As the title would suggest, Fire & Fleet is a (limited edition) record of last year’s tour, although, not strictly a live document since four of the tracks are actually studio recordings. However, taking those from the tour first, variously recorded at Treorchy and Exeter and Gloucester Cathedrals and loaded at the second half of the album, first up is the close harmonies of the airy, concertina-accompanied traditional ‘On One April Morning’, followed by the first of three ‘contemporary covers’ with a lovely Tabor and Jones duet on the Penn-Momam classic ‘The Dark End Of The Street’, the other two being an inspired, slow-paced and vocally shared and intermingled violin and cello-backed version of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and, showcasing Tabor on lead, a sterling take on Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’, complete with druggy instrumental break with Alan Prosser’s electric guitar, though, if I’m being picky, it doesn’t quite capture the original’s building intensity.
Moving back to the folk material, Tabor sings unaccompanied on her reading of Les Barker’s variation of Bill Staines’ 1979 song ‘Roseville Fair’ (which appeared on her 2005 Anthology), this version noting how much better a banjo sounds after it’s had someone’s head go through it. The last of the live numbers is again a capella, a gorgeous treatment of the traditional ‘When I Was No But Sweet Sixteen’ (as featured on their Ragged Kingdom album) with Tabor singing lead and the male voices providing harmonies,
Returning to the studio recordings, the album opens with Jones singing lead on the minstrel-like arrangement of the traditional ‘’False True Love’ followed by the wonderfully obscure ‘I’ll Show You Wonders’, a song originally recorded in 1992 on Highland, the debut album by Swedish outfit One More Time (featuring Benny Andersson’s son), the ABBA meets Fleetwood Mac arrangement replaced by a frisky pizzicato strings folksiness. With a suitably doomy, rumbling atmosphere coloured by cello and violin ‘Lyke Wake Dirge’ adds to the trad quota, the album finally closes with Jones singing ‘Molly Bond’, a revisiting of the traditional Irish number (generally known as ‘Polly Vaughn’ in which hunter shoots his lover mistaking her for a swan and her ghost turns up at court as witness for the defence) previously recorded by Oysterband back on 1986’s Step Outside. Fire & Fleet is available only from the band’s website with a limited stock, I’d get in there pretty niftily.
*Fire & Fleet also seems to be available on the Amazon UK site (link below).
Artists’ website: www.oysterband.co.uk
‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ – live. This is a recording from 2011: