Excellent review of Revival in the new edition of fRoots The - TopicsExpress


Excellent review of Revival in the new edition of fRoots The theory is if Bellowhead can coax 10,000 people into a crazed maelstrom of dance and song, then why not 100,000 or more? Bellowhead’s ambitions know no bounds. They’ve taken on the English folk flagship role with determined relish and certainly shouldn’t be pilloried for that. The tricky puzzle, however, has always been how to take the extraordinary impact of Bellowhead, the all-conquering stage act, into the studio and convert it into something capable of blowing the head off the unsuspecting Coldplay, Lana Del Rey or Ed Sheeran fan sitting quietly at home drinking a cup of tea and doing the crossword. John Leckie went some way towards it with his production of Hedonism and Broadside and now they try a different tack, signing to Island, engaging Rupert Christie as knob twiddler, recording instrumental parts separately and treating Revival as an album born and bred in studio conditions rather than an extension of their live act. In that sense it works, too. Christie has indeed captured a sound quality that in places lifts you off your seat – Roll Alabama is an anthemic blaze of colour and musical complexity that allows you to hear the incidental subtleties in a way they’ve never achieved before; the horns on Rosemary Lane sound like a particularly aggressive herd of marauding cattle; Jon Boden’s vocals are clear and urgent (really hitting the heights on Fine Sally); and the leering mischief of Gosport Nancy – huge choral chorus and all – is almost palpable. No instrument is ever knowingly under-used and their whole canvas sounds somehow broader, even while the material occupies a narrower path. There’s none of the quirky idiosyncracy or liberal bouts of darkness which marked some of their earlier work (Matachinremains my favourite Bellowhead album for that reason) but their targets clearly now extend beyond the folk firmament and they must be accorded much credit for beckoning the mainstream without compromising their firm English traditional focus. That’s what you get from a band built around the artistic expertise, moral fibre and commitment to the cause of the likes of Jon Boden, John Spiers and Paul Sartin. The brass section is certainly now firing on all cylinders, adding even more to their always formidable charge to counterpoint the more lyrical excursions of the string section and the ever-imaginative drumming of Pete Flood. The rhythmic emphasis they employ here – particularly on tracks like Greenwood Tree and Let Union Be – even conjure up scattered images of old school folk-rock underlined by a rare assault outside of the tradition, doffing their caps to their new Island home with a funky version of the Richard & Linda Thompson ‘hit’ I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight. The joy of the song is somewhat lost down the line and the beauty of another sacred cow of the tradition Seeds Of Love, is obliterated amid the overloaded drama of the arrangement, but the upside is that they could be in line for the next Bond movie song if Moon Kittens is anything to go by. Not my favourite Bellowhead album but when they really start motoring they are an irresistible force. Question is: are the great unwashed ready to embrace them? Colin Irwin
Posted on: Tue, 15 Jul 2014 09:17:58 +0000

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