Songs Now - British Songs of the 21st Century
David POWER (b.1962) Eight Evening Songs (2004-2007)
Tom ARMSTRONG Opened Spaces (2007)
David LANCASTER Memory of Place (2010)
Richard WHALLEY Six Songs of Old Japanese Wisdom (2007)
Peter REYNOLDS (b.1958) Adieu to all Alluring Toys (2011)
Steve CROWTHER Songs for Don (2007)
William Rhys MEEK (b.1963) Winter is a Slow Death Waiting (2010)
Michael PARKIN Three Songs (2001-2009)
Paul Carey Jones (baritone)
Ian Ryan (piano)
rec. National Centre for Early Music, York, 2011?
Full track details at end of review
MERIDIAN CDE 84614 [67:50]
Meridian, their baritone and their pianist do full and valorous service to the cause of the chlorophyll-rich and ever-leafy renewal of British song. There’s no flinching here – not a single song from the standard repertoire. These settings are approachable and engage both mind and heart without ducking a challenge along the way.
The Power and Armstrong songs recall the best song-writing qualities of two British Bushes: Alan in declamatory flood and especially Geoffrey in tellingly poetic word-setting. The engagement with words is unshakable. Lancaster recalls the chillier Finzi (Channel Firing) and Holst (Betelgeuse). The Japanese Songs by Richard Whalley are more dissonant and dankly reflective than the Lancaster, Armstrong and Power works. Even so, a little listener application yields rewards.
Peter Reynolds’ extended tripartite song is also deadly serious, as befits the subject of infant death although there is much here that is extremely touching, as at 2:49. This is in a fine tradition also inhabited by a number of Finzi’s melancholy songs. Steve Crowther’s song-cycle sets some grittily tough words without a blink – brace yourself for Junkie – the song equivalent of Film Noir and Punk. No greenswards or ivory towers here. By vivid contrast the occasionally sing-song William Rhys Meek’s Winter is a Slow Death Waiting reaches out across the centuries to clasp the hands of Eric Coates and Ivor Novello. Michael Parkin studied with William Mathias and Jeffrey Lewis. His Three Songs indulge furious action and approachably protesting angularity. There’s Pierrot-like reflection in the central song.
Good English-only notes appear in the booklet in legible orthography across a full 16 pages. The sung texts are there, though not always in full.
Paul Carey Jones and Ian Ryan are skilled and sensitive artists. Jones inflects and colours his voice in proportion to the sentiment of the words - there’s nothing emotionally flat about his readings or those of Ryan. We should be looking out for further recordings from this team.
The present CD augurs well both for the diversity of British song production and for the quality of its exponents.
Augurs well for the diversity of British song production and for the quality of its exponents.
David Power – Eight Evening Songs. 2004-2007
1. Don’t Touch - (David Russell) 1.30
2. Kinds of White - (Ana Eulate trans. Alan Dunnett) 1.26
3. Aurora - (E.H. Visiak) 2.12
4. The War Ants - (E.H. Visiak) 0.41
5. Did I dream You? - (Carolyn Doyley) 1.47
6. The Waiting - (Jane MacNamee) 1.54
7. A Marble - (Ernst Meister trans. Richard Dove) 1.44
8. Give the Questioning Winds Outside (Ernst Meister trans. Richard Dove) 0.49
Tom Armstrong – Opened Spaces. 2007
9. London Song - (Jim Morris) 2.12
10. Song of Inishmaan - (Jim Morris) 1.48
David Lancaster – Memory of Place. 2010
11. Frozen - (Daniela Nunnari) 1.59
12. Floating - (Daniela Nunnari) 5.40
13. If Wishes were Willows . . . - Waiting. 2010 (Daniela Nunnari) 1.52
Richard Whalley – Six Songs of Old Japanese Wisdom. 2007
14. Wisdom - (Issa trans. Earle Joshua Stone) 1.23
15. Life - (Issa trans. Earle Joshua Stone) 0.50
16. Beauty - (Issa trans. Earle Joshua Stone) 1.45
17. Instinct - (Issa trans. Earle Joshua Stone) 1.09
18. Reflection – Part One 2.09 (Issa trans. Earle Joshua Stone)
19. Reflection – Part Two 1.26 (Issa trans. Earle Joshua Stone)
20. Wisdom - (Issa trans. Earle Joshua Stone)1.51
Peter Reynolds – Adieu to all Alluring Toys. 2011
21. Adieu to All Alluring Toys – (anonymous) 4.32
Steve Crowther – Songs for Don. 2007
22. Roses, Wild Thyme – (Don Walls) 1.36
23. Recovery – (Don Walls) 2.44
24. For Mr L. – (Don Walls) 2.54
25. My Bad Manners – (Don Walls) 0.58
26. Beggar – (Don Walls) 1.27
27. ‘Junkie’ – (Don Walls) 1.42
28. For Mary – (Don Walls) 4.20
William Rhys Meek - Winter is a Slow Death
29. Winter is a Slow Death Waiting – (Stephen James Meek) 3.46
Michael Parkin – Three Songs. 2001 - 2009
30. She being Brand new; - (e.e. cummings) 2.05
31. What he Said – (Maturai Eruttalan Centamputan) 2.35
32. The Mersburger Bridge – (traditional) 3.03