various artists,
Far, Far From Ypres
(Greentrax, 2008)

The Great War from 1914 to 1918 was one of the most brutal ever. Yet it has probably inspired more music than any war before or since. That war has borne a wide-ranging musical legacy, and the Greentrax label is to be congratulated on producing this double CD compilation. It is fitting that the music of and about the World War I era should be brought together now. At this point in time few if any of those who took part in that war are alive, and there might be a very real danger of losing the spirit that inspired the early volunteers to the conflagration.

On the first disc, subtitled "Songs, Poems & Music of World War I," are more than 38 tracks. We hear poems, pipe music and the songs that ordinary citizens and later the "Tommies" sang. Many are marching songs and last only 30 seconds or so. Others are the songs of the great music hall artists and give us a real flavour of the early 20th century. The offerings range from "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" through "Goodbyee" to "Flowers of the Forest."

The second disc is a compilation of 17 tracks of songs and poems about that war. Naturally Eric Bogle, writer of some of the most powerful anti-war songs of recent decades, is represented as both singer and composer. Here also we find the marvelous "Mothers, Daughters, Wives," bringing war down to street level as it recounts the suffering of the ordinary people. Dick Gaughan gives us "Why Old Men Cry" and Alan Bell recounts the life of Wilfred Owen on "Letters from Wilfred." The McCalmans contribute "Only Remembered," one of the most powerful tracks on the album.

This is a wonderful album and would be an asset in any collection whether you want to express disgust at war, try to understand the participants or just want to hear old, old favourites by new singers.

review by
Nicky Rossiter

16 May 2009

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