Alongside the 80th anniversary celebrations, Topic Records complete their introduction series with An Introduction To Nic Jones. This presented something of a problem. Nic recorded the sublime Penguin Eggs, his final album for them and licensed a set of live recordings which appeared as Game Set Match. The rest of Nic’s catalogue remains unavailable (and we all know why that is, don’t we, boys and girls?) but the label had the man himself to compile the selection and the gift of two previously unreleased studio recordings from 2013 which are enough to sell this album by themselves.
Penguin Eggs provides five tracks starting with the opening, ‘Courting Is A Pleasure’. It’s a perfect start with its deceptively lazy guitar intro leading into a gentle love song – contrast the style with the urgency of ‘Rufford Park Poachers’ later in this set and originally from the same source. Jones’ instrumental prowess is further demonstrated by ‘Hamburger Polka’. Then comes a sequence demonstrating Nic’s unique choice of material. ‘Isle Of France’ is one of his big songs – I only know of a couple of other singers who have performed it – but the story seems implausibly romantic. Next is the tragi-comedy of ‘Billy Don’t You Weep For Me’ followed by the real tragedy of ‘Dives And Lazarus’ and the uproarious story of ‘Barrack Street’ with the distinctive clatter of Tony Hall’s melodeon. You couldn’t find four more different moods handled with such aplomb.
Two written songs lead us up to the present day. Paul Metsers’ ‘Farewell To The Gold’ features chorus vocals by Bridget Danby and Dave Burland and Harry Robertson’s ‘Humpback Whale’ sees Nic solo with a (relatively) modern whaling song. Which leads us to the bonus tracks featuring Nic’s son Joe on guitar and Belinda O’Hooley on accordion and piano. The first is the gorgeous ‘I Only Spoke Portuguese’, written by Bill Worsfold and based on the story of his great-grandfather and listening to the simple emotion that Nic brings to the song it’s easy to forget that it had been more than thirty years since he had been in a studio. The second new track is very different. Written by Nic himself, ‘Now’ expounds his philosophy that there is no point looking back – although if anyone has an excuse to regret the past, it’s Nic Jones.
When you have finished listening to this CD, you’ll want more and I’d respectfully direct you to the Mollie Music website where more delights await.
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‘Isle Of France’ – old record/modern video: