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ALAN REID  "The Sunlit Eye"

STAR RATING   * *
TEMPLE RECORDS 1997 COMD2072 Reviewer: Ian Clarke

Alan Reid is a prolific writer and his best known work was written and performed with Brian McNeill under the auspices of the great Battlefield Band.

Reidís songs often take Scottish folk themes reflecting social issues, political injustices or ecological themes, much like that of his hero Robert Burns, two of whose lyrics he arranges on this CD.

Reidís vocals are not the most commanding, heís no Archie Fisher or Dick Gaughan and he fares best when he uses double tracking or features backing vocalists, as he does here with Eilidh Mackenzie and Gillian MacDonald. He is more than ably supported instrumentally by other Battlefielder John McCusker on cittern, fiddler and accordion as well as his own keyboards.

Opening song Iolair Na Mara (The Sea Eagle) is a melodic celebration of the reintroduction of the until recently extinct sea eagle to Scotland, now protected from predatory human interference and free to prey once more on fish, puffins and eiders. Ah well!

Reid is adept at copying older Scots dialect songs. "Whit Can A Lassie Dae?" is a lovely example describing the loneliness life on isolated farms for their young female inhabitants. He follows this up with a more contemporary ballad about how there is small boy in every man, a poignant love song, just voice and piano and very effective.

Reid is no slouch at writing tunes and his "Million Dollar Sweetie / Feigerís Warning" are very interesting - the first is designed to sound like a "swaggering Orange march" and succeeds creditably.

"Rantiní Roviní Robin" and "Mary Morison" are simple love songs adapted from Burns lyrics and are pleasant but unexceptional.

Five Bridges is another worthy song about the Highland Clearances, the decline of traditional industries and the loss of the traditional way of life. Another pleasant melody, good vocal harmonies and whistle playing. Not much however in the way of cheer!

The intriguingly titled "Cumbernauld House / Pinky, Porky and Jim / Renaldo the Rebounder is a set of tunes which start with a plaintive slow air and get progressively faster. An impressive piece of composition but perhaps not one youíll hum to yourself.

"Love No More" is a very catchy song which might equally be sung by Moira Anderson or Elaine Paige it has a strong popular ballad style with rather sentimental arrangement.

Reid admits in the notes that "The Wilton Street Dawdle" set is too languid to even qualify as a stroll - sort of sophisticated Caledonian chamber music - and this is perhaps the trouble with too much of the album. Nice melodies but lacking variety and fire. The selection of themes is almost exclusively downbeat and the subject matter at times is old hat. The result is a slightly dated recording which sounds tame beside the high standards of experimentation set by The Battlefield Band. His cover notes are, as usual, very entertaining.