last update 8th Sept 2000
Battlefield Band - Leaving Friday Harbour Temple Records COMD 2080
Star Rating ****
Another great album from a great band. This is the latest offering from one of the best things ever to come out of Scotland. Named after an area of Glasgow, the Battlefield Band have gone through a number of line ups and this current one is one of the strongest.
They kick off with a rousing set of three pipe reels, two of which (Clan Coco and Fifteen Stubbies to Warragul) have been penned by the great piper Mike Katz. Tom Polland and Seamus McKibbin speak very highly of Mike, whom they met at the festival in St Malo in Brittany. Mike is a really nice guy who has a great feel for the music - his writing and playing are outstanding. The third tune, The Road to Benderloch, comes from the fine Oban piper Angus Mc Coll.
Singer Davy Steel wrote the next number, Last Trip Home, a fine addition to the singing tradition of Scotland. He has a wonderful quality to his voice and he puts the song across with great feeling.
John Mc Cusker, the fiddle player, has not only won many awards for his fiddle playing but is also a composer of some accomplishment and this is well exemplified by the many tunes on this album. It's Nice to be Nice/The Auld Toon Band/McCabe's Reel is a fine set with tasteful backing on keyboards and bodhran.
The Straw Man, a traditional song from Alan Reid is a humorous little number warning against the too scrupulous amongst us.
The title track, Leaving Friday Harbour, written by John is a lovely little swinging number. He shows off his playing style with, once again, impeccable backing. When the pipes come in there is a great lift to the tune. This is one to savour.
One More Chorus is a song that many's a diddley dee man in Ireland with love. 'So give us one more chorus, one more song, one more tune and then we'll be gone.' All about the never-ending session that you don't want to leave until you are finally turfed out of the pub as dawn breaks. Written by Davy about a session in the Famous Sandy Bell's pub in Edinburgh. Although I have never been there I believe it is a fine establishment and I used to be on the mailing list for Sandy Bell's Broadsheet many years ago.
The 24th Guards Brigade at Anzio/The Melbourne Sleeper/MacRae's of Linnie is another brilliant piping set. The last two tunes were also written by Mike. I really will have to learn some of this Scottish stuff - bloody superb tunes altogether.
Alan's song, The Pleasure will be Mine, includes the words 'For the country air's as sweet as guid red wine' but for me the lyrics are a bit too much on the sweet side. This was the only track on the album that I wasn't overly fussed about.
Something for Jamie, composed jointly by Alan and John is a little bit predictable and sounds somewhat familiar though I cant quite place what it reminds me of but allows John to show off his accordion playing.
The final set of tunes features one from the playing of Liz Carroll (The Sisters Reel) and a couple of powerful piping tunes from Allan MacDonald (Marion and Donald/The Lassie with the Yellow Petticoat) before rounding off with another of Mike's compositions - Jesse 'The Body' Ventura's Reel. Great guitar and bass backing on this and some fine drumming from Donald Hay.
The last song is a trad number called Logie O'Buchan and is beautifully sung by Davy. This one would need a translation! Perhaps some Ulster Scots folks could help me out with this one. What does 'siller' mean anyway?? They also hint that the words have been changed and say 'well that's the tradition for you'. Well it's not - the tradition is about keeping the songs as they were written not changing the words without telling us what was changed and why!
All in all this a really fine recording that really has it all, traditional and newly written songs, fine airs, and piping sets to set your feet tapping. The musicianship and composition, production quality and arrangements are second to none.
A clever little bit of marketing is stuck on at the end with four tracks from various other Temple Records. A nice little bonus!
Click on the image to go to the band's website.