Blimey! No, really – Blimey!
GAME OF LIFE ALBUM LAUNCH
Review of gig in FATEA
On a cold, wet February Saturday morning, I made my way to Chester for the Chester Folk Survivors’ February Folk Day at Hoole Community Centre. This was the twenty eighth such Folk Day and the twenty sixth in this hospitable and, thankfully, warm venue.
The main purpose of my visit was to attend the Official Launch of the new album by Pete Morton with Full House, titled “Game of Life” [Fellside Recordings].
I am sure that Pete Morton, as “one of the best the British roots scene has produced in living memory” [fRoots], needs no introduction to readers of this magazine .However, those readers living outside the North West may be less familiar with Full House.
Full House is one of the North West’s premier folk bands, having been formed approximately thirty years ago. The band is a quintet, featuring all manner of acoustic instruments including melodeon and flute [Ian Jones]; bass and mandolin[Chris Lee]; fiddle [Clare “Fluff” Smith]; guitar [Nick Mitchell] and percussion and low whistle [Mark Woolley]. The members of Full House are all big fans of Pete Morton and they were delighted to be asked to accompany him on this new album.
Ah, yes, what about the album that is being launched here today? Well, the idea behind it is that Pete selected fifteen songs from throughout his recording career, which began in 1987, and revisited them with fresh arrangements and a consistency of sound and accompanying musicians, in the form of Full House. Having heard the album before today’s launch, I can tell you that the idea has worked a treat, as familiar songs take on a new lease of life.
Take, for example, Pete’s most famous song “Another Train”, which opens the album [and opened today’s launch show]. The new version has an almost orchestral arrangement, with flute, whistle, guitar, bass and fiddle, which adds majesty and grace to this wonderful song, which I never get tired of hearing.
In the relatively short time available [just over an hour], Pete and the band gave us another nine songs from “Game of Life” . The songs were a mixture of humorous /uptempo [“Related To Me” ; “Battle of Trafalgar”and “7 Billion Eccentrics”] and serious [“Disobedience”- detailing the history of peaceful protest, with superb accompaniment from Ian Jones on piano and Chris Lee on bass, and “Shores of Italy”-about the plight of refugees, which was, remarkably, written in 2003 but is still, sadly, just as relevant today].
One of my favourite Pete Morton compositions is “Shepherd’s Song”, which tells of John Clare’s first journey to London, to meet his publisher. It is a gorgeous song and featured some lovely fiddle from “Fluff” Smith.
Another great song by Pete is the touching story of his mother’s and Father’s marriage, “The Luckiest Man”. As with “Another Train”, the song has gained a superb band arrangement, with double bass, fiddle, melodeon and percussion, in addition to the usual solo acoustic guitar . Today’s performance of this most personal song was simply superb.
The final song of the launch show [apart from the encore of “7 Billion Eccentrics”] was the penultimate track on “Game of Life”, the aptly titled “When We Sing Together”, which Pete sang with Full House’s lead vocalist Nick Mitchell. Full House regularly cover this song and Pete revealed that he had to learn their version. Chris Lee switched from bass to mandolin for this rousing chorus song and we did, indeed, all sing together.
It was marvellous to hear Pete singing with Full House accompanying him in a live setting. In the event that you do not get the opportunity to do the same, do not worry, you can still hear them together on the “Game of Life” album, which I unreservedly recommend.
(January 27, 2016)
Certain writers and singers of folk songs have that combination of lyrical perspicacity and clear-sighted delivery that set them apart from all others, the idiosyncratic Pete Morton is one of those. His songs provoke thought, stimulate inspiration and prompt revelation. That’s because he delivers messages and explores themes that everyone can relate to and does it in a way that demands nothing more than turning your ear to his perfectly placed lyrics.
