Here we have a direct descendant of one of my other reviews. I didn’t of it until I had virtually done this one. The Home Service rose from some of the escapees after the Albion Bands greatest album (previously reviewed) ‘Rise Up Like the Sun’. John Tams, Greame Taylor and Howard Evans all played with the Albions and went on to form the Home Service.
I think I have said before that I consider John Tams one of folks greatest singers and here he teams up with the worlds greatest folk ….er brass section. What makes this record is knock out Tams tunes (4 of them) and some really superb brass and woodwind playing which I realise isn’t your usual folk rock fayre but then again this record is only a third folk rock. It is also a third traditional and a third brass virtuoso workout. It is quite unique and terribly unfashionable. It was even quite unfashionable at the time. While the charts were full of manufactured electro pop and the fashionable folk of the day was young acoustic thrash bands doing a mixture of traditional tunes but punked up to the eye balls (The Pogues, the Men They Couldn’t Hang) here was this band of incredibly talented musicians that had far more in common with Fairport and Progressive Rock.
The record starts with the title track which is a standard Tams political song of avoiding sitting on the fence. Rose of Allendale is a beautiful old English folk song covered by everyone and usually assumed to be Irish.
With Radstock Jig you get a wee taste of whats to come. The finery of their incredible brass and woodwind section dancing jigs in and out of the weaving guitar and keyboard lines. Howard Evans was a trumpeter who worked with the London Symphony Orchestra. He became the assistant general secretary of the Musicians Union and I can’t help feeling that this record reflect the miners strike at the time with its colliery band sounds at times. He and trombonist Roger Williams were in Brass Monkey at the time promoting brass folk.
Sorrow, a Tams special, with extremely sorrowful trumpet lament at the beginning is twinned with another traditional tune ‘Babylon (is Falling)’ which doesn’t sound so traditional with the folk rock feel and the rousing chorus but is apparently a traditional civil war song
The second side is a Tams sandwich. Two of his excellent songs act as the bread between what for me is the highlight of the record which is the brass/trad workout. It starts with the Duke of Marlborough Fanfare and then goes through the various stages of the Lincolnshire Posy which is a standard brass piece incorporating 16 minutes of folk songs collected by composer Percy Grainger. Sounding at times classical, colliery, folk song and progressive with the interplay between brass, woodwind and keyboards and guitar this is one tour de force of wriggling musical spaghetti.
This is one of my absolute guilty pleasures because it is so unfashionable. This is a record I can’t really share with anyone but I do love it and put it on repeat plays. My copy was dirt cheap, you can tell by the state of the cover but money can’t but you love.
Here they are live. I think you will find it is a unique sound