Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Chorus From the Gallows
Genres: Folk, World Music, Pop
Listen to Samples
If you could only own one MacColl recording, this ought to b
J. Troyer | Billings, MT | 03/31/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I discovered Ewan after he had passed away and eagerly accumulated as much of his material as I could. Sadly, much of his music has never been digitalized or converted to CD format. Happily, this album was! Though it is tough to find and often very expensive, any amount of money is appropriate for even just the "Lag's Song." In the "Lag's Song," Ewan's voice is hauntingly beautiful, and the lyrics capture the ideas of lost dreams and lost youth in a most profound and beautiful way. You will weep.
The rest of the album is no slouch. One of the many things I love about this recording is that (like much of MacColl's work) it is themed. Each song has to do with the subject of crime, and crime's subsequent consequences. Some are fun and make you smile while others are heart-wrenching.
Ewan is such an important figure in folk music, and it is a shame that his music is not more widely known and widely available. This is certainly one of my "desert island" albums. Don't pass on this one!"
Crime and Punishment
Andreas Faust | Tasmanian Autonomous Zone | 12/19/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ewan MacColl, one of the best folk singers ever, was a Communist, sadly...but so were many other misguided people at the time. In seeking greater social justice, they failed to consider the robotic, totalitarian aspects of Marxism. If MacColl had lived a bit longer, he would probably have woken up to Communism's anti-folkish nature (a direct contradiction of his own emphasis on preserving ethnic folk traditions), and rejected it. He was an intelligent man, and may even have ended up as a folkish anarchist instead.
Now, to the music. 'Chorus from the Gallows' contains a very beautiful version of 'The Black Velvet Band', one of two songs on the album which mention convict transportation to my homeland of Tasmania, or Van Diemens Land as it was then known. The other, of course, is 'Van Diemens Land', and of four or five versions that I've heard, this is the best...dark, wistful, melancholic, but with a stoical sense of barely contained anger.
Other songs, like 'Go Down Ye Murderers', contain an unspoken condemnation of the death penalty. I, too, am opposed to the clinical, cold-blooded American style of execution...but in opposing it absolutely MacColl also fails to consider the rights of the victims of serious crime. Perhaps we should bring back blood feuds, like in medieval Iceland. It wouldn't be perfect, but it would probably be better than the current liberal system...and it wouldn't be cold-blooded.
'Derek Bentley', on the other hand, takes what would now be called a 'right-wing' or conservative line, blaming a young man's act of murder on the violent comic books and films he was exposed to as a kid. I personally find this hard to swallow. As Boyd Rice pointed out, violent art has been around for ages...Shakespeare's 'Titus Andronicus' is incredibly gory and graphic, but the same conservatives who condemn violent comic books hail 'Titus Andronicus' as high art.
Other songs deal with the monotony of prison life ('The Treadmill Song', 'The Lag's Song'), and there is also a great version of 'Turpin Hero', an entertaining outlaw ballad.
The CD contains no lyric sheet, just some short info on each song, but the lyrics are mostly understandable, and even those in a Scots dialect ('Johnny O'Beadisley', 'Hughie the Graeme') can be understood after a few close listens. Then there is the sound of the Scots dialect itself - powerful and primal, with a deep resonant melody, like bitter honey. The Scottish pieces are probably the most heartfelt on the entire album.
A couple of tracks are sung a cappella, and highlight MacColl's beautiful clear-but-granite voice...a voice that reminds me greatly of a fine Scotch whisky. Peggy Seeger also contributes some vocals, mainly backing vocals, and they are effective, as is her banjo and guitar playing.
'Chorus from the Gallows' is one of the best European folk albums I've ever heard, and only misses a five star rating because of a song about 1950s Alabama, which seems jarringly out of place."