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ALLAN TAYLOR - Down The Years I Travelled ...

ALLAN TAYLOR - Down The Years I Travelled ...
Stockfisch Records SFR357.9013.2

I often wonder what would have happened if Allan Taylor had been born not with a musician gene, but with the gene of a painter instead.

What style of art would he adopt?

Methinks he would steer well clear of being an Abstract painter: he never wants his audience to have to guess at his meaning. But by the same token, naked Realism surely would not be his bag either: yes, he'd be drawn to showing people as they really are, but Realism could never quite deal with people's nuances. And to Dr Taylor, nuances are at the very core of things.

No, it's not rocket science: it's obvious that he'd be an Impressionist. For Impressionism was not heavy on detail, but was all about catching the mood. And that's pretty much what one can say about almost every Allan Taylor song. For instance, he has a particular penchant for songs that give one a view of the more mundane side of his life as a troubadour: and on this double album we have examples. And remembering that Impressionism is all about making things look “shimmering”, there is nobody better than Allan Taylor for catching the shimmering of reflected car tail lights on wet roads (seen through steamy windows and a miasma of cigarette smoke, whilst sitting in bars in various places in Europe).

But don't look to Allan if you want songs with a beginning, a middle and an end. They are not his speciality. Instead, he will usually give you a glimpse of the truth, as he sees it.

This double CD features Allan with a stellar list of musicians, too numerous to list here, but from whom Mike Silver stands out with his sheer musicality and harmony vocals. It is a collection of songs from Allan's albums from 1982 to 1995, with one new song especially written for the project. The songs have been re-mastered by Stockfisch Records in Germany, and the resultant production is of High End quality. The presentation booklet is a joy to behold: it is more “book” than a booklet, and houses the two CDs. No expense spared here, folks. It oozes quality, and is a joy to hold, let alone read.

The tracks contain true gems like Jimmy's Song and Come Home Safely To Me, but if it is Allan's Greatest Hits you are looking for, you won't find them here.

What you will find are a selection of songs that are reasonably successful in holding your interest and capturing something of the essence of the subject - like his tribute songs to his friends Derroll Adams and Alex Campbell - even if some of us might have hoped that those two giants would have warranted bigger songs.

That said, Allan's melodic voice and assured guitar style fit these low-key observant numbers like a glove. Every Allan Taylor fan should want this double CD, and many non-fans should consider buying it, as I reckon that his understated style would charm them, even if for such a melodic singer, some of the melodies of these self penned songs are a little bit lacking in memorability for me.

And that understatement strikes gold with the standout track of the whole album, on CD2. It is a riveting version of Dylan's Don't Think Twice It's All Right. A song I have heard a thousand times, yet he makes it sound as fresh as a daisy. He goes straight to the gently beating heart of it. I will let Allan's own words explain:

“This particular recording was not meant to be part of the album; I simply played it while I was waiting for the sound engineer to organise the equipment. I did not realise that he had the tape recorder on “record”, and hence it was recorded. We added nothing to it – it was one of those special moments that can sometimes happen on a recording when all of the elements come together at the same time.”

Let's have many more such “accidents” please!

Dai Woosnam


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This album was reviewed in Issue 94 of The Living Tradition magazine.