Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Watersons

"For Pence and Spicy Ale" 1975

Notes by A. L. Lloyd:
All tracks trad. arr. Watersons pub. Mole Music Ltd except 13. M. Waterson pub. Mole Music Ltd and 12. trad. arr. Waterson. For Pence and Spicy Ale was recorded at Livingston Studios, Barnet, March 1975, recording engineer Nic Kinsey. Mike Waterson and A True Hearted Girl were recorded at Riverside studios, January 1977, recording engineer John Gill. Front sleeve illustration--postcard of Molly dancers probably from Hunstanton--hand-coloured by Julia Bennett Studio, London.

Producer's note by Tony Engle:
In the early summer of 1975 Topic released "For Pence and Spicy Ale" by The Watersons. At the recording the group was at the top of their form. It had been several years since they had recorded and this new record marked their return to the British Folk Scene. Mike, Lal and Norma Waterson were three-quarters of the original group and Martin Carthy was the new member—he had replaced the original fourth member, John Harrison. The record was greeted with considerable acclaim from critics and audiences alike and is considered by many to have been the group's finest recording. Two years later the Watersons were back in the studio, but this time it was not as a group. The Watersons have always been fine individual voices in their own right so the plan was to make two records—one featuring Mike solo and a second, featuring the solo and duet talents of Lal and Norma. This didn't stop them helping out on each others' records, however. In addition Lal's daughter, Maria, also lends her voice to these recordings and the occasional accompaniments are by Jim Eldon (flute & whistle), Peta Webb (fiddle), Rod Stradling (melodeon) and Tony Engle (anglo concertina). With this reissue the extra playing time available on CD has allowed me to mix in some of the best tracks from the solo projects with the original album. I hope that you, the listener, enjoy these recordings as much as I did making them and subsequently compiling them for this record.

Review:
This lovely album, almost entirely a cappella, was first released by The Watersons in 1975. It is considered by many to be their finest recording and includes the participation of Martin Carthy in addition to family members. This reissue also includes some later solo Waterson recordings which feature others helping out. This record sounds like the back room of an old pub in its charming immediacy. You really get a sense of the fun it is to sing these old songs with affection and respect. -- Richard Meyer

More about the album: 1, 2, 3

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"Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy" 1977

Sleeve Notes:
This is a record to remind us of what we've lost since the flood of Victorian hymnals, notably Hymns, Ancient and Modern (1861), pushed out so many noble traditional melodies and replaced them with sanctimonious dirges, genteel but of small spirit. The move towards a truly popular kind of hymnals had started at the outset of the eighteenth century with the young aggressive Isaac Watts and his Hymns and Spiritual Songs, and as the number of dissenting & evangelical groups grew so the use of folksong-based melodies increased, till by the time of the religious revival called the Great Awakening there was a mass of believers prepared to 'take the Kingdom of Heaven by storm' with forthright folk hymns to match their militant faith. In this movement, Britain and America were inextricably bound together. A pioneer of the Great Awakening was George Whitefield (1714-1770), an English Calvinist (his famous chapel is in the Tottenham Court Road) who campaigned along the American seaboard among poor dissenters - many of them Quakers and Shakers of British origin - while a brother-preacher, Shubael Stearns, was stumping through the hill-settlements of the Central Appalachians. George Pullen Jackson has remarked that 'practically everything these evangelists did was highly offensive to instituted religion. They romped over all denominational lines, preached wherever they could get a crowd, held extravagantly emotional revivals, spread salvation for all through faith and "believer's baptism"'. And notably theirs was an exuberant singing movement. The Baptists and later the Primitive Methodists were nicknamed Ranters because of their unrestrained singing.
Many of the songs in use among the Ranters were set to originally British melodies, transformed into camp meeting spirituals in America, and now returned to their homeland in new and powerful shape. Incidentally, the Primitive Methodists were so strong in the Industrial areas of the Midlands and North that many pioneers of the trade union movement learnt their oratory and organizational skills from experience as lay preachers. On the Northeastern coalfields in the 1830s and '40s, local revival hymnwriters were also the makers of strike songs.
It should not be imagined that the users of homespun hymns were all rampant revivalists of Holy Roller type. Most were sober folk with a deep feeling for independence in their religious ways, and their hymns reflect their spirit firmly in text and tune. Noble as many of the melodies were, the Victorian hymnbook compilers seemed to consider the folky hymns not fine enough, not respectable enough, and they scornfully pushed them aside. We know some of these pieces from their frail survival in oral tradition among a few country choirs. We know many more through their appearance in hymnbooks used among gatherings of country dissidents in America (some of these, particularly the Southern Harmony of 1835 and the Sacred Harp of 1844, printed in a kind of patent music notation called 'shape notes' for the sake of quick learning, are still much in use in the upland South). On this record the Watersons give us a panorama of sacred song, from the deep folklore of wassail songs and vernacular carols, through various folky kinds of meeting-house hymn, and on to exuberant camp meeting pieces. Some pious folk songs or near folk songs that we've lost, or that have become unfamiliar, but all well worth restoring to life. --A. L. Lloyd. 1977

More about the album: Click

Sample pic: 1, 2, 3, 4

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7 Comments:

Anonymous dave said...

Thanks so much for these. I've been going to see The Watersons etc live since oh 1974 and they never fail to amaze. If you can get to see the Van Eyken offshoot you really should : I saw them last month and they were wonderful. Thanks again.

16 December, 2006 22:02  
Anonymous SCION said...

Excellent!
Thank you very much.

17 December, 2006 01:46  
Blogger Eddie Riff said...

Thanks for all your wonderful shares. These two have brought me great joy!

17 December, 2006 08:02  
Blogger The Irate Pirate said...

the links are dead for both "For Pence and Spicy Ale" and "Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy".

I guess I'll just have to imagine how great these albums sound for now...

29 February, 2008 02:28  
Anonymous Oisin said...

Thanks for re-upping these Watersons albums. I managed to download "the Instruments of Joy", so to speak, but it seems that the link to "the Spicey Ale" points to a wrong page... Fatal errors everywhere...
Just wanted to let you know.
Greetings, Oisín

20 March, 2008 01:35  
Anonymous Oisin said...

Everything is fine now! I'm enjoying the spicey ale as I write...
Thanks a lot for these wonderful albums.
Greetings, Oisín

20 March, 2008 07:15  
Blogger The Irate Pirate said...

many many thanks for the re-ups.

no-one beats the watersons.

27 March, 2008 14:11  

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