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MADDY PRIOR "Lionhearts" Park Records PRKCD66

I can't imagine Maddy Prior ever making a bad record and the only problem with this one is that it suffers from misleading sleeve notes. We are told that it is 'a collection of songs written from the perspective of Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of Henry II and mother of Richard the Lionheart'. In fact, it is five songs and an instrumental on the theme of Richard the Lionheart, plus four traditional songs plus a snatch of classical music. An interesting and varied mix, but hardly the 'themed album' the sleeve notes promise.

The 'Richard' songs are well sung and played, and are interesting rather than memorable. I personally have doubts about the validity of writing songs based on far-off historical events because it is very easy to descend into cliche - witness the line, 'The Turks would deny us on their fast nags' but Maddy sings beautifully, as always, and is very well served by musicians Tony Donockley and Nick Holland.

She is more at home, though, with the traditional songs, which have always been her forte, and for me Yellow Handkerchief (aka Flash Company) is the outstanding track on an impressive album.

But why does it end with Jupiter from Holst's Planet Suite? I am still confused.

Howard Baker.

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This album was reviewed in Issue 53 of The Living Tradition magazine.