|Dimensions||21 × 15 × 1.0 cm|
Voices is another amazing collection of songs – eight from Eric himself, probably one of the greatest songwriters of the past several decades. There are two songs from John Munro, one from Peter Titchener and a song sent to Eric by Simon Wilkins. The album is eagerly awaited from Greentrax by the legions of Bogle fans in the UK, Europe and beyond, and will not disappoint.
Review by Dai Woosnam
Eric Bogle, John Munro and Greentrax go together like haggis, neeps and tatties. A perfect match, that together, have brought me some of my happiest listening hours down the years. I salute them for their collaboration these past 27 years. And there is plenty of life in the old Bogle dog yet, for although retiring from foreign tours, it will take being under house arrest to keep him from that favourite Adelaide recording studio with his usual cast of stellar – and musically most gifted – buddies accompanying him.
And as I expected, this is another delight of an album from start to finish. Not a weak number in the 12 served up: and it was especially nice to note several songs from the pens of his associates here. I should adopt Peter Titchener’s witty Farewell Fitness as my personal anthem, and it was good to hear his own pleasant voice deliver it.
But if he has a pleasant voice, John Munro of course has a marvellous one. A kind of Johnny Coppin-meets-Mike Silver voice…but with both those Sassenachs wearing kilts. Oh so sweet. And it is Munro who wrote and sings the two best songs on the album, Voices and The Best Of Times.
The latter incidentally is redolent of They Don’t Write ‘Em Like That Anymore by the late Pete Betts, and no praise is higher. And this new song ends very movingly with John harmonising in 2016 with a (presumably, old reel-to-reel?) recording of his late dad Charlie, which John tells us was “recorded in Glasgow in 1963”. I don’t think so John: a diary check is called for here! For they are harmonising on the Kris Kristofferson song, For The Good Times, which was not written until 1968. But, it matters not: John’s song remains a fine example of the bitter-sweet.
And if that is the best song on the album, then Ballad For Billy by Simon Wilkins is the most moving. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. And I fancy Eric and John’s eyes too…and the guaranteed myriad buyers of this album.
One interesting footnote: I note amongst the musicians listed “Leonard Cohen – Slide Guitar”. I nearly choked on my cornflakes with surprise. Surely, not the great man himself? No, of course not. But it was a great image for the nanosecond it lasted, as it flashed before my eyes!
Review by Tony Smith
Eric Bogle is Eric Bogle. He is such an established and well-loved performer that he needs no introduction and requires no explanation. As our pre-eminent singer songwriter, Bogle sets a high standard for others to follow. He might have lived in Australia longer than he lived in Scotland, but the burr is still there in the voice and the twinkle no doubt remains in the eye.
This album is very much about friends. Here, Bogle shares the credits with John Munro, his long time collaborator and mate. Munro wrote two of the 12 tracks here. Peter Titchener and Simon Wilkins wrote one each.
Like Eric Bogle’s songs, the sleeve notes are witty and pleasant and typically generous. Even when he has a dig at some likely villains in the public sphere, there is no need to name them. We know who they are.
Voices reminds us why Eric Bogle is among Australia’s best loved musicians. The melodies are simple. The lyrics are clear. Bogle has no need for showy tunes and he keeps the language simple.
Perhaps because the melodies are so straightforward, the arrangements are balanced and economical. At no time do the supporting instrumentalists and vocalists become gratuitous additions. They become part of Bogle’s songs and enhance them. As well as Bogle and Munro, the team includes Titchener, Emma Woolcock, Jon Jones, Damien Steele-Scott, Kathie Renner, Peter Francis, Leonard Cohen (!) and the Bogle-ettes.
From the first bars of the first track, the fiddle creates a warm, rich atmosphere and the accordion complements Bogle’s voice beautifully. Munro’s mandolin of course, is one of the comfortable companions Bogle has had on his musical journey.
Regarding lyrics, Bogle might muse about drinking at a particular well more than once but his latest anti-war and anti-fascism songs are beauties. In ‘First the Children’ he laments the madness of continually sending the young to slaughter one another in wars, hoping that our kids will kill their kids before theirs kill ours. In ‘Freedom Lost’ he takes a well known confession by Martin Niemoller and gives it modern relevance. The narrator does nothing to intervene as specific groups – usually easy targets – are persecuted. Too late he realises his error: ‘Then they came for me, And there was no one left, To speak out for me’.
There is genuine nostalgia in Munro’s ‘The Best of Times’ and ‘The List’, in which Bogle reminisces about Scotland. There is light relief and a degree of political incorrectness in the ironic ‘When I’m Dead’ and Titchener’s ‘Farewell Fitness’. Bogle tells of the people and things he will miss, and some that he won’t. Titchener celebrates the things he should not eat and the exercises he does not miss.
In Simon Spencer’s ‘A Ballad for Billy’ sadness and tragedy become pride and hope. Bill died accidentally in his prime but his organs were donated and his legacy remained in five lives saved. His generous parents were able to listen to Bill’s heart beating in its recipient.
There are many moving farewell songs in folk music. The opening track ‘Fork in the Road’ is up there with the best. Bogle wrote this for Munro and it clearly comes from the heart. Despite the duo’s distance from Scotland in time and place, Bogle channels Robbie Burns evocatively. And like Burns, Bogle is first and foremost a story-teller. Voices makes bonny listening.
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