The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #105162   Message #4022739
Posted By: Jim Carroll
08-Dec-19 - 03:05 AM
Thread Name: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
Thanks lads, good to be back, though I'm not sure for how long

I've been having a sort out and filing our overlarge collection of articles in preparation for making them available
I thought a dip into some of them might help sort out some of the misinformation here
This is from a review of two albums, A.L.Lloyd's 'First Person' and MacColl's 'Manchester Angel.
It is, I think, a pretty accurate analysis of how these two pioneers took traditional songs and made the songs relevant to contemporary audiences
It was written by Karl Dallas, no great friend of Ewan, but certainly a great admirer

This type of analysis by people who were around to observe what was happening on the folk scene , seems far fairer and mo efficient than throwing stones at long dead singers

I never really got on with Ben Harker's book - I once did a three page analysis of the factual errors and misinterpretations
I know that he interviewed several people for the book and totally ignored what he was told - this was certainly the case with the interview we gave
It is certainly useful for some of the background information on MacColl's brush with MI5
I found Journeyman somewhat disappointing and, on occasion, self-indulgent
I found Peter Cox's analysis of The Radio Ballads far more satisfying   
"The trouble with occupying the positions of leadership in the British revival that Lloyd and MacColl have carved for themselves is that each stage of their work tends to be regarded as holy writ. In fact, in the course of getting the revival going, both of them have learned a great deal about their craft and the likelihood is that they will continue to do so. Unfortunately both of them have been badly served by the recorded examples of their work, most of which have fixed the public impression of them at a much earlier stage than today.
This is especially true of MacColl, who has been most assiduous in his study of the living tradition and in attempting to apply those lessons to the problems of the revival singer, which are mostly quite different from the problems of the singer in a traditional environment. Both of them are much less declamatory in their style than once they were. Thus, Lloyd sings St James's Hospital in an almost conversational manner when compared with his earlier recording for Riverside, in which he made more of an attempt to approximate the street singer's style. It is certainly easier to take its jagged melody when played on the family record player in this way, and probably this interpretation is more "correct" in terms of how it is to be heard.".....

"There is a great temptation, whenever a traditional song seems a mite dull in the original, to liven it up. In the bad old days, this was usually done by the addition of an unnecessary guitar beat; these days the singer may be tempted to resort to elaborate ornamentation, bending the tune into a more "interesting" mode, or other flourishes and curlicues. When the singer is as skilled as Lloyd, the result is often a new creation of great artistic merit; but it would be a pity if the result of his artistry were to prevent less skilled performers from grappling with the song in its original form. Lloyd is also a skilled re-maker of old songs which seem to have been lost to tradition."....

"All of MacColl's songs on this record are English in origin, which may surprise those who think of him primarily as a Scottish singer, but those who know he spent the earliest years of his life in the North-West of England. This is what makes his rendering of the Lancashire version of To The Begging I Will Go on this record particularly authentic in sound.
I have dwelt at some length on his tendency to dramatise songs, something he does much less than of old. But there are positive advantages here. His actor's training has given him the ability not only to get inside the song but to get inside the character who might have made it. This gives his readings the same sort of reality that the songs have in the mouths of traditional singers, which very few revivalists achieve. If it be objected that this is artifice, it is artifice of a very high order indeed.
He has also achieved a degree of control over his voice that is rare in the revival. One can argue with what he does vocally, but one thing is certain: what you hear is what he meant to do. His breathing is effortless, although sometimes (on The Bramble Briar, for instance) he drops the last syllable of an extended line rather as if he was running out.
One of his most notable achievements on this record is One Night as I Lay on My Bed, a truly lovely night-visiting song which he sings without apparent art, allowing the lyric to carry its emotion along"....

"All-in-all, these records give us what we have long needed, definitive examples of the way these two leading revivalists are now singing, having applied considerable experience and some knowledge of the sound of tradition to the problems of the revival.
As I have tried to suggest, it would be the reverse of pro¬gress for their solutions to these problems to be swallowed whole by other singers. But careful study of what they are doing, coupled with an attempt to understand why they are doing it, should mean that those who come after will be able to build on their experience and to avoid their earlier mistakes."
KARL DALLAS, Folk Music Ballad And Song No. 4, 1966.