That time of year is once again approaching, the time when all singers and groups feel themselves obliged to contribute to the celebrations by releasing seasonal songs and carols. Johnny Coppin (ex-Decameron) made his contribution in 2004, a seven-track-CD suitably sub-titled “Seven songs and carols.”
The title track is of course “Keep the Flame,” a lovely slow song about the spirit of Christmas. It showcases Coppin’s soft, always on-pitch voice. He has a lovely tenor, maybe sometimes lacking a bit in temper, but well suited for an EP of Christmas songs. His keyboard is backed throughout by Mick Dolan’s guitars and on most tracks by Paul Burgess’ recorders and violins. On “Astrologers’ Journey” and “You Raise Me Up” old bandmates Geoff March and Dick Cadbury add harmony vocals. “Keep the Flame” sets the standard. It is followed by “Children’s Winter” by Dermot O’Reilly, a song full of references to snowmen and soft falling snow. A little livelier than the title track, but not much. “Get Me Through September” is a modern ballad, more American in its approach. As on most tracks, Coppin doubles on keyboards, playing both piano and adding string-like keyboard sounds.
“Astrologers’ Journey” holds references to the three wise men, but mentions of Iran and Iraq gives it a modern approach and make you wonder about hidden messages. “Love Came Down at Christmas” is more straightforward old-timey Christmassy song. Then, with track six, comes the real jewel of the record. “You Raise Me Up” is written by the Norwegian composer Rolf Lovlund. In Scandinavia it has already gained classic status, being performed frequently by singers in both Norway and Sweden. Coppin treats the song very well, emphasizing its hymn-like qualities. The vocal harmonies fit in perfectly. A track to play over and over again.
The end is equally joyful. “Galician Carol,” an instrumental with Burgess’s recorder in the forefront is the most uptempo tune on the album, with a slight Spanish feeling to it. A nice ending.
If you are looking for something soft and soothing to listen to while preparing for Christmas, Keep the Flame may well be what you are looking for. Clocking in at just over 28 minutes, it is a bit on the short side, but of course you can always put your CD player on repeat.
Edge of Day is an older record, with all lyrics written by Laurie Lee. Half of the tracks are Lee reading his poems, half of them Coppin singing them to tunes he has written himself. There is also the odd instrumental thrown in. The theme of the record is the changing seasons. Starting with “Spring Dawn” and “April Rise,” finishing with “Boys in Ice.” The sub-title “A Seasonal Anthology in Words and Music” is a fair description of the CD.
I must say the idea behind the record appeals more to me than the record itself. I have listened a few times, but very little sticks in my head. Every time I have played “Keep the Flame” I feel like going back to listen to it again; I do not get that feeling with “Edge of Day.” But then again, I have never been very hooked on spoken words on records, so maybe I am the wrong person to pass judgment.
(Red Sky, 2004)
(Red Sky, 1988)