various artists,
The King Has Landed
(Greentrax, 2002)

The King Has Landed is a fascinating concept album that collects a strong group of top-class Scottish performers and an equally great collection of songs to bring you history in music. Sub-titled "Songs of the Jacobite Risings," the CD contains songs composed at that turbulent time in Scottish history alongside new works recalling the era.

The familiar tracks mix very well with the newer works and a very important point to note is that this is not a propaganda record. All aspects are covered just as any good book of essays on history would. The bonus here is that the "essays" are sung by the very best of performers.

Artists range from the McCalmans through the Corries and Ewan McColl to the Drambuie Kirkliston Pipe Band. The latter band open and close the CD. On the initial track they are mixed with some very impressive sound effects. McColl performs a beautiful simple rendition of "The Haughs o' Cromdale" with a banjo backing. A live version of "Killiecrankie" by the Corries is a rousing track with the familiar audience participation that gives so much of the Scottish folk scene that extra dimension. The ladies are not excluded either. Heather Heywood gives a beautiful rendition of the traditional song "My Bonny Moorhen."

I was stunned by a song that was completely new to me. Alastair McDonald's track is a new composition written by Jim McClean, but is fast becoming a standard. It is a haunting but so simple song recounting the "Massacre at Glencoe." It's very power is in the slow gentle air that tells a tale full of violence, betrayal and terror.

The modern songs like "The Summer of '46" are fantastic story-songs that have listeners lost in the tales they tell. This particular track is a classic of the genre. It tells an old tale but at times it seems to be talking to people in the 21st century.

The 18-track CD closes with the pipe band playing "Will Ye No Come Back Again." With the quality of writing and performing here I will be back again and again.

This CD contains songs that any lover of Scottish folk music will already own, but there are other gems here as well. Even if you have 50 percent of these songs on other albums, this CD is worth investing in to bring the music of the period together. An added bonus is the superb packaging. The insert booklet is a treasure trove of information on the songs and the history of the period with a very attractive cover picture.

I wish this label or another would follow though and compile similar albums on other periods of history and countries. It would be a beautiful method of teaching history and provide very worthwhile souvenirs of any country for visitors.

I thoroughly recommend this CD.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 14 September 2002