The Sound of Leather
Liberty Bell [2:40]
Waves of the Danube [3:10]
Berceuse from Jocelyn [4:05]
Rondo alla Turca [3:35]
Theme from Symphony No. 5 [3:23]
Swansea Town [3:17]
Sarabande and Gigue [5:34]
The Lost Chord [3:28]
The Hallelujah Chorus [3:53]
Hearts and Flowers and Just a Song at Twilight [4:14]
Csardas [3:56]
Alice, Where Art Thou? [3:38]
In a Persian Market [6:09]
To a Wild Rose [2:38]
Phil Humphries (serpent), Dave Townsend (concertina)
rec. no details given.

Phil Humphries and Dave Townsend are one half of the Mellstock Band. They here perform popular classics, songs from the music halls and “Victorian and Edwardian instrumental showpieces” on the serpent and concertina, bizarrely enough. As they admit in their entertaining, witty, informal and interesting notes no evidence exists to show that these two instruments ever played together. This leads them to the conclusion that “now seems a good time to start.” Both instruments are fully encased in leather, leading to the title of the disc. The notes include “fascinating facts” and humorous asides, as well as rather brief relevant historical details.
The works featured range widely in mood, period and style, from Waves of the Danube and the Rondo alia Turca; from Mozart’s A major piano sonata K331 through to Holst’s Swansea Town and MacDowell’s To a Wild Rose. Some of the renditions for serpent and concertina work better than others. I wasn’t desperately convinced by Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony or by the Hallelujah Chorus, for example. The Handel Sarabande and Gigue works really quite spectacularly well, and the version of Ketèlbey’s In a Persian Market charms and intrigues. The gypsy dance Csardas is also rather brilliant - both in terms of performance and suitability for the instruments.
I found it took a little while to get into this disc - at first the sound comes across as slightly ridiculous, but one soon becomes acclimatised and is then more easily able to admire these versatile - and dare-devil - musicians. The rather edge-of-one’s-seat performances are amusing and impressive - most virtuosic at times. The result is that it is impossible to listen without, at some point in time or other, a smile creeping over one’s face - wry, or otherwise!.
Em Marshall-Luck  
Impossible to listen without a smile creeping over one’s face.