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VARIOUS ARTISTS - I Wish There Was No Prisons

VARIOUS ARTISTS - I Wish There Was No Prisons
Musical Traditions MTCD372

Subtitled Songs And Two Recitations From The Mike Yates Collections 1964-1978, this selection from his extensive recording activities looks, at first sight, like those LP compilations of pop songs that used to be produced in the 60s and 70s (and still may be, for all I know). But nothing could be further from the truth, for while the great majority of the songs will be familiar, not all the singers have had the currency that their songs have. This is, in effect, a springboard from which to progress and follow up any particular avenue of enquiry that presents itself in terms of singers or songs. The singers range from those who gained almost mainstream popularity like Louie Fuller and Fred Jordan (a rare northern example in this predominantly southern group) to less often heard voices like Johnny Doughty and Harry Upton. Indeed, Harry’s songs provided much of the impetus for this recording and, like some others, more of him can be found on other Musical Traditions releases.

At least three quarters of the 31 tracks here will be familiar to anyone who’s spent much time in folk clubs, singing sessions or festivals, and this provides much of the fascination for me: some of these songs have become hackneyed as well as altered by the “folk process”, but here they are in all the bloom of their erstwhile vitality. The sheer relish that many of the singers display in their performances (and their manifest skills) oozes out of the CD player and brings a smile to the listener’s face. George Spicer and Louie Fuller deservedly get several songs apiece, but there is so much to enjoy here – these are old friends in their old (and arguably best) clothes. Who knows – maybe George Attrill, currently in his 129th year, may be able to show me a fresh approach to The Faithful Sailor Boy, or Freda Palmer could make me sing I Wish I Was Single Again again? I think this CD could make singers old and young consider what’s happened to singing styles over the years, and that can’t be a bad thing.

John Waltham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 113 of The Living Tradition magazine.