This first-time-on-CD reissue is most valuable, not least because it affords reassessment of the early careers of both artists, initially fairly inextricably bound up by contract with the Decca label. Barbara's transition from singer of traditional folk songs to "showtime sensation" came three or four years after the making of this and other records with Archie Fisher, by whom she'd been captivated when playing at the Dunfermline and Edinburgh Folk Clubs towards the end of the 1960s. Archie came towards the end of the so-called "second wave", bridging the gap between Ewan MacColl, Hamish Imlach and Alex Campbell and Billy Connolly and Rab Noakes, and Barbara latched along with this, being brought on board by Archie to record an album of songs from the Jacobite Rebellions (for Bill Leader).
After which came Thro' The Recent Years, which dates from late 1969; it delivers a menu that takes its cue from then-contemporary songwriting rather than the traditional fare which Barbara had been singing around the clubs. The lead vocal duties are shared equably by Archie and Barbara, mostly in alternation between tracks, with some passages of duet (as on if I'd Stayed Around). Barbara's singing is stunning, and already displays that characteristic quality of longing in its expression, while there's no doubt that Archie and Barbara's voices sit well together. It's probably indicative of its major-label release that the album feels a touch middle-or-the-road at times, with its slightly dated orchestral arrangements on around half of the tracks, although there's some keen supporting musicianship too courtesy of Rab Noakes, Des Haldane, Bill Kemp and others. The material is well chosen to suit the voices however, and contains a number of Archie's own songs as well as covers of Dave Goulder's January Man (here a pastel-shaded chanson), John Conolly's Fiddler's Green (sensibly acoustic and refreshingly unsentimental), and Rab's chirpy opus Together Forever. This reissue sounds splendid, and the booklet presents an illuminating recent interview with Barbara, but - unforgivably - there's no information on the songs themselves, not even composer credits. In all other respects, though, a most desirable reissue of this snapshot in the early career of its protagonists.
|Dave Burland & The Awkward Squad: Okkard||Archie Fisher: Orfeo|
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