rise Up Like The Sun

Ashley Hutichings, John Tams, Simon Nicol, Phil Picket, Michael Gregory, Dave Mattacks, Pete Bullock, Ric Saunders

Side 1. Ragged Heroes, Poor Old Horse, Afro Blue/Danse Royale, Ampleforth/Lay Me Low

Side 2. Time to Ring Some Changes, House in the Country, The Primrose, Gresford Disaster

Bonus Tracks on CD : Pain and Paradise, Rainbow over the Hill, The Postman's Knock, Lay Me Low

Considered by many to be their greatest album the Albions move onto a mix of self penned and more Thompson songs and traditional material. The only album produced by this line-up although they must have toured extensively and plently of live material has since surfaced. This is when I first caught up with the band and saw them around 1978 at Exeter University with pretty much this line-up . John Tams shows his songwriting , melodeon and vocal skills on this album and this seems to be very much his project (Ashley Hutchings in the released sleeve notes as much as admits this). Each track a highlight in its own right the Thompson numbers again shine and particularly 'Rainbow over the Hill' appeared in many Albion sets for years to come. Ric Saunders fiddle brings a new jazz edged dimension to the band, most noticeably on Afro Blue and the second half of the Greshford Disaster. High profile guests add to the fun including the MacGarrigles, Richard and Linda Thompson, Carthy and others.

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Light Shining

Ashley Hutchings , Simon Nicol, Cathy Lesurf, Dave Mattacks, John Maxwell, Jean Pierre Rasle, Dave Whetstone

Side 1. Light Shining ,Wolfe, London Dancesong Medley, (Pell Mell in Pall Mall, Kensington Square Dance, Do the Aldwych), Green Mist

Side 2. Love is Like a Railway Station, Swift Nick, Always Chasing Rainbow, Sisters, Beware of the Blue

All change for the band, Ashley leaves the most of the rest of the group to form the Home Service, teams up with most of Cock and Bull, new female lead singer Cathy Lesurf plus ex-fairporters Nicol and Mattacks in new electric band. In my view Light Shining is the best of the recordings from this basic line-up. The title track opens with swirling synths mixing to acoustic strumming, a double clout on the drums and they're away. Writing credits mainly shared between Hutchings and Whetstone brings a ballad about General Wolfe, a London Dance melody (great South Lundun accent from John Maxwell), Swift Nick the story of a great highwayman and from Lesurf the trad based Green Mist. The second side perhaps not so strong but still a good listen. Apparently never released on CD my LP copy is well worn with an annoying scratch jump on the double drum beat of the title track - damm!!

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Stella Maris

Cathy Lesurf, Phil Beer, Martin Bell, Trevor Foster, Ashley Hutchings

Side 1. Broomfield Hill, Such a Paradise, Vive L'amour/Masters of this Hall/Dirty Harry's Jig, Orions Belt, The Ship

Side 2. The Rose and Rock, 'Til the Time We Meet Again, The Task(Sunday in the Rain, Lace Tell, Lacemaker's Song, The Call of the Corncrake, The Busy Gardener, Lady of the Manor's Song, Bacchus' March, From the Alcove, All those Lies).

Sorry not a great image but then it's difficult to show a cover that on my cassette version is largely black, still I don't think you missing that much! The Line-Up gradually changing , the Cock and Bull members have gone (although Dave Whetstone is still prominent in the song writing) Stella Maris is frankly my least favourite Albion album it's hard to know what to say about it. In general a more rock than folk folk/rock recording with the songwriting shared around virtually all the band. The material on the 'Live at the Cambridge Folk Festival' CD I found much more enjoyable from this line-up. Have to say I was so disappointed with this one I have not brought myself (yet) to buy 'Under the Rose' particularly after I read a poor review about it somewhere.

But now I apologise, I got 'Under the Rose' from the library and it's fine, not exactly folk, more AOR , I'll upload the details soon!

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THE WILD SIDE OF TOWN

Ashley Hutchings,Cathy Lesurf, Phil Beer, Eric Hine, Trevor Foster , Chris Baines, Bill and Pete Zorn

Bird Watching, Harvest Anthem, Laura's Song, Butterfly Galliard -Falling Star, I was a child, Another World in the Night, Fox on the Rails / Dance opf the Starlings, Woodlands of England, See This Lake,Son?, My Beautifle Bomb Pit, Comin' in on a Wing and a Player, Tomorrow's Too Late, Why Have You Stolen Our Earth?

This is one I haven't got so the details were extracted from another source - any corrections info anyone?

 

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I Got New Shoes

Ashley Hutchings, Phil Beer, Simon Care, Trevor Foster, John Shepherd

Side 1. I Got New Shoes, Belltower Polka, Seneca Two Step, Hopping Down in Gwent, Welsh Girls, I Only Wanna Dance With You, The Leaving of Wessex.

Side 2. Loose Hornpipe, Dancing 'Till Monday Comes Around, The Three-Toed Tumbler, Tripto Bath, You Ain't Natalie Wood and I Ain't James Dean, The Gloucestershire Almain, Young Love on the Dance Floor.

