William D Drake – Revere reach (Onomatopoeia Records)
A wonderful return for ex-Cardiacs man William D Drake joined by friends from North Sea Radio Orchestra and Stars in Battledress among others, combining folk threads with medieval, British dancehall, sea shanties and avant garde musics.
You’ll be hard pushed to restrain yourself when you hear opener ‘Distant buzzing’ with an irresisitible stomping rhythm lead by a winning sax honk and endearingly antique lyrics by Mr James Kelsey-Fry.
Thereafter, enjoy the shanty swing with melodica of ‘Lifeblood’, the startling slave mutiny anthem ‘Heart of oak’ and the meditative medieval choral atmosphere of ‘Be here steryear’ with Drake’s constantly searching wrongfooting piano chords.
‘The Catford Clown’ comes on like a modern day madrigal, twirling melodies and undefined time signatures, until the breakdowns near the end which countenance heavy metal. By flirting with the spectre of ‘the novelty song’ the scathing satire of the lyric and wonderful instrumental technique are thinly and briefly disguised making for a most satisfying reveal.
Drake also does ballads brilliantly. There is the plaintive tone of ‘In converse’, more circling piano accompanied by wistful clarinet and Andrea Parker’s beautifully pure and unfussy vocal delivery. And the title track, possibly the most conventional song in this set, another handsome piano tune with swells of melodica behind a melody bordering on tragedy.
Throughout we find a slightly loopy strain of recognisably English eccentricity. As here, “a bail of straw in human form”, the unlikely but memorable paean to a scarecrow which is ‘A husk’. Loopy maybe but always from the heart which is a combination guaranteed to touch yours.
An inspiring collection of songs from a corner of pop music we should all treasure.