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TOM LEWIS - Demand Performance 

TOM LEWIS - Demand Performance 
Self-Propelled Music ASM107D 

The title of this double album reminds me of Samuel Butler’s droll observation: “Brigands demand your money or your life; women require both”. And I ponder that were Butler around today, he’d add... “as does Tom Lewis”.

Oh, the money for this 118 minutes of story and song, won’t trouble anyone: after all, it represents a bargain. But along with the purchase, comes a concomitant demand: viz. that you really live those minutes with Tom. Surrender yourself to the experience. Demand it of yourself, and you’ll be rewarded on a whole different level.

Preamble over. Disc #1 represents live concert recordings made in the USA, with marvellously receptive audiences, who don’t stint in giving their all in chorus singing and responses generally. Disc #2 is a recording made at Shoebox Studios in Newcastle upon Tyne, which sees Tom largely singing songs by other writers. Both discs delight, barring a slight hiccough on the second disc (more on that later).

We start Disc #1 with Last Shanty, of which Tom says, “I owe this song more than I can ever repay!” His pronunciation of the Polish language apart, this track also registers highly with me for his “radar” anecdote: one that never fails. And talking of anecdotes, his Stan Hugill story in the middle of Bully In The Alley, remains absolutely priceless and withstands a thousand repeats.

Disc #2 is a cornucopia of delights. Best track is Tom’s own song, Princes In The Line, which should tell John Fogerty what he could have achieved with his 1969 Fortunate Son. And Tom’s delivery of Throw Out The Lifeline does not make me pine for Ella or Mahalia, and that’s praise indeed.

The hiccough I mentioned? Well, perhaps it isn’t, for Tom sings Clancy Of The Overflow superbly. But Banjo Paterson’s poem isn’t only my favourite poem in the English language, but when set to music by John Wallis for Wallis & Matilda’s 1980 release, is darn near my favourite song of all time too. True, the Tony Latimer melody that Tom delivers here is not as plodding as Slim Dusty’s 1974 earlier tune – perhaps because it “borrows” heavily from the Wallis – but is still an unnecessary adulteration of a great musical setting. Please sing the Wallis melody, Tom.

But if you don’t heed me, who cares? The vital thing is that you keep delighting audiences as you have for over half a century.

Dai Woosnam


This review appeared in Issue 135 of The Living Tradition magazine