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Critical discussion of Ewan MacColl's singing

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Dave the Gnome 18 May 20 - 04:23 AM
Joe G 18 May 20 - 04:37 AM
Steve Gardham 18 May 20 - 05:07 AM
Dave the Gnome 18 May 20 - 05:16 AM
The Sandman 18 May 20 - 05:47 AM
Jim Carroll 18 May 20 - 06:05 AM
The Sandman 18 May 20 - 06:12 AM
The Sandman 18 May 20 - 06:16 AM
Dave Hanson 18 May 20 - 06:29 AM
GUEST,Observer 18 May 20 - 06:37 AM
gillymor 18 May 20 - 06:43 AM
gillymor 18 May 20 - 06:52 AM
Steve Shaw 18 May 20 - 07:06 AM
GUEST,Derrick 18 May 20 - 07:10 AM
Steve Shaw 18 May 20 - 07:10 AM
Jim Carroll 18 May 20 - 07:23 AM
The Sandman 18 May 20 - 07:30 AM
The Sandman 18 May 20 - 07:35 AM
Jim Carroll 18 May 20 - 08:12 AM
Dave the Gnome 18 May 20 - 08:12 AM
gillymor 18 May 20 - 08:16 AM
Jim Carroll 18 May 20 - 08:19 AM
Dave the Gnome 18 May 20 - 09:05 AM
GUEST,Surrey fiddler 18 May 20 - 09:05 AM
Vic Smith 18 May 20 - 09:29 AM
Phillip 18 May 20 - 09:43 AM
Jim Carroll 18 May 20 - 10:10 AM
Jim Carroll 18 May 20 - 10:15 AM
GUEST 18 May 20 - 10:22 AM
Steve Shaw 18 May 20 - 10:29 AM
GUEST,Starship 18 May 20 - 10:48 AM
Jim Carroll 18 May 20 - 10:52 AM
GUEST 18 May 20 - 11:38 AM
Jim Carroll 18 May 20 - 12:04 PM
Jim Carroll 18 May 20 - 12:12 PM
Jim Carroll 18 May 20 - 12:14 PM
DonMeixner 18 May 20 - 12:51 PM
Phillip 18 May 20 - 01:01 PM
RTim 18 May 20 - 01:17 PM
The Sandman 18 May 20 - 03:28 PM
The Sandman 18 May 20 - 03:50 PM
The Sandman 18 May 20 - 03:52 PM
Jack Campin 18 May 20 - 03:57 PM
GUEST 19 May 20 - 02:10 AM
Dave Hanson 19 May 20 - 02:15 AM
Phillip 19 May 20 - 02:33 AM
Jim Carroll 19 May 20 - 03:14 AM
Phillip 19 May 20 - 03:21 AM
The Sandman 19 May 20 - 04:08 AM
The Sandman 19 May 20 - 04:18 AM
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Subject: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 18 May 20 - 04:23 AM

It has been mentioned on another thread that a critical discussion of Ewan MacColl's singing would be of great benefit. Not his politics. Not his name. Not his other works. His singing. I would personally expand that to his performance and song writing as, to me, that is as much a part of the enjoyment as his voice.

I think he has a good voice and no one can dispute his song writing abilities. I was not lucky enough to see him live.

Over to you and please feel free to link any performances that you find online to illustrate your points.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Joe G
Date: 18 May 20 - 04:37 AM

Who? ;-)


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 18 May 20 - 05:07 AM

AS far as I can remember he let the song tell the story and didn't indulge in any dramatic effects or affectations other than what his life as an actor dictated. There was something of a nasal twang but once you get into the song that becomes irrelevant. When accompanied he never allowed the accompaniment to dominate the song which some of our younger singers would do well to take note of. He was never my favourite singer but I am still in awe of what he accomplished.

