Link to Living Tradition Homepage





“Live” Again

SILLY WIZARD - “Live” Again
Birnam CD BCD619

Any re-release of material by what many regard as the quintessential Scottish folk band of the 1980s is likely to be welcomed big-time, and this one is no exception. Especially so, when it presents at long last and under one sensible, economically packaged 76-minute single-disc roof, the complete set of recordings from the legendary October 1983 Cambridge, Massachusetts gig. Originally released in 1985 on both REL and Green Linnet, in the form of double vinyl and cassettes, then subsequently reissued, though in expurgated form (minus a few tracks) on a single CD (Live Wizardry).

Any commentary on the musical value of this set will be superfluous, and the atmosphere of the gig is tremendous. Putting it simply, the line-up of Phil & Johnny Cunningham, Andy M. Stewart, Martin Hadden and Gordon Jones was the band’s greatest era, for they could turn their hands to anything within Scottish tradition, from blistering, roof-raising sets of jigs and reels (including some of Phil’s own compositions) to sweet and poignant slow airs, from deep traditional song to Andy’s own compositions.

Of the latter, the live set contains four – Queen Of Argyll, Ramblin’ Rover, Valley Of Strathmore and Golden Golden – which have since become repertoire staples. To say that the playing and singing are incendiary would be a terrific understatement, and their rapport with an audience, which communicated the band’s key sense of fun as well as respect for the music and the tradition, was to prove an inspiration for the many imitators they spawned (though none could ever match!), not least in the way they gave Scottish folk music a true sense of purpose within a scene that was still dominated by English, American and Irish music. The band could shift high-octane with virtuoso playing and improvisatory power, or slow-burn with time-stands-still passion, but whatever they did they excelled, as every one of the set’s 15 items proves. Only the occasional, slightly laboured touches of synth serve to date what is in every other respect a timeless performance. This reissue is highly recommended. To expend any further review wordage would be superfluous.

David Kidman

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 93 of The Living Tradition magazine.