Link to Living Tradition Homepage





CD sleeve not available CD sleeve not available
VARIOUS ARTISTS "The Transports: The Silver Edition of Peter Bellamy's Classic Ballad Opera" Free Reed FRCD2122

This new edition of one of the crowning glories of the folk revival appears twenty-five years after its original release and, coincidentally, during the year in which its progenitor would have been sixty. If you're not old enough to recall that seminal event, The Transports is an account of the First Fleet which transported convicts to Australia in 1787-88, as seen through the eyes of individuals most affected by a vicious penal code which habitually sent poachers and petty thieves to the gallows.

There's little point in reviewing Peter Bellamy's masterwork all over again. Among many plaudits at the time, it received Melody Maker's Folk Album Of The Year accolade. Much later, it made Mojo's Top 100 Recordings of the 20th Century and BBC Radio 2's list of Best Folk Albums of the 20th Century. For me, it is a particular joy that it's once more available since I couldn't afford to buy it when it was first released. I had to borrow a copy from the local public library and was blown away by the performances of Norma Waterson, June Tabor, Martin Carthy, A L Lloyd and Bellamy himself, all underpinned by sympathetic arrangements by Dolly Collins played on contemporaneous instruments. The sensitive remastering of the new edition brings out detail which simply wasn't apparent when playing the vinyl on the Dansette.

This is much more than a re-release, of course. There's a wonderfully informative book, which gives details of the historical context as well as the chronology both of the project and the recording of the second CD in the box, which comprises new interpretations of Bellamy's songs by some of his friends and admirers. I anticipated comparing these readings invidiously with their originals, but the reality proved otherwise. There are moments of genuine magic (Laura Hockenhull and Pete Morton's Sweet Loving Friendship and Steve Tilston's The Still & Silent Ocean linger in the mind) and sometimes shades of meaning obscure in the original are laid bare by a new voice and arrangement. The final part of The Ballad Of Henry & Susannah by Simon Nicol and Chris Leslie, which segues into The Convicts' Wedding with Fairport Convention gloriously crashing in with bass, drums and electric guitar, concludes the CD. Or so you think; which is why Black Concertina, Tim Moon's heartfelt tribute to his friend, has such an emotional wallop, particularly when it's immediately followed by Roll Down, a rare rendition by Bellamy himself during what was to be his final concert performance, in a voice to wake the vaulted echoes.

Dave Tuxford

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 56 of The Living Tradition magazine.