Song writing: I have known and know many songwriters. Some have come close but I know of none that have surpassed his material. When I think about it I have unconsciously followed many of his methods.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 18 May 20 - 05:16 AM

Maybe the exception that proves the rule but I find the accompaniment in this version of Dirty Old Town a bit distracting. Probably just me though.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 May 20 - 05:47 AM

yes,it is you, distracting ha ha, good try again gnome, i know what you are up to
the accompaniment and the singing of this song is one of the best versions i have heard , this is not a narrative story ballad such as raggle taggle gypsies or willy of the winesbury ,but his own ocomposotion . his singing her in my opinion is one of his best


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 20 - 06:05 AM

Ewan's singing was an acquired taste - he had the same problems every singer had, especially in the early days - he once told me his early recordings made him cringe so much he couldn't bear to listen to them
He had problems with natural vibrato which he worked at and encouraged others to do the same - he devised exercises to tackle such problems
One time in London Singers Workshop, we agreed to listen critically to recordings of singers we know wouldn't mind our doing so
Pat brought in a recording of Ewan at his 4-square worst (a syllable per note) for discussion
That was, in my opinion, a perennial fault which varied throughout his life but never quite went away

Having said that, the litmus test for any singer is what you remember after each song - if it's the singing, then it has fallen short - if it's the song then the singer has succeeded
I now have all but one/two (?) of Ewan's albums - there isn't one I can't listen to over and over again ('Two-Way Trip marginal) - the 'Blood and Roses' set remain top of the list
I don't know how I will feel about the 78s as I haven't managed to get them yet
This is because I want to listen to the songs and not the singer
That's how I judge any singer
Jim


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 May 20 - 06:12 AM

but it is the singer who can bring the song to life an example is thishttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NJaXI0A28I and ewans versionhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EW28RL_-ux0


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 May 20 - 06:16 AM

jeasnnie roberston does a more narrative style version than ewan, peggys accopniment is ok, but there is none of the passion in the MacCOLL VERSION COMPARED TO jEANNIES


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 18 May 20 - 06:29 AM

Jeannie's version is sublime, never heard it better, incidently I have always been a fan of Ewan, I saw him and Peggy at the Singing Jenny Folk Club in Huddersfield seems like a lifetime ago.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: GUEST,Observer
Date: 18 May 20 - 06:37 AM

Ewan MacColl wrote some absolutely outstanding songs and nobody can deny that they had impact, have stood the test of time and no doubt will continue to do so far into the future. While saying that I must admit that I do not enjoy his singing, others do his material much, much better. That in no way detracts from his dedication and contribution to folk music and the enormous debt and respect that he is due.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: gillymor
Date: 18 May 20 - 06:43 AM

I prefer hearing his wonderful songs sung by someone other than the man himself. He had a quaver in his voice that sounds affected. I could be wrong, maybe it's something he acquired naturally, buy either way it's off-putting to me. I still admire the man's musical output though.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: gillymor
Date: 18 May 20 - 06:52 AM

btw, I like the accompaniment to the Dirty Old Town version that DtG linked above but it sounds like it's in the wrong song.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 18 May 20 - 07:06 AM

There's a richness and mellowness in his voice that I like. He was capable of turning on a harsher edge if the words needed it. His diction was excellent and, for me, overrode a slight sensation of affectation. Sort of agreeing with Jim, I hear that waver that sometimes sounds inauthentic. It's interesting to hear that it was something he worked on. When I want to do the audiological version of visualising his voice (is there such a word as audiolising?), as I do now, I think of songs like My Old Man and Joy Of Living.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: GUEST,Derrick
Date: 18 May 20 - 07:10 AM

I agree with DtG and gillymor not the best accompaniment to that song I've heard, the vocals were good,in that particular case the song would have been improved by dropping the instruments.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 18 May 20 - 07:10 AM

By the way, what biases me slightly in his favour is that all my mum's side are Salfordian, and he has that unmistakable Salfordian twang in his accent that takes me back... Forcing yourself to be objective-only in music robs it of its soul...


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 20 - 07:23 AM

Seems a bit pointless discussing personal likes and dislikes - we all like what we like
In the end it's whether the song works - it usually does with Ewan for me
I've also found Peggy's accompaniments fine because they do what they need to do - accompany
The early accompaniments are different - Alf Edwards was very baisc, Steve Benbow was not to my taste
I oved the jazz accompaniments on Dirty Old Town because I love Jazz - Dirty ld Town takes accompaniment and lone voice singing - I'd hate jazz ro b used widely to sing British or Irish folk songs widely - a matter of taste - Ewan did both as the mood took him
I have no problem with accompaniments that accompany - far too many get in the way
Peggy had a whole philosophy around instrumentation - we have a lecture she gave on it
I was never a great fan of accompanied American singing until talking to her helped get my head around it - now some of the older American singers rate among my favourites
Contrary to Gilly - I don't know of anybody who sang Ewan's songs better than he did
My mate Bob Blair gathered the whole repertoire of Ewan's recorded own songs together onto seven CDs chronologically - I'm adding those not released commercially (feel free to ask for them)
We're really not going to change each other's personal tastes - who would want to ?
I'll be happt if I can get rind of theis insulting "worshiping Ewan" crap
Ewan's main importance for me was the work he did wit others in develping a method where singers might lean to use their voices fully and apply them to singing folk songs


