Peter Bellamy iTunes Tracks

Peter Bellamy

Following in the footsteps of folk singers A.L. LLOYD, EWAN MacCOLL and The COPPER FAMILY, Peter maintained English folk tradition while others chose the folk-rock route.
Born 8 September 1944, Bournemouth in Dorset (but raised by a farm foreman in and around Wells-Next-The-Sea in Norfolk), the man with the voice rose to prominence when performing a cappella with The YOUNG TRADITION (alongside Royston and Heather Wood) in the latter half of the 60s.
In 1968, BELLAMY released two LPs for Transatlantic splinter Xtra Records: MAINLY NORFOLK {*6} and FAIR ENGLAND’S SHORE {*7}. Both of these sets featured songs from the pens of long-gone Norfolk balladeers HARRY COX and SAM LARNER, the second expanding BELLAMY’s horizons by featuring traditional tales including `All Around My Hat’, `You Gentlemen Of England’ and `The Jolly Roving Tar’.
THE FOX JUMPS OVER THE PARSON’S GATE (1969) {*6} saw BELLAMY accompanied at times by concertina, other augmentation coming from fiddler BARRY DRANSFIELD (on `The Little Black Horse’, `The Barley And The Rye’, etc) and harmony vocal from Chris Birch (on `Here’s Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy’, `Warlike Seamen’, etc.). Only in his mid-20s, Peter sounded as aged as his beloved 18th-century purist pioneers, although his long blond locks were indeed contrary to this belief.
Described as a collection of songs from the “Puck” stories by Rudyard Kipling, OAK, ASH & THORN (1970) {*6} was his first of three LPs for Argo records. With the aid of the DRANSFIELDs again (plus Royston and Heather), the set combined all BELLAMY’s usual traits of ye olde vox and Anglo concertina. Bypassing collaboration concert set, WON’T YOU GO MY WAY? (1972) {*5}, recorded June ’71 with LOUIS KILLEN in front of an invited audience at the Folk Studio in Norwich, his follow-on “Puck/Kipling” album, MERLIN’S ISLE OF GRAMARYE (1972) {*6}, kept the tradition a-flowing. Together with folk luminaries NIC JONES, DOLLY COLLINS, DAVE ARTHUR, Dik Cadbury, Chris Birch, et al, BELLAMY’s arrangements of Kipling’s playful dirges (from `Puck’s Song’ to `Song Of The Red Warboat’) were indeed inspirational.
In 1975, two solo LPs saw light; the first was the eponymous US-only, PATRICK SKY-produced import on Green Linnet, PETER BELLAMY {*5}, the next a first for Bill Leader’s Trailer records, TELL IT LIKE IT WAS {*6}, featuring some of the same tracks. The latter (with Chris Birch also in tow) marked a diversion from his previous deliveries, comprising as it did traditionally-led tunes alongside renditions of AL STEWART’s `Nostradamus’ and Alex Glasgow’s `All In A Day’.
With yet another poet-meets-trad LP on show, PETER BELLAMY Sings The BARRACK-ROOM BALLADS Of RUDYARD KIPLING (1977) {*5}, it was clear the folk genre needed a good kick up the backside – so to speak; punk-rock had killed off ye olde folk fogeys in one fell swoop.
THE TRANSPORTS (1977) {*9} – A Ballad Opera by Peter Bellamy, was arguably the kick it needed. Arranged by DOLLY COLLINS (with a who’s who of folk talent on board: MARTIN CARTHY, NIC JONES, JUNE TABOR, DAVE SWARBRICK, A.L. LLOYD, Vic Legg, CYRIL TAWNEY, MIKE WATERSON, NORMA WATERSON and Martin Winsor), Peter recreated the story of two 18th century English convicts, Henry Cabell and Susannah Holmes, bound on the “first fleet” to Australia. The world of dinosaur prog-rock had had its fair share of the good old double-album concept set, but for sea-shanty folk-music the idea was relatively new by comparison. It also proved that BELLAMY was not only a singer/composer, but also a musicologist/folklorist, like the aforementioned LLOYD before him.
Taking the main roles of Henry and Susannah, the voices of The WATERSONS were indeed the highlight on this good shipment (examples: Norma’s `I Once Lived In Service’, Mike’s `The Black And Bitter Night’ and the pair’s `Sweet Loving Friendship’), while folk-newbie TABOR shines out melancholically on `The Leaves In The Woodland’. Instrumentally, the fiddle of SWARBRICK complements all `Henry & Susannah’ cues, while the bawdy theatrical feel of the set is created ironically by LLOYD on `The Robber’s Song’ and TAWNEY’s rollicking sing-a-long, `Roll Down’.
Garnering a wide variety of traditional treasures from time immemorial, BELLAMY surpassed many expectations with his inaugural release for Topic Records, BOTH SIDES THEN (1979) {*7}, one supposes a medieval play on words on JONI MITCHELL’s similarly-titled song; one will never hear anywhere else the time-capsule readings on show here. Unfairly one thinks, BELLAMY spent the 80s promoting his Anglo-fied heritage dirges over the Big Pond, while some of his releases in England were limited and rare, and sometimes issued only on cassette; namely MARITIME ENGLAND SUITE (1982) {*6}, KEEP ON KIPLING (1982) {*6}, FAIR ANNIE (1983) {*6}, SECOND WIND (1985) {*5}, RUDYARD KIPLING MADE EXCEEDINGLY GOOD SONGS (1989) {*5} and SOLDIERS THREE (1990) {*5}. SONGS AN’ RUMMY CONJURIN’ TRICKS (1992) {*7}, was one of the first records on the fledgling Fellside imprint, however it saw release just several months after BELLAMY’s tragic suicide on 24 September 1991.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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