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JACK BECK - "Oh Lassie Lassie" - Greentrax CDTRAX027

When a record album gets rescued from the "vinyl vault" and is converted to digital format, it already possesses an inherent merit by virtue of a selection process well grounded in solid hindsight. It has "vintage status." An introductory sidebar by Archie Fisher that accompanies the liner notes, established the importance of this recording when it was originally released - as the very last Greentrax LP - in 1989. Archie's comments are as timeless as the songs on the album - and now, this treasure can be slipped into one's CD player.

Jack created a "theme" album - all of the songs celebrate the females of our species in some fashion - hence, the title. One might regard that as a limiting factor - but Jack accomplished more within the confines of a theme than most traditional singers ever do on any single recording. For starters, his selection process was broad and he admits that upwards of twenty-five years of thinking went into it. The ten tracks on this album cover almost every source for traditional song one could imagine. There are songs that come to us from quasi-literary sources - James Hogg's "Birnie Boozle," chilling Muckle Sangs such as "Twa Corbies" and songs drawn from the urban music hall - "Bound To Be A Row." There is one modern composition - Andy Hunter's "Kilbowie Hill" which niches in as seamlessly as "The Bleacher Lass O' Kelvinhaugh" that follows it - both of which remind us of Clydeside's rich maritime history. Jack provides very tasty notes and documents not only the story behind each song but also cites the artists he originally got the songs from.

Jack was the vocalist/guitarist in Heritage at the time, and all the members from the late-eighties incarnation of that seminal group contributed instrumental backup, rounded out with Gary Coupland on piano accordion. Back-up vocal work came from an all-star cast comprised of Andy Hunter, Chris Miles and Colin Stuart. This collaboration harnessed itself to one single-minded accomplishment - the creation of an album that established Jack Beck as a major crafter of song. All instrumentation is subservient to each individual vocal offering - ranging from rich (but never "busy"), to minimal and one song, "The Jolly Beggar," is unaccompanied.

This album is a good candidate for the novice to begin a record collection with - a virtue that makes it a "must-have" for the established collection.

Wayne Bean

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This album was reviewed in Issue 50 of The Living Tradition magazine.