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 May 20 - 07:30 AM

What harm in comparing ewan and jeannies version of a song, is that not discussing his singing. his singing of dirty old town sounds more authentic than his accent on the raggle gypsy song.jeannis version is the best that i have ever heard, for bob davenport to apparantly claim she cannot sing is ridiculous.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 May 20 - 07:35 AM

What harm in comparing ewan and jeannies version of a song, is that not discussing his singing. his singing of dirty old town sounds more authentic than his accent on the raggle gypsy song.
jeannis version is the best that i have ever heard, for bob davenport to apparantly claim she cannot sing is ridiculous.ewans importance to me was as a songwriter and an outstanding presenter of an evening, yes i did see him live , infact i was doing a support for them they were polished sophisticated performers


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 20 - 08:12 AM

"What harm in comparing ewan and jeannies version of a song, "
I've always had a problem with this, especially after working with source-singers
They are not from our 'folkie' world - in fat they are our benefactors and we are the recipients of their generosity
I would never expect the same from them as I would from a revival singer so I would be hesitant to compare the two
I loved Jeannies's singing but I have problems with it
Shortly after she was discovered, researchers began praising her for she slow, dignified delivery - she began to slow her songs down further to live up to the image - too slow, in my opinion
Later in life she developed asthmatic problems which created a gappiness in her singing that had not been there in the early days - (I find Jeannie's 'Gypsy Laddy an example of that)
Fot me, the worst done to Jeannie's singing was when Robin Hall persuaded her to allow him to accompany her - the Collector EP just didn't work for me - a case of two worlds colliding
Jim


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 18 May 20 - 08:12 AM

I have no idea what you think I am up to, Dick, but you are most likely wrong. Jim wanted a constructive discussion of Ewan's singing and that is what I am trying to achieve. Like Gillymor and others, that accompaniment just doesn't do anything for me.

I agree with the sentiment that Ewan does his own stuff best as he knows what he is trying to achieve. I think the same is true of Bob Dylan BTW. That's isn't to say that there are not some interpretations of songs by both artists that I prefer but that is down to personal taste.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: gillymor
Date: 18 May 20 - 08:16 AM

Jim, I'm here to express my opinion not to change any one else's, you may think it's pointless but you don't seem to have any problem expressing yours.
Rather than being pointless the opinions shared on this thread have almost inspired me to give McColl's singing another chance because, as some have noted, there are some nice aspects to his voice but I'm not sure I can get past that mechanical-sounding vibrato. It's a vocal technique that some American folk singers employed back in the 50's and 60's and it's sounds unnatural and is an immediate turnoff for me.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 20 - 08:19 AM

"Jim wanted a constructive discussion of Ewan's singing and that is what I am trying to achieve."
I think Dick suspects you of trying to divert me from another thread - I confess the thought crossed my mind - you've done it before
I don't mind discussing Ewan or his singing anytime - there ias much more I would like to discuss, but this will do for a while
That doesn't mind I'm going to stop posting to the Doran 'love-in' though
There's plenty more to talk about there
Jim


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 18 May 20 - 09:05 AM

Jim, you said "I woud love to see a critical discussion of Ewan's singing" and for that reason only I started this thread. How can it be trying to divert you when it is exactly what you requested? There is no reason at all that you cannot contribute to both threads but as you yourself have said there can be no comparison I don't understand why you would want to discuss McColl on the Doran thread of vice versa.

Incidentally, you used to disapprove of people referring to your favourite singer by their surname. Is it ok to do so now?


