THE HALLIARD - The Last Goodnight!

The Last Goodnight!
Olde Musick Records OMMCD05

A real historical artefact, this, as it contains some long-thought-lost recordings which have recently surfaced, and whose provenance requires a little explanation. If last year you purchased the recently-republished 'Halliard: Broadside Songs' book you'll have learned that the Halliard (Dave Moran, Nic Jones and Nigel Paterson) had in 1968, as part of their original deal with Saga Recordings, been permitted to record demos of fifteen English broadsides in readiness for a projected future release. Although Dave had kept the master tape safe, shortly afterwards the Halliard itself were no more; thus that tape lay gathering dust, coming to light again only last year during a house clearance. The recordings have now been remastered by John Bushby, taming the original "artificial" stereo image, and they now sound pretty good for their time. And for the most part, the singing and playing therein has a tremendous vitality.

Of the fifteen tracks, ten comprise settings of the original broadsides to tunes by Nic and/or Dave, and excellent these are too - not in the least dated. All are interesting at the very least, and some - Nic's intriguing and unusual new melody for 'Death Of Nelson'; the tricky metre of his 'Bold Captain Grant'; the gentle resignation of 'Sad Lamentation Of John Kington' (reminiscent of Paul Simon!); Dave's admirably lusty 'Turpin's Bonny Black Bess' and 'With Wellington We'll Go' - make for particularly satisfying listening. The remaining five of the 1968 tracks are renditions of songs which fitted the character of the urban broadside and (typically) the overall theme of the collection, in that all the songs deal with the heroic or the villainous. This latter category includes 'Wild Colonial Boy', 'Ballad Of Dick Turpin', 'Patrick McCaffery' and Ewan MacColl's 'Ballad Of Timothy Evans'; it allows the disc to lead off with a set of better-known material, but this may be a mistake as I feel the first four of these are the least successful in terms of the treatments (or perhaps it's that the songs are over-familiar or that I just don't respond to the songs themselves).

Finally, as an addendum to the fifteen tracks from that 1968 tape, The Last Goodnight! presents three tracks recorded earlier this year: one ('Rakish Young Fellow' sung by Nic with Graham Hodge playing the guitar accompaniment, and the remaining two sung by Dave with John and Malcolm Bushby accompanying. These final three tracks complete the audio versions available of the entire canon of broadsides featured in the aforementioned book. All told, this is an essential acquisition for admirers of Nic Jones and The Halliard alike, with honest and vital performances that transcend historical-artefact value.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 71 of The Living Tradition magazine.