various artists,
Guide Cats for the Blind
(Osmosys, 2003)

And now for something completely different. As you will guess from the title, this CD is not entirely serious -- but its purpose is. The double CD was released to raise funds for the British Computer Association for the Blind. It has 40 tracks of material from the mad pen of Les Barker, one of the stalwarts of the English folk scene. He has invented numerous fictional characters in what he reckons are 68 books of strange poems. This is a Spike Milligan of the folk music scene.

Among the performers lending a hand we find Mike Harding, June Tabor, Cyril Tawney and Barker himself.

"Spot of the Antarctic" gives us a new slant on the race to the pole. Barker reckons it was not Amundsen or Scott but the lead dog on the sledge called Spot who marked the pole in its own way. That spectre of modern life, "Voicemail," gets the treatment with the usual "dial one for accounts, etc." A similar tale takes place on the track when Barker re-writes "Ancient"

Barker has an uncanny knack for picking up on the fears and worries of the ordinary punter. He takes the tune "Anything Goes" and brings us up to date on life beside a nuclear power station as "Everything Glows." Not that he only writes about modern life problems -- oh wait, he does. Even his excellent "Jason and the Arguments" transports the Greeks to modern times.

Have you ever heard of a "Stamped Addressed Antelope"? Apparently in Barker's head this is one way for that animal of the plains to avoid lions and crocodiles. In any culture based on the car there have to be traffic jams. If you listen to "Crawl of the Light Brigade," you may not enjoy the jams but you could laugh at them.

This is a CD you must hear to believe. It will help the blind but you need not buy it to be generous. Buy it to be good to yourself. We all need a laugh and over 40 tracks you will get laughs to last the year round.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 6 March 2004

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