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: GUEST,Surrey fiddler
Date: 18 May 20 - 09:05 AM

I was privileged to see Ewan & Peggy at the Singers Club many times and was often spellbound when he sang, particularly when he performed ballads. For me few singers could hold one so entranced during their performance; Bill Caddock was another one when he sang his own compositions. Likewise with Ewan he sang self-penned songs the way he wanted to and whether someone else sang them differently or 'better' is academic.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Vic Smith
Date: 18 May 20 - 09:29 AM

"What harm in comparing ewan and jeannies version of a song, "
Jim -
I've always had a problem with this, especially after working with source-singers
They are not from our 'folkie' world - in fat they are our benefactors and we are the recipients of their generosity
I would never expect the same from them as I would from a revival singer so I would be hesitant to compare the two

Totally agree. It is like comparing an apple with an orange. They are both enjoyable fruit but they come from totally different trees

I loved Jeannies's singing but I have problems with it
Shortly after she was discovered, researchers began praising her for she slow, dignified delivery - she began to slow her songs down further to live up to the image - too slow, in my opinion
Later in life she developed asthmatic problems which created a gappiness in her singing that had not been there in the early days - (I find Jeannie's 'Gypsy Laddy an example of that)

Jeanie is one of my all time favourites and I relish the hours that I spent in her company. There is very little criticism of her that I can go along with apart from the fact that in her later years she sang her ballads too slowly. Her early recordings made by Alan Lomax are superb.

Fot me, the worst done to Jeannie's singing was when Robin Hall persuaded her to allow him to accompany her - the Collector EP just didn't work for me - a case of two worlds colliding
Now, Isabel Sutherland told me decades ago that Robin was called on to dub his accompaniment on to Jeanie's unaccompanied recordings on those two EPs. She said that Robin told her that he was being asked to do an impossible task. Why was it done? Well, an accompanied song can then be labelled Trad. arr by.... which has implications for royalties.
Who did this? Well, it was the same person who booked a studio for Isabel to record an album. When she got to the studio, she was suprised to see another prominent figure from the early revival sitting there with his guitar, Steve Benbow.
"Hello, Steve. What are you doing here?"
"I'm here to accompany your songs. I thought it had all been arranged."
"No, you're bloody not" said one of Edinbugh's finest as she stomped out of the studio.
Who was behind all this? I don't think that it would be that difficult to guess.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Phillip
Date: 18 May 20 - 09:43 AM

For me IN MY OPINION WHICH NO ONE ELSE NEEDS GIVE A STUFF ABOUT the best version of Dirty Old Town is on The Singing Streets album. I can’t get my iPad to cut and paste the url but if you search for “Ewan MacColl Dirty Old Town” it’s the one which is only 1:06 minutes in length. Unaccompanied. If I remember right, on the lead in to it on the album “they” (probably Ewan) talk about the love-struck youth walking back through the streets on his own after seeing his girl. The song was written to cover a scene change in the play Landscape with Chimneys by Theatre Workshop and this short, whistful version is beautiful.

I can’t sing to save my life, which ironic as I spent twenty years in the NHS working as a voice therapist. So, I have listened carefully to more voices than most people are ever likely to. My liking for Ewan’s voice is purely a matter of the timbre being good for me. I also prefer the sound of a Selmer Centered Tone clarinet to any other I have heard, but it doesn’t mean it’s better than all the rest. But what I can say objectively is that I know of no other singer in this genre who had more control of his voice. It was superbly flexible - from Eppie Morie to his supporting role in The Bartley Explosion to Sweet Thames Flow Softly and that strained high pitch in The Flying Cloud. His back ground in theatre and the disciplined voice work of actors added to a naturally supple vocal instrument make, for me, an outstanding singer.

Because of those years as an actor he knew how to interpret songs to bring them to life. The Dockyard Gate on one of the two Critics Group sea song albums for example. (Despite what it says on the album, I think it’s Ewan. If not it’s a great impersonation, but I am prepared to eat any one of my five hats if someone can disprove my thinking.) Or The Molecatcher on Solo Flight. Th’Owd Chap Come O’er t’ Bank. He brings the humour out of them as only an actor could.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 20 - 10:10 AM