A much more enjoyable where perhaps they have taken themselves much less seriously, the line-up has now changed to one of their more stable ones, Simon Care joins on melodeon and John Shepherd on keyboards. To a certain extent some of this seems to be semi-jamming particularly on the instrumental numbers but both Hutchings and Beer weigh in with some decent AOR with a folk edge. Polly Bolton guests on several number adding some strong female lead. Simon's melodeon marks a welcome return to the band for the instrument! while Phil Beer displays multi-instrumental talents and his electric guitar solo on Young Love on the Dance Floor is searingly good. An album to enjoy rather than taken as a serious contribution to folk history.

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Give Me A Saddle, I'll Trade You a Car

Ashley Hutchings, Simon Care, Trevor Foster, Phil Beer, John Shepherd

Side 1. Ash on an Old Man's Sleeve, Geoff Collins, Thomas' Morris/Postman's Polka, Seven Curses

Side 2. Cardhouse, Striking for Another Land, Bury my Eyeballs on Top of Boot Hill, Kitty Come Down the Lane, Think it Over.

Albion Band shock!, the same line-up produces two albums in a row (I think the only occasion). Now styling themselves the Albion Band '89 they produce more of the same but perhaps now a bit more of a serious attempt. Returning to his original Fairport days the band tackle a Dylan Song (Seven Curses) and then add an arrangement of the'greatest poet of medieval France' Francois Villon (how many other medieval French poets do you know?). Largely Hutchings penned material it's an entertaining listen.

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1990

Phil Beer, Simon Care, Trevor Foster, Ashely Hutchings

Side 1. Yellow Dress, The Power and the Glory, Fairford Breakdown, Rambleaway.

Side 2. The Flood, Nameless Kind of Hell, Adam and Eve, Lock Up your Daughters, The Party's Over

Still pretty much the same line-up but John Shepherd drops to 'guest' status, John Tams also returns as a guest vocalist on a couple of tracks - a very welcome appearance! The Hutchings/Beer team provide nearly all the material in various combinations.

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 The Best of 89/90

Ashley Hutchings, Simon Care, Trevor Foster, Phil Beer, John Shepherd

1989 - Ash On An Old Man's Sleeve, Geoff Collings, Thomas' Morris/Postman's Polka, Set Their Mouths To Twisting, Seven Curses, Cardhouse, Striking For Another Land, Bury My Eyeballs On Top Of Boot Hill, Kitty Come Down The Lane

1990 - The Power And The Glory, Fairford Breakdown, Rambleaway, The Flood, Nameless Kind Of Hell, Adam And Eve, Lock Up Your Daughters, The Party's Over

Virtually (but not quite) all the Give me a Saddle .. and 1990 recordings. If you buy this you might regret not having the two separate albums but this is much more widely available.

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Captured

Ashley Hutchings, Simon Care, Phil Beer, Julie Matthews, Trevor Foster, and -

Ashley Hutchings, Simon Care, Phil Beer, Keith Hitchcliffe

Ball, Anchor And Chain, Yellow Dress, Horeshoe Hornpipe/Chasing The Jack, The Party's Ove, Adam And Eve, Nameless Kind Of Hell, Fossie Shufffle,Go North,Chapel Keithjack/House In The Country, Up The Crooked Spire, Set Their Mouths To Twisting, Hanging Tree, Fireman's Song

 Although touring extensively these versions of the band never recorded in the studio. Julie Matthews had joined the band adding female lead vocals and her songwriting talents and the group was gradually moving towards an acoustic line up particularly when Keith Hitchcliffe (briefly) joined. This is a part live, part recorded for radio session (I think) set based on much on the Albion Band 89/90 sets with other material from the new members. This recording marked the end of the Phil Beer/Simon Care electric line-up and the next three albums were largely acoustic. Saw this line-up a lot, they even played at a friends 40th birthday party, used a do a terrific version of the Stephen Foster song - Hard Times Come Again No More- please release a version on one of your live albums!! I grabbed this cover image from another site- I'm sure mine is green - is it a collectors item!?

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Acousticity

 Ashely Hutchings, Simon Nicol, Chris While, Ashley Read.

Flandyke Shore, The Foresters/Nicol's Real Ale Polka/The Travelers/The Seven Stones, Sister Moon, We Lie, Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump, Head-Smashed-In Reel, Black Jack, Blue John & Glenda/Blue John Hornpipe, Bitter-Sweet Bed, Fastnet Rock/Man Of War, Carolan's Cap/Sir Festus Burke, Dancer To The Drum & Fiddle On The Washboard.

 Climbing onto the bandwagon of the time the Albions move firmly into their unplugged mode. Simon Nicol rejoins (again) with Chris While and violinist Ashely Read. For me, this recording marks a real return to top form for the band. Chris While pitches in with songwriting credits while Ashely Read adds flare with his fiddle contributions. Highlights are the trad Flandyke Shore and While's PMT based Sister Moon. The line-up wasn't very stable, Ashley Read soon leaving to be replaced by Julie Matthews (again!). None of the three acoustic ablums having the same line-up (have any the of the Albion recordings the same line up?!), for me, they reach their peak on the Albion Heart, their next recording.

