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MARTIN SIMPSON - Prodigal Son 

MARTIN SIMPSON - Prodigal Son 
Topic Records TTSCD001 

As with the Anne Briggs album, this re-issue of an early recording is part of Topic’s 80th birthday celebration, and in fact appears to be the very first. An interesting choice, and it has a lot more to offer than just the original recording, as it is in fact a double CD, with the second one being a live recording from 2007, which offers an additional nine tracks, the majority of them being from Prodigal Son, which was in fact issued that year (can it be that long ago?). Live albums are always interesting, in that the performer is less tied to a fixed format dictated by other members of the recording team and can also feel freer to let loose a bit more in a live context.

As many will remember, this achieved classic status very rapidly, and with good reason: Martin’s musical virtuosity, allied to his excellent singing and an incredibly broad variety of songs made for a very wide appeal. His ability as a storyteller, be it an American murder ballad (Duncan And Brady) or a British one (Little Musgrave) is always first rate, and he obviously had no trouble in attracting musicians of the highest calibre to contribute their talents. In doing so, they aided in the creation of a significant landmark in the long history of recorded English language music and song.

And this “deluxe release” edition, under the imprint of Topic Treasures, comes with revamped sleeve notes, largely contributed by Colin Irwin, which assesses the album’s impact on the music world. If you missed this one first time around, this is your opportunity to pick up one of the most important releases of the early 21st century.

John Waltham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 128 of The Living Tradition magazine.