I'm delighted to get that information - it's bugged me all my life
I couldn't agree more about those "electric" early recordings - real back-of-the-neck bristling singing
We tended to forget that
(a) These singers were used to singing in a family environment among people they were close to and
(b) many of them were past their prime and remembering songs they hadn't sung for decades
We came along with tape-recorders, quite often paused for time and asked them to perform miracles on the spot - they usually did
Some were singing songs they didn't particularly like to oblige
We found it was the second - third....visits that really delivered the gems
It's when they became close friends that you were invited into their lives and were told things that would never crop up in casual conversations
Sometimes that could cause problems - we have had conversations followed by "Don't repeat that" on a number of times
We have a song we recorded from Travellers we have never publicly used because, at the time, the couple in the song were still on the road

Source singers gave us our life-blood - sometimes their generosity wasn't reciprocated - in my opinion, few were fully appreciated
I don't think Ewan was a great collector for several reasons but I don't think I've ever met anyone who appreciated their importance as much as he did
The Scots Traveller songs and stories Ewan and Peg gathered were major contributions to my appreciation of the tradition
The Musical Traditions DVD, 'Songs of the Travelling People' should be an essential for all folkies (as should the Double 'Muckle Sangs' School of Scottish Studies albums
Jim


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 20 - 10:15 AM

That was to Vic - y the way - sorry to cut in Phillip - I go along with you say too
By the way - Ewan used Stanislavski's technique to assist in analysing songs - basically it was drawing on your own experiences and emotions to make the songs your own (as Stanislavski's actors were expected to do)
I was present several times to see the 'method' woork miracles with some singers
Jim


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: GUEST
Date: 18 May 20 - 10:22 AM

I appreciate McColl's work on many levels, including his singing. However sometimes his attempted Scottish accents are a bit unconvincing. When he sings a song from Aberdeenshire, for example, he can sound as if he's merely aping what he thinks a genuine bothy ballad sounds like, rather than finding his own voice in the act of singing it. Just my opinion.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 18 May 20 - 10:29 AM

Then I think you're listening wrong. Just my opinion.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: GUEST,Starship
Date: 18 May 20 - 10:48 AM

This is the link to the MacColl version of DOT Phillip spoke of a few posts back.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x34GQop3VaY


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 20 - 10:52 AM

Ewan didn't "attempt" a Scottish accent
He adapted what he heard at home to his singing - he probably had a Salford Scots accent as a child as many Irish kinds have say Liverpool Irish accents
What he did was use the actors technique of neutralising accents to reach a wider audience
If you have any doubts at some English audiences have I suggest you look up Bozo's comments of not understanding Dick Gaughan on the Doran thread
It can be a problem but, in my experience, the English are worse that the French are supposed to be for inflexibility when it comes to accents
I once saw Matt MacGinn play Macbeth's gatekeeper at the Edinburgh Festival - bloody hard work
Ewan was desperate to have the ballads accepted so he compromised - and gave us 175 Child Ballads with numerous versions
It worked for me
Jim


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: GUEST
Date: 18 May 20 - 11:38 AM

Thanks for your reply. I just think that the best traditional singers assimilate material to their own style. For example, the Stewarts of Blair had many Irish songs in their repertoires but would have adapted them to their own Perthshire Traveller style rather than putting on Irish accents.

I believe that McColl's family roots were in Auchterarder. The Perthshire speech is obviously very different from Aberdeenshire, especially when filtered through Salford.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 20 - 12:04 PM

"I just think that the best traditional singers assimilate material to their own style"
Ewan always made the point that he wasn't a traditional singer and his songs were't folk songs
I know he picked up songs from both parents (I was told by someone who knew both in the early days) but I don't think there were many that he didn't fill in and adapt from books
Who doesn't do that ?
I'm from Liverpool and had (and sometimes have) a broadish Scouse accent what do I do - I wouldn't sing most in a Liverpool accent - ballads would probably sound ridiculous   
I sing quite a few Irish songs but would rather have my fingernails torn out than try an 'Oirish accent'
What do I do ?
Many singers I knew way back were teachers who needed to loose most of their own accents to hold down their jobs - do they sing everything in Standard English ?
We all adapt to the song to some degree ot another
With Ewan, this wasn't a reviival thing - it was happening far earlier


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 20 - 12:12 PM

Sorry prem. ejac. again - the 'find' button is too near the 'send one - what I triied to end with is this;

