will_plant: (Vollard)
Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys
Various Artists, Epitaph, 2006

This is a tie-in album for Pirates of the Caribbean 2, executive produced by Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski.

It has a roll call of famous rockstars, folkies and others performing their interpretations of various chanteys etc. Including Richard and Teddy Thompson, Carthys of various generations, Sting, Nick Cave, Bono, Loudon Wainwright III audibly relishing performing the very rude “Good Ship Venus”. And Ralph Steadman, yes THAT Ralph Steadman!

Some appear to ‘get it’, whatever ‘it’ maybe. Some tracks are great, some not so great but performed with gusto, some of it plain awful and impossible to listen to. Mostly the split is into folkies who are more comfortable with the material and the rockers who are trying to do new things but don’t always succeed.

One of the worst offenders is the ridiculous version of “What shall we do with a drunken sailor?” which reminds me of the old John Peel quote, “Not sure if I played that at the right speed…” It sounds like it was recorded on a reel-to-reel tape that was buried in a landfill next to industrial magnets for thirty years, dug up and then re-mastered using a wind-up gramophone.

The verison of Haul Away Joe is interesting as it builds the tempo from almost a standstill. Although, I confess that I prefer Phil’s interpretation which is energetic from the start.

Given that the sum of my knowledge regarding songs of the sea is based upon singing “What shall we do with the drunken sailor” at school, SoH's work and seeing Fishermans Friends perform on the last Albert Hall DVD, I am probably not in the best position to remark on the felicity, accuracy or otherwise of the performances here in terms of The Tradition ™. But I guess that’s not the point, when it works it works really well, when it doesn’t it doesn’t.

It reminds me a bit of a nautical themed version of the Oysterband Big Session Vol 1 album, which had plenty of good stuff and a couple of things I didn’t get on with like ‘The House Carpenter’.

Definitely worth a listen, and in these playlist editing days, keep the good bits and chuck the rest.

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May 2009

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