|Dimensions||22 × 16 × .50 cm|
Malcolm Turnbull – Bitterfeast by Chris Spencer
I’m finding this cd a difficult one to review. I might let the liner notes tell you about the “project” Bitterfeast. Most of the tracks arose out of a workshop that Turnbull researched and presented at a folk festival. The subtitle of the album is ‘Reflecting on grief, greatness and gay liberation.’ 8 of the 12 songs document the gay rights movement of the 1970’s and beyond. Malcolm may be well known to Trad & Now readers, as he has written many articles documenting Australian folk singers. He played in the folk scene in Tasmania before moving to Melbourne during the 1970’s. Since coming out of a 2 decade ‘retirement’ he has recorded 4 albums since 2003, including this one. So you can see why I’m out of depth in reviewing this cd! So let’s have a closer at the songs Turnbull has chosen to record. I don’t think Malcolm would appreciate being compared to Rod McKuen, but on the first track, a Randy Newman song called “In Germany Before the War” his voice & his phrasing reminded me of McKuen. Turnbull has a deep, bold voice and occasionally adds a bit of vibrato! This song sets the atmosphere for the album, the arrangements are stark, a long way in the background; the songs are slow, melancholy, restrained. The emphasis is on the lyrics. Turnbull has selected covers of songs – I hesitate to say of obscure writers in some instances because obscure implies overlooked or under-rated. “Winter Sun” was written by Melbourne singer-songwriter Moira Tyers, and deals with grief. Other writers he has chosen to cover that I am not familiar with include: Dave Hall (“Zoe & Chloe”), Cris Williamson (“Wild Things”), Peter Grudzien (“The Unicorn”) and Don Hirst (“The Arrest of Oscar Wilde” although this song is a poem of John Betjman set to music by Hirst). Writers you will recognise, but not necessarily the arrangement that Turnbull has given them include Tom Robinson (“Glad to be Gay”), Leonard Cohen (the title track), Peter Hicks (“Unless it’s with You”) and Ian Paulin (“Weary”). I was bemused by “Looking for a Good Man Tonight” on which Turnbull has added some additional lyrics – this song has a male choir singing the chorus, contrasting with the seriousness of the rest of the album. Track 3, “Just a Gigolo” is accompanied only by piano, and is very ‘cabaret’. This song, as well as “Glad to be Gay” includes sound grabs of speeches criticising homosexually. A few guest include Moira Tyers, Ian Paulin, Don Hirst and Wendy Ealey. In all, a challenging collection but well worthy of your attention.
4 in stock (can be backordered)