MacColl had been out busking for pennies by the Manchester theatres and cinemas. The songs he sang were unusual, Scots songs, Gaelic songs he had learnt from his mother, border ballads and folk-songs. One night while queueing up for the three-and- sixpennies, Kenneth Adam had heard him singing outside the Manchester Paramount. He was suitably impressed. Not only did he give MacColl a handout; he also advised him to go and audi¬tion for Archie Harding at the BBC studios in Manchester’s Piccadilly. This MacColl duly did. May Day in England was being cast at the time, and though it had no part for a singer, it certainly had for a good, tough, angry Voice of the People. Ewan MacColl became the Voice, a role which he has continued to fill on stage, on the air, and on a couple of hundred L.P. discs ever since.
Jim


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 May 20 - 12:14 PM

Whoops again - from 'Prospero and Arial' by Douglas Bryson - an account' of Ewan's 'discovery' by a BBC man in 1934
Jim


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: DonMeixner
Date: 18 May 20 - 12:51 PM

My only experience with Ewan MacColl out side of others doing his songs was a live concert he and Peggy Seeger recorded. It was shortly before his death and I heard it on National Public Radio. I recall being impressed with his vocal power. I additionally like the apparent lack of affectation in his and Peggy's voices. I don't know if he assumed accents or not.    If what I heard that day was typical of the performer I was quite pleased. This was the first time I heard The Big Hewer, The Manchester Rambler(?), and Tim Evans.


All of the rest of the show was familiar material but from the voices of others. MacColl and Seeger's being sources gave me a different feel for the songs. Not better or worse but different. What was always apparent was the quality in the writing. Also impressing was that they just sang the songs with minimal instrumentation. MacColl and Seeger where lyricists after all and I was listening to the words of the songs. There is was the power in the perforance


Regards Dirty Old Town, I have heard many versions, some just now on YouTube. Most are adequate, some are awful in the attempt by the performer to be current, one or two are really good. My favorite was done by Luke Kelly and The Dublineers.

Don Meixner


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Phillip
Date: 18 May 20 - 01:01 PM

Many singers adopt accents. The great Ellie Greenwich spoke and sang in different American accents. So did the Shanghai-Las. And that great Australian singer Bert Lloyd occasionally tried an English accent, or indeed accents. His broad Lancashire accent is particularly unusual. And of course people absolutely pan the old ocker for doing things like that. Don’t they?


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: RTim
Date: 18 May 20 - 01:17 PM

When I started singing folk song, Ewan's voice certainly impressed and influenced me. I have always admired the pace and clarity of his singing. As to Accent...I do not like it when singers put on a false accent,.ie. one that was not their own.
I never had a problem with Ewan...but if I were going to sing one of his songs that had the Scot's Twang...I would Anglicize it......

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 May 20 - 03:28 PM

I do not like the sound of his voice when he is singing trad songs, neither do i think he was outstanding when it comes to interpreting story ballds.
I was once travelling back from a festival with a well known revival singer[who has since died], i asked him about Ewan[ not specifically about his singing] HE STARTED TO TALK UNPROMPTED ABOUT HIS SINGING. he said that the first time he sawEwan he sang tifties annie and it was fantastic, so he went back to see him two weeks later, but was hugely disappointed because he sang the song in exactly the same way. i have a witness to this conversation who is still alive.
i think waht he was getting at was that Ewans approach was a crebral one that he was not a natural singer and that singers should be able to interpret differently every time. i am sorry if this upsets you jim, it does not make Ewan a bad singer, his presentation was excellent and he was very professionalbut there are other singers i would prefer to listen to maybe it is their voice, martyn wyndham read springs to mind


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 May 20 - 03:50 PM

I've always had a problem with this, especially after working with source-singers
They are not from our 'folkie' world - in fat they are our benefactors and we are the recipients of their generosity
I would never expect the same from them as I would from a revival singer so I would be hesitant to compare the two
Totally agree. It is like comparing an apple with an orange. They are both enjoyable fruit but they come from totally different trees quote vic smith
not so, they are two people singing a tradtional song, both singing in fact the same song. where is the logic in vics statement is he going to tell me that you cannot compare the wilson family with the copper family because one are source singers and the other are revival singers


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 May 20 - 03:52 PM

Are talking about singning?or how the people learned the songs, so we cannot compare because they learned the songs differently, or are we judging singing


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan's singing
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 May 20 - 03:57 PM

