In late 2016 Battlefield Band was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall Of Fame which gave their long-time producer Robin Morton the excuse, if excuse were needed, to celebrate. Hence The Producer’s Choice, nineteen tracks featuring nineteen members of the band plus guest percussionists Donald Hay and Morton himself. Actually I count twenty but I don’t know what Jim Barnes had to do to be excluded from the official count.
The big names who passed through the band’s ranks are legends: Brian McNeill, Alan Reid, John McCusker, Davy Steele, Karine Polwart and, latterly, Ewan Henderson. All are featured but it’s probably the more obscure tracks that excite the most interest. The oldest tracks are ‘The Shipyard Apprentice’ and ‘Silver Spear/The Humours Of Tulla’ from 1977 featuring Reid, McNeill, John Gahagan and Jamie McMenemy followed by ‘Seven Braw Gowns’ from 1979 and featuring the band’s first female vocalist, Jenny Clark. Archie Fisher’s song is one of my favourite tracks in the set alongside McNeill’s ‘Lads O’ The Fair’ and ‘Rantin’ Rovin’ Robin’ featuring one of Scotland’s most underrated singers, Sylvia Barnes. ‘Leaving Friday Harbor’ is one of John McCusker’s finest tunes and I love the way that ‘The Canongate Twitch’ opens with the ‘Pinball Wizard’ riff.
The Producer’s Choice may be an important lesson for bands: let your producer sequence your album. Morton has done a superb job in mixing light and shade, songs and instrumentals, allowing the mood to go one way for a while before switching direction without any sense of dislocation. So Alan Reid’s wonderful song, ‘The Road Of Tears’, is followed by Ged Foley’s ‘Blackhall Rocks’ – stirring yet mournful – and then we’re into the melodic but rousing ‘Rantin’ Rovin’ Robin’.
For those who prefer Battlefield Band in stomping mood the album closes with the live ‘After Hours’ set and I was surprised to find that they have made only three live albums in over forty years – back in the 80s they were one of the hottest festival bands on the scene. Funny how things turn out.
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No…not that John Paul Jones…the harmonica playing bluesman (!) but this one is, in nautical terms at least a legend none the less. His omnipresent personality was later to become established as ‘The Father Of The American Navy’ and although an exalted position, how did this gardener’s son from Scotland (a bit like Peter Sellers character Chauncey Gardiner in ‘Being There’ perhaps?) gain such an enviable and at times despised reputation? Well, that dear reader is established from this historical though not over scholarly document that was obviously a labour of love for Reid. To write a whole album’s worth (15 tracks) of material collaboratively with Rob Van Sante joined by various guest musicians based on one character might be regarded as Continue reading ALAN REID & ROB VAN SANTE – The Adventures Of John Paul Jones (Red Sands Music RSCD003)
This CD represents a nostalgic look-back over many years of creative input from Battlefield Band’s longest serving member Alan Reid. Now, I’ve been following the band since I first saw them at The Half Moon in Putney humping (and you don’t hear that term used in the way it was originally intended much these days) his harmonium on stage and ‘that’ very first recording on the French record label Arfolk…yes, I go back that far…and I for one can say how enjoyable this experience has been. Of course, in company with band mates including BrianMcNeill, Davey Steele, John McCusker and Mike Katz it was not only his keyboard accompaniment to the powerful instrumentals but his own contributions in the singer/song-writing department that has inspired a whole generation of Celt-ophiles to take up pen and paper. With a choice of songs as long as your arm to choose from he has selected eighteen tracks to represent his career with the band. Including as it does “The Road Of Tears”, “Jenny O’The Braes” and “The Pleasure Will Be Mine” these are but the tip of the iceberg on an album of treasures and I’m pleased to say that his work will continue (even if it is without the Batties) and prosper in whoever’s company he chooses to collaborate with. Artist links: http://www.templerecords.co.uk/ PETE FYFE
Starting the album with Alan Reid’s interpretation of the traditional song ‘The Devil’s Courtship’ he is joined by the rather wonderful voice of Karine Polwart (now a full-time member of the band). In fact Karine comes into her own particularly on the track ‘The Banks Of Red Roses’ which wouldn’t sound out-of-place on an album by Kate Rusby. Being arranged in part by John McCuske(Kate’s other half) I suppose that isn’t surprising.
As regular supporters of the band will be aware, Mike Katz has contributed much with his skill as not only a fine writer of tunes but for his dynamic piping which features throughout the album. Although he will be sadly missed the recent passing of Davy Steele unfolds another chapter in the band’s history and there could be no finer compliment to his memory.
The band have always been able to re-invent themselves and on this album the title of the last track ‘Start It All Over Again’ couldn’t be more apt.
Original Posting date -17-May-2001
Reviewers Name – Pete Fyfe
If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.