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Although modestly claiming equal billing on the CD insert, the majority of the work here is Tim Dalling's who has assembled this collection of his own and Louis MacNeice's poetry, set it to music, sung throughout, provided piano and piano accordion accompaniment and, to read between the lines, sweated several pints of blood in the process. This is not to belittle the contribution made by the other two - Neil Harland's double bass is excellent, and he also did the recording and mixing (equally excellent). Pens more eloquent than mine have lauded Ian Carr's guitar, and his playing on Blossom is as superb as ever. Woodwind, brass and percussion are sprinkled sparingly to give the sound extra texture, but as you would expect from a CD of poetry set to music, the words are the things.

I have avidly avoided Louis MacNeice since being force-fed his poetry a certain while ago, but just as I was Kiplinged by Bellamy and Clared by Tyrrell, I find that I have been well and truly MacNeiced by Tim Dalling. Of course, MacNeice is a lot more relaxed about metre and rhyme than either Kipling or Clare, so the songs made from his poems are a good deal freer and jazzier, if such labels are remotely relevant. Tim's poems are more measured, and therefore songier.

In both cases, though for very different reasons, the poems themselves are revealing, rewarding and riveting. MacNeice wrote as if his life depended on it, while Tim's life depends on him dressing in a kilt and being sorely abused by the other two members of the Old Rope String Band. The resulting contradictions, collisions and collusions make for a very successful album indeed.

Alan Rose

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