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David Kidman of fRoots

reviews Time to Rise by Crows

Crows were a popular feature of the folk scene for just a decade, from 1977 to 1987; during this time, they made only two LPs, in 1981 and 1986 respectively, but they also underwent a number of personnel changes along the way. WildGoose’s self-confessed “unashamed trip down memory-lane” results from a conversation at Sidmouth Festival in 2014 following the partial re-formation of the group to perform a couple of songs at the Ralph Jordan Memorial Concert.

Eight of the CD’s sixteen tracks are live recordings made during 1982/ ’83 for radio (Bournemouth and Oxford) but never broadcast; of the remainder, six are drawn from Crows’ eponymous 1981 debut LP (which captures the line-up on the cusp of John leaving to join Kitsyke Will and Dave Bordewey arriving) and two from its successor, 1986’s No Bones Or Grease. Crows could be (and were jokingly) described as a folk supergroup of their time; they were formed as the result of a meeting between two duos, Mick Ryan & John Burge and James Patterson & Ralph Jordan (who were then known as Silas) at Benfleet’s Anchor Folk Club.

Although Crows included in their ranks some highly proficient instrumentalists, their principal strength was in their harmony vocal work, as you can hear on a cappella tracks like Moreton Bay and Northfields (from the first LP) and on fully-accompanied items (from the radio sessions) alike. The sterling tones of Mick Ryan (always one of this nation’s finest singers) are a constant, and unmistakable even at this remove, and he evidently exerted a considerable influence on the group’s already exemplary choice of material by the introduction of items from his own repertoire such as Factory Girl and several self-penned songs including Time To Rise (a reworking of the Ballad Of George Barnwell set to Bizet’s L’Arlésienne prelude) and an early appearance of folk-opera number The Antelope. The group’s versatility is fully showcased on the radio sessions, which tackle anything from uncommon traditional to classical to Laura Nyro!

Although a compilation, this release undeniably transcends ‘And The Rest’ coverage on the grounds of its importance, for it gathers together a host of rare and hitherto unavailable recordings of truly top-notch quality (and superbly remastered) by a key outfit whose contribution to the 1970s/ ’80s folk scene was considerable.