The Albion Band’s The BBC Sessions and Live at the Cambridge Folk Festival

cover art for The BBC SessionsChris Woods wrote this review.

It seems like every time I visit a record shop nowadays there is another Albion Band release of archived material. With these two releases there can’t be many more unreleased radio sessions in the archives.

The BBC Sessions is exactly what it says, it comprises four live sessions recorded during 1973, ’76, ’77 and ’78. The material, songs like “The New St George,” “Poor Old Horse,” and “Time to Ring Some Changes” are all known from the Albion Band’s classic early albums, but the ever changing lineup of the Albions gives them a quite different flavour here. The first session included Martin Carthy, John Kirkpatrick, Sue Harris, Roger Swallow and Simon Nicol. By ’76 everyone except Ashley Hutchings himself and Simon Nicol had moved out and Shirley Collins, Phil Pickett, Michael Gregory, John Sothcott, John Rodd, Dave Mattacks, Eddie Upton had joined the band. By 1977 another lineup had formed, with John Tams, Ric Sanders and Graeme Taylor and others joining Ashley and the faithful Simon Nicol in the now eight-piece band. It was similar to the line-up on the classic Rise Up Like the Sun album, and this is probably the same session from which “Holme’s Fancy” was taken and included on Guv’nor Vol 4. The line-up had increased to a 10-piece by the final ’78 session on the CD.

cover art for Live at the Cambridge Folk FestivalLive at the Cambridge Folk Festival was recorded by the BBC in 1977. Not surprisingly it’s a similar line up to the final session of the sessions album. The Cambridge recording unfortunately occupies only the first six tracks of the album and runs for just under 30 minutes. Again the material is not new to Albion Band fans but these tracks must rate as some of the most powerful Albion band recordings of any of the live albums released to date. I wish the BBC had kept recordings of the rest of what was obviously an amazing set. The second half of the CD is taken from a different BBC session recording and features the 1987 line-up of the band: Cathy Lesurf on vocal, with Phil Beer, Eric Hine, Martin Bell, and Trevor Foster. A very good session, but a little overshadowed on the CD by the sheer power and intensity of the Cambridge tracks.

Were it almost any other band I would tend to dismiss more live albums when there is so much live archive material of the band’s already released. The Albion Band, however, is an exception to this rule. Over the years since the early ’70s well over one hundred different musicians have played in the Albion Band, and the list of ex-members reads like a Who’s Who of folk rock music. Ashley has a unique talent at picking and mixing musicians and has pioneered so much in the folk rock field that these recordings are part of English folk rock history. The Albions, driven by Ashley Hutchings, have played such a pivotal role in the development of UK folk rock music and in the careers of so many musicians that this material deserves to be released and listened to again.

(Strange Fruit, 1998)
(Strange Fruit, 1998)

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Diverse Voices is our catch-all for writers and other staffers who did but a few reviews or other writings for us. They are credited at the beginning of the actual writing if we know who they are which we don't always. It also includes material by writers that first appeared in the Sleeping Hedgehog, our in-house newsletter for staff and readers here. Some material is drawn from Folk Tales, Mostly Folk and Roots & Branches, three other publications we've done.

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