Probably most people these days would far prefer Jeannie Robertson's version of any song to MacColl's. History has moved on; the rationale for most of MacColl's work was moving folk material onto the (Brechtian) theatrical stage, or into projects like the Radio Ballads that derived from (Brechtian) theatre. So if his singing sounds stagey, that wasn't a problem at the time - music for the stage OUGHT to sound stagey. Problem is, that whole art form - theatre showcasing folksong as an expression of working-class creativity - is dead; the community theatre things I took part in 20 years ago were its last gasp, already degenerating into shows that depended on special effects to hold an audience. Present-day performers have no use or audience for its conventions and techniques. Whereas going back beyond MacColl to people like Robertson, who had quite different reasons for performing and adopted different ways of getting the songs across (usually aimed across a kitchen rather than at the back rows of an auditorium) is more likely to be useful to a present-day performer. MacColl is simply a piece of history rather than a living force, and no more relevant than a music-hall star of a century ago.

I have a lot of MacColl recordings and hardly ever listen to them. They make me feel like Queen Victoria being lectured at by Gladstone.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan MacColl's singing
From: GUEST
Date: 19 May 20 - 02:10 AM

I think Peggy Seeger is a far more talented singer.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan MacColl's singing
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 19 May 20 - 02:15 AM

Since when did Bert Lloyd become an Australian Phillip ?

He's English for fucks sake.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan MacColl's singing
From: Phillip
Date: 19 May 20 - 02:33 AM

Exactly.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan MacColl's singing
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 May 20 - 03:14 AM

"Probably most people these days would far prefer Jeannie Robertson's version of any song to MacColl's"
A presumption hardly backed up by fact Jack - not sure who "most people" refers too anyway
The decline in the popularity of folk song gives us no picture of who is listening to who or what anyway
I did a quick search to find what MacColl albums I didn't have recently and was surprised to find how many were still available and how many had been re-issued - staggering
I don't know of another folk artist who has remained as popular and still remembered - and still available as he is

Here in Ireland, where the tradition is experiencing a renaissance, MacColl is highly respected by oldies and youngsters alike - his songs are sung by Traveller kids busking on the street and around the pubs and in sessions - most interesting, you can hold a conversation about him without having to clamber up the 'name change, war-record, accent, 80 year old politics' mountain of garbage - people want to discuss his singing and politically, they regard him as a humanist and righter of wrongs rather than 'a Commie'
I have always found it far easier to discuss Ewan with youngsters than with 'people of a certain age' - they don't carry the baggage we do - hopefully, it the irrelevant nonsense will disappear when we do and people will be allowed to discuss artists for their artistry

As far as this song is concerned - Dick's example was recorded in 1957 on one of the albums Ewan would have cringed to hear played again
I had just left school at the time, some here wouldn't have been born - hardly a fair example of a singer who was still finding his feet in a music scene he and Bert and all the other targets abuse were beginning to create that was to give so many of us so much enjoyment, and continued to enthrall audiences for another three decades   
If I remember right, Ewan sang four versions of this ballad - he often did this in his explorations of what he described as "The high-watermark of our singing tradition"
We have them all here somewhere, but this is the one I find MOST TYPICAL
Jim


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan MacColl's singing
From: Phillip
Date: 19 May 20 - 03:21 AM

“Probably most people these days would far prefer Jeannie Robertson’s version of any song to MacColl’s.”

If that were the case it would surely be reflected in record companies’ attempts to make money out of their recordings? Looking at what is listed on Amazon, probably these days the world’s greatest retailer and so as good a reflection of what people want to buy as any other source of data I could think of beyond a massive opinion poll, I could find twenty reissues on CD by Ewan MacColl since 2000, and only one by Jeannie Robertson, and I stopped halfway through the MacColl listings, though that was the total on all the Robertson pages. And I excluded compilations for both and the radio ballads for MacColl as that would have just increased the disparity.


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan MacColl's singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 May 20 - 04:08 AM

i think he sang his own compositions better than he did tradtional material, he was a good singer a very professional and well prepared performer, but as a song writer he was very gifted , we owe him a lot. i thnk jacks comment about his style of singing being suited to the theatre was a fair comment


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Subject: RE: Critical discussion of Ewan MacColl's singing
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 May 20 - 04:18 AM

and despite my criticisms of him, i think if he was leading the folk revival now it would have a more positive direction than the commercial direction where we hear about the latest flavour of the month, an example a recent thread where so and so is the new hope for folk music etc


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