A folk-rock supergroup of sorts, The HOME SERVICE were instigated from stray former members of The ALBION DANCE BAND, namely John Tams (also ex-MUCKRAM WAKES), BILL CADDICK and ex-GRYPHON-ite Graeme Taylor. Presenting other acolytes, Michael Gregory, Malcolm Bennet, plus BRASS MONKEY alumni Roger Williams and Howard Evans (trumpeter Colin Rae left in 1980), the ensemble abandoned the moniker The First Eleven, mainly due to the depleted 7 or 8-piece line-up.
With a few personnel tweaks along the way (Jonathan Davie, another GRYPHON refugee superseded Bennet and Steve King was introduced), HOME SERVICE went from appearances at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1982 into bona fide album recording artists; the eponymous THE HOME SERVICE (1984) {*6} met with favourable reviews. The addition of neo-classical saxophonist Andy Findon (and guest singer LINDA THOMPSON), their work for National Theatre project THE MYSTERIES (1985) {*6} was brought to life for an album.
Disgruntled by their lack of live appearances, CADDICK resumed his solo career in 1985, leaving the band to piece together album number three, ALRIGHT JACK (1986) {*7}, a record based around a half a dozen Percy Grainger folk songs side by side with traditional tunes; John Tams compositions `Sorrow – Babylon’, `Scarecrow’ and the title track came off best. With JOHN TAMS bailing out for solo work and the rest of the group concentrating more on other outsider projects, the group split. A reformation for the Hokey Cokey charity set `All Through The Year’ in 1991, led HOME SERVICE (without TAMS) to try once more, but after several live shows with CADDICK up front, they called it a day again; the concert album WILD LIFE (1995) {*6} – recorded in ’92 – marked these events. Now without newcomers, ranging from accordionist Alan Dunn and drummer/percussionists Ralph Salmins and Sebastian Guard, the group folded.
In 2011, HOME SERVICE resumed transmission when Tams led the band out at concerts; Paul Archibald (trumpet, flugel horn) superseded Evans. As time passed, Jon Davie booked his flight to emigrate to sunny Thailand; in 2015, his berth was filled by ex-RICHARD THOMPSON band affiliate Rory McFarlane. And downplaying the fact that Roger had made way for Nigel Barr, the genre’s biggest premier-league signing was in capturing the multifarious talents of solo singer/concertina specialist JOHN KIRKPATRICK.
Live concerts a-plenty as the 8-piece smouldered in Taylor’s studio at Morden Shoals, one was hardly expecting such tasty servings among “comeback” set, A NEW GROUND (2016) {*7}. Recalling the halcyon days of British folk-rock from the 70s (ALBION BAND et al), with that certain madrigal polka-jazz twist that so enticed fans to their mid-80s sets, Kirkpatrick was the vital spark that bolstered the likes of the sublime title track, opener `Kellingley’ and the emotive `The Last Tommy’. The jokers in the proverbial pack were the well-suited `Papa Joe’s Polka’ and the Klezmer-vs-ska-like `Cheeky Capers’, whilst social protest was in order for the angst-y `Dirt, Dust, Lorries And Noise’.
© MC Strong/MCS 2011/GFD // rev-up MCS Sep2016

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