Frankie Armstrong, Brian Pearson, Blowzabella, Jon Gillaspie ::: Tam Lin
A fiver seems but a small price to pay to hear Frankie Armstrong give a peerless performance of Tam Lin. It is quite simply an example of unaccompanied singing at its very beef, holding the listener in its thrall for 26 glorious verses. What's more, you get the test of the album free!
I know it sounds glib to say that the original ballad is the best thing on the album, but even after umpteen listens I still hold this to be the case. However, I must add immediately that the test of the record can most certainly hold its own on the `enthralling' front. This is what used to be called a `concept album', but it most certainly is not a mock-medieval folk opera (thank God!). Instead of retelling the well known tale, it picks up on various themes and offers several interpretations of each. For example, a short song on Lady Margaret's loss of innocence is followed by two Brechtian songs on woman carrying the cross of unwanted pregnancy.
Although the title of Song Of The Second Serving Maid, a song on abortion, is suggestive of Bill Caddick's composition, the lyrics are aimed unerringly at Vin Garbutt's Little Innocente - "But what's a woman's feelings against a man-made belief?" Lyrics, singing and Jon Gillaspie's arrangements combine to demolish. This and songs on love and parting, especially parting, are set against a backdrop of the cyclic unconcern of the natural (The Four Seasons) and supernatural (The Ride), of nature red in tooth and clave, and indifferent (The Owl).
I haven't mentioned the music! Blowzabella are unusually subdued, but tastefully so, and Jon Gillaspie's keyboards are splendidly in accord with the lyrics. I had only one initial criticism of Tam Lin but I'm learning to live with Brian Pearson's singing - mostly because I'm getting so much enjoyment out of his and Frankie Armstrong's songwriting.
Lawrence Heath • #24 • April/June 1985
Frankie Armstrong: vocals [1a, 4b, 5, 8, 10-12], backing vocals [2, 3, 6]
Brian Pearson: vocals [2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12], backing vocals 
Dave Armitage: bassoon, baroque bassoon, backing vocals
Paul James: sopranino & soprano rauschpfeifen, Flemish bagpipes, alto, tenor & bass renaissance recorders, soprano saxophone, string drum, tapan, backing vocals
Dave Roberts: melodeon, side drum, backing vocals
Dave Shepherd: fiddle, viola d'amore, lyra da braccio
Cliff Stapleton: hurdy-gurdy, alto renaissance recorder
Jon Swayne: B-flat and E-flat whistles, alto, tenor & bass renaissance recorders, musette, soprano saxophone, Flemish bagpipes, Macedonian bagpipes, soprano shawm, bombarde, piano, tapan, backing vocals
Jon Gillaspie: piano, harmonium, bassoon, soprano & alto baroque recorders, bass renaissance recorder, clavinet, synthesisers, vocoder, syn-drums, drums, percussion, backing vocals
Recorded at Ideal Sound Recorders, London
Musical arrangements by Jon Gillaspie
Engineer: Charles Gray
Artwork and design: Janina Lech
01 Tam Lin (9:02) / Fanfare: Tam Lin (0:40)
02 The Four Seasons / Danse du Printemps (3:13)
03 Lady Margaret (2:02)
04 Andante from the “Vilnius Suite” / Christmas Lady / Menschenverächter-Tango (4:09)
05 Song of the Second Serving Maid (7:02)
06 The Ride (3:17)
07 In the Garden (3:08)
08 Owl (1:08)
09 The Queen of Air and Darkness (4:28)
10 Holding Song (2:46)
11 Parting (3:07)
12 Earth, Air, Fire, Water (3:13)
1984 • Plant Life PLR063
> 192 kbps VBR