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DICK GAUGHAN - Handful Of Earth 

DICK GAUGHAN - Handful Of Earth 
Topic Treasures TTSCD005 

It does seem odd to be reviewing this album again, having written in praise of the original vinyl release some 38 years ago. The obvious question is - does the album stand the test of time? The answer must be a resounding yes! If anything, its importance has grown with the years.

Listening again, the anger of those years re-emerges; in 1981 unemployment had risen by a million in two years and working people and the unemployed felt disempowered. There can be no better expression of this than the song which provided the title of this album, Ed Pickford's Workers' Song, and Gaughan's performance of suppressed rage does justice to this powerful piece. Sensibly, Dick tempers his wrath with tenderness so that alongside that song and Rosselson's World Turned Upside Down we get The Snows They Melt The Soonest and Song For Ireland. In fact, it is instructive in retrospect to reflect that songs have gone on to become folk club standards because of their appearance here, including Both Sides The Tweed and Now Westlin' Winds.

This repackaged release, part of a series that celebrates 80 years of Topic Records’ existence, carries enhanced notes including a 10-page appreciation by Ken Hunt. He reminds us that a panel of critics (self included) voted this as Album Of The Decade for the 1980s. Listening again to the original vinyl and comparing it with this remastered version, it is possible to hear how this mix enhances the intensity of the original performances.

Vic Smith


This review appeared in Issue 130 of The Living Tradition magazine