Monday, December 01, 2008

Shirley Collins & The Albion Country Band - No Roses (1971)
"When this album was first released in 1971, it was regarded as adventurous, combining a traditional English singer with 25 musicians, some from a folk background, other from the fields of contemporary rock and early music. It was an experiment which grew into a triumph, and sprang from the talents of Shirley Collins and Ashley Hutchings, both pioneers of their own right, in the first year of their marriage. Shirley, widely regarded as the doyenne of English traditional folk singers, had recorded her first album in 1959 for the highly respected American Folkways label, and subsequent albums were regarded as milestones, notably Folk Roots, New Routes made in 1964 with guitarist Davy Graham and Anthems in Eden, made with her sister Dolly in 1969 - the first album to unite traditional songs with early instruments, under the musical direction of David Monrow. Ashley Hutchings, a founder member of Fairport Convention, had left that pioneering band at the end of 1969, after recording Fairport's seminal Liege and Lief, and, still hooked on traditional music, had then launched Steeleye Span.

No Roses was the album they made together, and Shirley still remembers it with pleasure: “It was my first venture into folk/rock and I suppose initially I didn't think my voice was right for it. Whatever accompaniments I've used, I've always sung in my own style, my natural singing voice, which is an extension of my speech. So it was the arrangements that overlaid the songs that gave the record it folk/rock feel. I've always been willing to experiment providing I believe I can keep the integrity of the music intact. That's paramount. I have a great love of English traditional music, and along with it a great respect for those people of the labouring classes who kept the songs going through the centuries as their only means of expressing themselves. It is an extraordinary feat, especially as many of them were illiterate. They've never been given enough credit or respect for their art. Instead, they've been scorned, despised and largely ignored. It's one reason why I've always named my sources. I trust that No Roses had that integrity, as well as strength and beauty in some of the arrangements and a great sense of fun and charm in others.”

Looking at No Roses with the benefit of hindsight, one presumes that Ashley and Sandy (Roberton, co-producer with Hutchings) were determined to make an epic album. “No, we didn't set out with that intention, but as the album progressed, the possibilities of what we could do became more and more apparent. At the start we didn't anticipate having 26 musicians on it, but that's how it finally turned out. There was never any conflict between the Fairport people and the other musicians. They were open-minded and interested in what others were doing anyway, and there was certainly a good feeling in the studio (Sound Techniques). The place was full of people who kept dropping in and staying on and asking to play on songs - just happy to be there. Nobody seemed baffled by what anyone else was doing, just a bit bemused perhaps by the variety of esoteric instruments that were coming in and out of the studio.”

“The critical reaction was pretty good - on the whole! One or two snipers, of course.” No Roses marked the debut of The Albion Country Band. The Albion Band continues to be the name used by bands led by Ashley Hutchings, although it was a name coined for use on this album. “We realised that with all those musicians it would probably be a good idea to give them a collective name and that was the one we came up with.”

So why was there never a second album? “I had two children from my first marriage, and we'd all moved to Etchingham in the Sussex countryside. I'd been touring all my singing life, away from home too much, and I wanted to be with Polly and Robert more, so I let my own career slip a bit, for the best of reasons. Ashley had formed a touring bend with the first of many line-ups and used the Albion name, and all our efforts went into trying to keep that going. When Ashley and I eventually parted, he took the Albion Band with him. No Roses stayed with me.” (Tony Rees, liner notes)
"Shirley Collins' collaboration with the Albion Country Band for No Roses is considered a major event in the history of British folk and British folk-rock. For it was the first time that Collins, roundly acknowledged as one of the best British traditional folk singers, sang with electric accompaniment, and indeed one of the first times that a British traditional folk musician had "gone electric" in the wake of Dave Swarbrick joining Fairport Convention and Martin Carthy joining Steeleye Span. The album itself doesn't sound too radical, however. At times it sounds something like Fairport Convention with Shirley Collins on lead vocals, which is unsurprising given the presence of Ashley Hutchings on all cuts but one, and Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol on most of the selections (Dave Mattacks plays drums on a few tracks for good measure). The nine songs are almost wholly traditional tunes with Collins' arrangements, with perhaps a jauntier and folkier mood than that heard in early-'70s Fairport, though not much. It's more impressive for Collins' always tasteful smoky vocals than for the imagination of the material, which consolidates the sound of the more traditional wing of early-'70s British folk-rock." (

Shirley Collins, vocals;
Ashley Hutchings, electric bass [1-7,9], percussion [7];
Richard Thompson, electric guitar [1,5,6,7,9], lead electric guitar [4], slide electric guitar [8], acoustic 12 string guitar [3];
Simon Nicol, electric guitar [1,2,4,9], acoustic guitar [3,5,6], vocal chorus [8];
Dave Mattacks, drums [4,9], sticks [2];
Ian Whiteman, piano [1,5];
Roger Powell, drums [1,2,5-8];
Tim Renwick, electric guitar [4], acoustic 12 string guitar [7];
Lol Coxhill, alto saxophone [1];
Maddy Prior, vocal harmony [6];
Dave Bland, concertina [1,5,6,9], hammered dulcimer [2,8];
Tony Hall, melodeon [2,8];
John Kirkpatrick, accordion [3];
Dolly Collins, piano [3,9];
Nic Jones, vocals and last fiddle solo [4];
Barry Dransfield, fiddle [4], vocal chorus [8];
Francis Baines, hurdy gurdy [4];
Alan Cave, bassoon [1];
Alan Lumsden, ophicleide [5];
Steve Migden, French horn [7];
Colin Ross, Northumbrian small pipes [5];
Royston Wood, vocal [7], vocal chorus [8];
Lal and Mike Waterson, vocals [7];
Gregg Butler, serpent [8];
Trevor Cozier, Jew's harp [8]

1. Claudy Banks
2. Little Gypsy Girl
3. Banks Of The Bann
4. Murder Of Maria Marten
5. Van Dieman's Land
6. Just As The Tide Was A 'Flowing
7. White Hare
8. Hal An Tow
9. Poor Murdered Woman


Part 1__Part 2­­__Part 3

Cheerio! See ya!!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice! British folk-rock its cool! Mat

5:10 PM, December 13, 2008  
Blogger GarColga said...

Hi Mat - yeah I love this stuff. Thanks for the comment!

7:40 PM, December 15, 2008  
Anonymous Sauron said...

please re-up - Rapidshare is history

3:01 AM, April 04, 2018  

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