Thursday, 28 August 2008

"The Harvest Years" by SHIRLEY and DOLLY COLLINS. Traditional English Music Giants Get A Superb 2008 2CD Remastered Set On EMI.

This August 2008 EMI compilation is a long overdue reissue of all the recordings this highly revered English Folk duo made for EMI's Harvest Label in the UK (most of it in the Seventies). As their albums are extraordinary rare and valuable on original vinyl, this remastered and specially priced 2CD overhaul is to be welcomed.

Here's the breakdown:

Disc 1 (67:52 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 16 are their debut album "Anthems In Eden" issued in July 1969 on Harvest SHVL 754
Tracks 17 to 20 are four previously unreleased outtakes from the "Love, Death & The Lady" sessions

Disc 2 (73:31 minutes)
Tracks 1 to 13 are their 2nd album "Love, Death & The Lady" issued in 1970 on Harvest SHVL 771
Tracks 14 to 19 are from the "Amaranth" LP issued in 1976 on Harvest Heritage SHSM 2008
Track 20 is from the album "Son Of Morris On" by ASHLEY HUTCHINGS and Friends issued in 1976 on Harvest Heritage SHSM 2012
Track 21 is from the album "The Prospect Before Us" by THE ALBION DANCE BAND issued in 1977 on Harvest Heritage SHSP 4059

The 8-page booklet has an informed and enthusiastic essay on the Sussex sisters by DAVID SUFF - and along with TIMOTHY CHACKSFIELD - they organized and coordinated the compilation. KATHY BRYAN at EMI did the tape transfers and the sound quality is GORGEOUS - really clear, warm and full.

Shirley Collins held the lead vocals with Dolly playing flute-organ and occasional piano. The later recordings feature members of FAIRPORT CONVENTION.

It's worth noting that while some will describe this music as 'beautiful', I know others who pathologically hate it - simply can't listen to it at all. Without being the least bit flippant here, this is 'hardcore' Traditional English Folk and it's not going to be everyone's cup of Darjeeling. But, if they're prepared to give it a chance, even the uninitiated will find so much warmth and genuine heart here, because the songs are born of the real world. Most of the tunes have roots going back hundreds of years and tell of maids, family, weddings, struggle, ship life, poverty and war (one whole side of "Anthems In Eden" focuses on the women left behind as thousands of their men were slaughtered in pointless horror on the fields of France in World War I). Special mention should go to the four previously unissued outtakes on Disc 1 - they're superb and fans of the sisters will eat them up - fully formed and beautifully produced - many will wonder why they've languished in vaults unissued until now.

Dolly Collins died in September 1995; her sister Shirley received the MBE in 2007 and in 2008 was awarded the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for her contributions to English Folk music.

A typically excellent re-issue by EMI of important musical lights from England's wonderful traditional music scene. Recommended.

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