Listen to albums like the inimitable ‘The Frappin’ and Ramblin Pete Morton’ and powerful ‘The Land of Time’ it’s easy to understand what I mean. With his latest album ‘Game of Life’, Morton has joined with Full House to release fresh recordings of some of his best-known songs, and the outcome, will in my opinion rapidly become regarded as a classic of English folk. The album ranges through the anticipated and much-loved gamut of Morton’s acid-sharp observations, gently sarcastic opinions and contemplative reflections … from ‘Another Train’ and the bucolic ‘Shepherd’s Song’ through the keenly discerned ‘Related To Me’and ‘Shores of Italy’ to the tender ‘Luckiest Man’ and the pin-point accuracy of ‘Two Brothers’.
‘Game of Life’ is another absorbing album in Morton’s considerable output, there’s not a moment when your attention wanders and each song takes you on another trip along travels through this life. Take the journey and you’ll love every twist and turn along the way. This time there’s also the extra musical sparkle added by his collaboration with Full House, which is evident throughout and lends much to Morton’s compositions.
Any cash left after Christmas? Buy this album.
Review: Tim Carroll
THE FOLK DIARY
PETE MORTON “The Land of Time” Fellside FECD269
The albums and live performances of Pete Morton often leave this
reviewer reaching for superlatives. In his appearances he is mesmerising and engaging; his albums demonstrate the great skill that he has in making melodies and lyrics and the frequency of his releases show him to be a prolific writer of finely honed, distinguished songs. It does not seem long since the release of The Frappin’ and Ramblin’ Pete Morton yet
here is again with another bunch of great compositions.
The themes from previous albums return; there are songs about members of his family – One Hundred Years Ago about his grandfather, My Bloomsbury Boy about his son – and the ‘Fraps’ or folk-raps with their high speed delivery of many words in Poverty Frap and Slave To The Game and others that show his on-going interest in history, politics and poets. Pete is well supported on this album by his accompanists; outstanding amongst these are the accordion and harmonica contributions from Chris Parkinson. (VS)
THE LAND OF TIME 5 stars in R2 (Rock’n’Reel) Magazine
The Morning Star
Pete Morton’s The Land of Time (Fellside Recordings) is an ambitious
and inventive record from a man not shy of ripping up the folk rulebook
and using it for confetti. Standouts are Poverty Frap and
Slave to the Game, which pinch the choruses from a Lancashire mill
lament and the old sailor-tricksprostitutestory London Town, and
use them to rail against the plight of Bangladeshi sweatshop workers
and the evils of the global sex trafficking trade.
Album: The Land Of Time
I am so glad that I got to review “The Land Of Time”, the new album by Pete Morton. I have followed Pete’s career since I first saw him at the Bothy Folk Club in about 1987. His music and approach immediately struck me as fresh, innovative and original and I still have that opinion, some twenty eight years later. For me, Pete is one of the best songwriters that the British folk scene has ever produced [and he also one of the nicest people you could wish to meet].
Pete is probably best known for writing “Another Train” but that is just the very tip of the iceberg. His fifteen [at the last count] albums are crammed full of equally great songs and this latest album “The Land Of Time” is no exception. In fact, it’s a cracking album from start to finish.
The thing about Pete’s songs is that they are full of humanity and compassion ; he is no dispassionate observer of the human condition, he lives it. One minute he can be railing against injustice in the world but at the next moment can melt your heart with a tender ballad. Both sides are evident on this new album.
Pete’s previous album was called “The Frappin’ And Ramblin’ Pete Morton”. Frappin’ is an invention of Pete’s where he takes a traditional chorus song and adds verses in a talking blues style rap. There are two examples of frappin’ on the new album.
The first is “Poverty Frap” on which Pete takes the industrial folk song “Poverty Knock” [which is about working conditions in cloth mills in the North of England in about 1900] and brilliantly transforms it into a rap about working conditions in the sweatshops of Bangladesh in the present day.
The other frap here is “Slave To The Game” which is based on the broadside “Up To The Rigs Of London Town”[which came from the repertoire of Harry Cox and was collected in 1924]. Pete brings this up to date with a chilling condemnation of human trafficking in the underworld of modern-day London. A lovely tune hides a dark message.
