This magnificent 72-minute compilation celebrates the iconic Battlefield Band’s induction last November into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall Of Fame (such an accolade was probably never more richly deserved…!). The Battlefield brand name has been responsible for over 30 albums, and 19 individual musicians have passed through the ranks over the course of close on half a century; amazingly, Robin Morton has had a production hand in virtually every Battlefield Band album (he’s often referred to as the “fifth member”!), and so it’s entirely appropriate that he should choose the 19 tracks for this collection.
I might venture to suggest that even the staunchest Battlefield fan is unlikely to have absolutely every album, but at the same time there can’t be anyone with an interest in Scottish folk music who doesn’t have at least some Battlefield albums in his/her collection – and it’s a fair bet that they’re taken down from the shelves pretty frequently. This is a measure of the band’s wide-ranging influence and reputation, their guarantee of unstinting quality and musicianship and their role as Scotland’s foremost musical ambassadors over an astounding timespan. There’s no way that I can name every track on this disc, but I’ll probably end up naming every musician who plays. Some of them, of course, have departed the band’s ranks, or else (sadly) passed away. But every single contribution has been noteworthy, and Robin has set himself an unenviable task in restricting his “personal highlights” compilation to just one single disc, albeit a generously filled one.
So I’ll just lead you through a few stats, then: represented here on this (characteristically) roughly equal spread of vocal and instrumental tracks we find one taken from each of 16 different albums, topped up with an additional selection from three of these (Leaving Friday Harbour, Battlefield Band and Home Is Where The Van Is). Long-term Battlefielders Alan Reid, Alasdair White and Mike Katz are inevitably the principal constants, while other musicians playing more than an occasional part include Brian McNeill, Ged Foley, Duncan MacGillivray, Sean O’Donnell and Alistair Russell; there’s headline contributions from Davy Steele, John McCusker, Iain MacDonald and Ewen Henderson and special “spotlight” turns from Karine Polwart, Sylvia Barnes, Jen Clark, Jamie McMenemy, Dougie Pincock, Pat Kilbride and John Gahagan. That’s one hell of an exhaustive list – so I hope I’ve missed no-one out!
I’m convinced that every one of these recordings could legitimately be described as iconic in its own way. Simply, this is barely scratching the surface, but still the cream of a very creamy crop. The digi-package is a model of informative economy too, with simple foam centre-mount for the disc itself and full track-by-track personnel and discographical listing printed on the inside.
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