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Archie Fisher Archie Fisher
Album: Orfeo
Label: Chariot
Tracks: 14
Website: http://www.gonzomultimedia.co.uk

This early Archie Fisher album (his second solo LP) came out on Decca in 1970, following on from Thro' The Recent Years and (although billed as a solo album) featuring Barbara Dickson on some backing vocals together with Rab Noakes and Bill Kemp who had both appeared on the earlier set. It presents just eleven tracks, of which three are traditional, one by Burns (The Silver Tassie), and the remainder either entirely or jointly penned by Archie himself.

Many of these are rather stylised, quite typical late-60s-romantic in form and conception, and tend to be saddled with "period" orchestral backings (Christy Moore has humorously referred to some of these songs as being from Archie's Andy Williams period!). But the best of them, such as From A City Balcony, have a strong contemporary-chanson ambience that's both appealing and rewarding and transcends temporal context. The traditional tracks undoubtedly come off best, limpidly scored The Norway Maid is a variant of The Great Selkie, and Tak' The Road is a jaunty mandolin-bedecked number, but the magnum opus here is undoubtedly the disc's magisterial opening gambit, the close-on-nine-minute title track.

This is a reconstruction (with the aid if Martin Carthy) of a fragment of the ballad King Orfeo, commandingly voiced by Archie to a drone-laden string-quartet backdrop: suitably impressive, this track is by any standards a hard act to follow. And it's to Archie's credit that the remainder of the album, for all its idiosyncrasies, is more satisfyingly consistent than Thro' The Recent Years.

Curiosities include the fuzz-infused trendy pop jingle of The Last Time I Saw Esau Shaw and the closing rumination Whatever Happened To Me? - both very much ensconced in the spirit of the era. No bad thing in the end… The accompanying booklet comprises a useful new biographical essay on Archie, plus the essential composition and personnel credits. A worthwhile reissue, then.

David Kidman