A very different view of London is taken in “Bloomsbury Boy”, a gorgeous ballad about a love that supersedes everything else. Equally beautiful is the title track, “The Land Of Time”, a tender song to and about his son, which I found extremely moving in the way it describes the love of a parent for his or her child.
Staying with family matters, Pete’s song “One Hundred Years Ago” tells how his great grandfather was wounded in battle in the muddy fields of the Somme during the First World War and was saved by the enemy, who could have left him dying. Pete reflects on how this act of kindness gave life to three more generations. An inspirational story, beautifully told by a master of his craft.
Only a gifted songwriter like Pete could encapsulate 200, 000 years of the history on mankind in a five minute song, but this is what Pete does in “All The Life Before”, a beautifully eloquent meditation on the evolution of humankind.
By way of contrast, in “Old Boston Town”, Pete manages to combine a rant/rap about the iniquities of the arms trade with a good old-fashioned singalong chorus [“Me and me good horse will never turn round, I’m coming preaching to Old Boston Town”].
The album ends with “Oh What Little Lives We Lead”, which starts somewhat pessimistically by listing the failures and insignificance of mankind but finishes on an optimistic note by proclaiming “Oh What Mighty Lives We Lead”.
Thus far, I have been concentrating [justifiably, I think] on Pete’s song writing rather than the musical accompaniment. I will now rectify this by saying that the playing on this album is absolutely superb. Pete and his producer Paul Adams have assembled a fabulous group of musicians who provide a wonderful accompaniment to Pete’s guitar and vocals. The players are:
Jon Brindley [guitar]; Chris Parkinson [melodeon, accordion, harmonica, piano, chorus vocals]; Ciaran Algar [fiddle, bouzouki, banjo, mandolin, chorus vocals];James Budden [double bass, bass harmony vocals] and Linda Adams [harmony vocals].
In conclusion, all I can say is that this is a wonderful album by a master songwriter and I unreservedly recommend it. Album of the year? You bet!
Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10
The poet who can grab the attention of the cynical and brow beaten is worth celebrating, when they play a song full of tranquil solitude, of observation in its purest and most delightful form, then their value is such that the world, even in the grimmest of reflections, offers a ray of light, the sparkling jewel of recognition that you are not alone in your thoughts.
In Pete Morton’s second release for the label Fellside Records, the excellent The Land Of Time, the sense of history is passed down and shared with complete honesty, a gift from the ages that the attentive lyric writer cannot help but capture and pin down. Whether in the form of a personal family saga that resonates the fortune of war, or the quiet, almost melancholic tangibility that sees the modern day excess boil over into the world of greed and want for the material good that we can live without, Pete Morton covers it all in an album that is gracious and wholesome.
The folk lyric writer might not see the poetry that flows between instrument of choice and the words so carefully placed but they certainly feel it, they understand that the world is as ashamed of its history as it requires the power of rejoicing and throughout The Land Of Time, rejoicing is what is on offer, sometimes dark, others the light shines brighter than the lamp swinging in the wild winds of a welcoming tavern during a thunder storm, rejoicing though nonetheless.
Aiding Pete Morton in the close quarter observations is Jon Brindley, Chris Parkinson, Ciaran Algar, James Budden and Linda Adams, a group placed together with the deftness of touch that resides in many but too few actually seem to hear the call without it becoming a manner of ego trip, a trip into a void in which recovery is not possible, no matter how entertaining the album.
From start to finish the album is one that really captures the imagination and whilst in some cases it would be difficult to choose the stand out tracks that make the recording such a beast of beauty to hear, songs such as the opener The Herefordshire Pilgrim, the superb subtle rant inPoverty Frap, the exceptional One Hundred Years Ago, the pace driven Old Boston Town and the simple but compelling Lucky all call out to the listener with a song in their hearts and a smile on the face of Time.
An album that exudes confidence, that maintains sincere feeling and one shrouded in the warmth of beauty, The Land Of Time is not just a recording, it is collection of poems that could rival a laureate’s time spent at the quill.
Ian D. Hall
Blimey! No, really – Blimey!