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Albion Heart

 

Ashley Hutchings, Simon Nicol, Chris While, Julie Matthews

Albion Heart, Appalachian Front-Porch Game, Colours Of Love, Man In The Bottle, The Devil In Me, Rebecca Johnson, Close Your Eyes, Crocodile Line, Love Is An Abandoned Car, Gypsy, Get Up And Do It Again & Long, Long Road

Easily the most consistent of the acoustic line-up's recordings this is a great CD for those who like acoustic based folk. For all its acoustic based instrumental line-up the album rocks along with quotes from Deep Purple and the like on Crocodile Line. Albion Heart, Rebecca Johnson and Long Road are outstanding gentle ballads, Appalachian Front Porch Game (about Cecil Sharp), Crocodile Line and Get Up and Do It Again great uptempo numbers, not a poor track on the CD (honest!!).

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Demi Paradise

Ashley Hutchings, Simon Nicol, Chris While, Julie Matthews, Chris Leslie.

Don't Let Me Come Home A Stranger, Ivory Tower, Along the Pilgrim's Way, My Secret Place, REELS: The Gaspe Reel/Sam's Slammer/Imogen's Ridge, Young Man Cut Down In His Prime, When She Sings In The Kitchen, White Water Running, Sea Of Sorrow, JIGS: The Switchback/The New Book/The Slippery Slope, This Blessed Plot & Circle Round The Sun

 Violinist Chris Leslie joins the group in their final (for the moment) acoustic line up. Chris adds some welcome instrumental flourishes to the tracks with a reappearance of several Jigs and Reels. The album was recorded but by the time I saw them Simon had returned to Fairport for acoustic tour (I'm sure he'll be back sometime!). Maybe not quite as strong as Albion Heart the opening number 'Don't Let Me Come Home a Stranger is the highlight while Chris Leslie's instrumentals are well worth a listen. Songwriting credits shared around the most of the group an entertainig recording all round.

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Happy Accident

Ashley Hutchings, Ken Nicol, Joe Broughton, Neil Marshall

Wings, Coming Home To Me, The Landslide, Pear Tree, Half Each, Hearts Of Coal, Instrument Makers, A Chromosome Or Two, The Sun Is God, Death Is Just A Dream 1, Death Is Just A Dream 2,Midsummer Nights Dreams and Wooden O.

The first outing from most of the current electric line up. Ken Nicol joins Ashley on most of the songwriting credits with Joe Broughton adding the instrumentals, guest vocalists Gillie Nicols (who subsequently joined the band full time) and Kelly While add lead vocals on some of the tracks. The opener 'Wings' written for the 30th anniversary Fairport reunion tells the story of the early years of the band (Fairport that is) and was released as a single coupled with Thompsons 'Shine on Love'. An album that takes itself seriously with the exception of Midsummers Nights Dreams - where Ashley tells us just how wonderful Shakespere's plays are (?). Saw this line-up live at the Barbican -Joe Broughton is simply outstanding - sickeningly talented for his age (i.e. half mine)

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Before Us Stands Yesterday

Ashley Hutchings, Ken Nicol, Joe Broughton, Neil Marshall , Gillie Nicols

The Complete Angler, Jig Sawjig/Real Alereel, Excerpt from Arnold Bennett's novel "Clayhanger", The Potters Dream, The Cities' Favorite Sons. About Paint, Listen To The Wind, Bedtime at Bryn Rhodyn, Duty Free, Welcome To The World, Directions: Forwards/Backwards/Afterwards, I'm Going Away, Love, and Seven Strong Spires

The latest release from the new lineup and IMHO a better offering than the last. Material all written by the Band (with the obvious exception of Arnold Bennett!!). Gillie While's material is largely the slower tempo acoustic material, several Joe Broughton instrumentals, a couple of 'fun' songs (The Complete Angler/The Cities' Favourite Sons, the latter about the great footballing heroes of Preston and Stoke) from most of the songwriting team. I'm Going Away Love is described as a modern day broken token ballad where lovers part each with one half of a ring to be reunited later and to test their partners love before revealing their true identities. In the 'modern' version things are not quite as the true romantic would like to see them! Duty Free is interesting in that I happened to get the CD on the same day as the Ridgeriders programme where Ashley et al performed a song of the same name, same lyrics, different music - sorry but I liked the Ridgeriders version much more.

 The Christmas Album

Joseph'sTidings, Let no man come nto this hall,, Christmas has come round again, Mistletoe, Mistletoe, I am beguiled, As Joseph was a'walkin, Two wise men, The Redbreast, Dad, is there really a Santa Claus?, Innocent'sSong, The Star, Fat Sams Band, Tune for a blythesome turkey, Make it this Christmas, Tree Shepherds, Scrooge Blues --- Extra Millenium Songs!! Nothing can turn the tide, Two thousand years is a very long time.

Difficult to say a lot about this as being a Christmas album I don't think I can listen to this too often except near the event. Kellie While's first appearance as a member of the band but otherwise unchanged lineup. Keeps me amused at Christmas but perhaps not their greatest recording!!