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KEN NICOL - Things

KEN NICOL - Things
MVS Records MVSCD027

Readers of this magazine will need no biographical data from me as an introduction to Ken. His stellar work with The Albion Band and Steeleye Span – plus his extensive solo catalogue – mark him out as a very considerable artiste indeed. So I awaited the arrival of this album with some serious anticipation.

So what could go wrong? After all, Ken is a smooth easy-on-the-ear singer, and a dazzling guitarist. I would be in Seventh Heaven surely?

Well no, I am not...well not quite. But that said, there is a lot to like here.

It kicks off with that 1926 classic from The Great American Songbook, Bye Bye Blackbird. Nice to hear the introductory verse: normally we hear Sinatra, Bennett, Crosby et al go straight into the chorus. And not content with giving us the real thing for his opener, for track 2, Ken hits us with an instrumental version of the same song, arranged by the master, Chet Atkins. Stirring stuff.

So far so good. And now to the remaining 8 tracks: all are self-penned.

For track 3, we have his self-penned title track Things, with its Dylanesque free association, rapid-fire lyrics, and driving tempo. Pretty impressive too. Track 4 is a magnificently authoritative instrumental Goodbye Number 9: performed by a man at the top of his game. Track 5 has Ken perform a song that has touches of the Dory Previn about it. Nice number.

But then the album goes off the boil slightly with two songs that promise well, but somehow fail to deliver. He salvages the situation with some fine ragtime guitar in Cat Nip Rag, and follows that up with the penultimate number Don’t Stop, a song pregnant with double entendre.

And then leaves us with another tour-de-force instrumental, The Gallows Of Bandoka. And here we come to a gripe of mine.

And it is this: that although no expense has been spared with the handsome Digipak, we have no liner notes whatsoever. A poor affair.

For instance, I wanted to know something about the gallows in Bandoka. Is it a notorious place, for instance? Well, Mr Google could not help me. Other than tell me that Bandoka is in the Central African Republic. is a happy foot-tapping little number. So perhaps the gallows are long gone. Let us hope so.

And talking of time: my final beef is to say to Ken “try and give us a bit more than 38 minutes next time”! Put a few more songs from the Great American Songbook on your next album. You cannot go wrong with them.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 111 of The Living Tradition magazine.