Hebe Music HEBECD002
When I first heard Flowers & Frolics in 1976 I was knocked out by the sound, the lift and sheer enjoyment of dancing to them. I booked them for a ceilidh at NTMC in January '77 and with Hugh Rippon we had a memorable evening. We duly bought Bees on Horseback later that year, learnt the tunes and never looked back.
This CD is a strange affair. It is neither a re-issue nor a new release, but a combination of re-recording material that was on Bees on Horseback and new material. The line up is the same (including Bob Davenport) with the addition of Peta Webb, and Graeme Smith for the Aussie content.
Out of 17 tracks 6 are re-recordings, 7 are new and the remaining 4 have some new tunes mixed in with originals or a different singer.
The sleeve notes contain a 4-line history of the band. The reunion that produced this disc was neither possible nor indeed proper, without Graeme Smith, a founder member who is now living in Australia. Graeme came back, Bob Davenport and Peta Webb joined in and the re-union took place.
On the reverse side of the sleeve are over a dozen photographs of 'Flowers' both old and new (one looks like a Goon Show recording) plus some memorabilia items - how little we worked for in those days!
My preferences on this disc are for the songs. The magnificent Two Little Girls in Blue is a joy to listen to. The song flows beautifully, the accompaniment fitting well with the voice. Peta Webb's singing gets even more satisfying as the years go by.
I have always enjoyed Bob Davenport's singing. His ability to sing almost any sort of song from within the musical spectrum. The Kinks Sunny Afternoon, despite a shaky start from the reeds, is thoroughly enjoyable. A jazzy banjo beat, classic pop song, the slightly detached manner of singing, conjure up a picture of the classic Bob Davenport performance. Even the electric guitar is right here.
After You've Gone doesn't work so well as it should. I think it is pitched a bit low for the voices. The backing is mushy, and would have benefited for a different balance with more separation between the concertina and the other instruments. Some odd passing notes from the tuba both rhythmically and in pitch make this one of the least successful of the song tracks.
Martin on the other hand I thought was sung and played very well. It is a new song to me (I live a sheltered life) and Tom Robinson has pleased me. The song flows along, telling a story that you want to hear. The band weaves its way around the words in a musical way. The band is equally at home with The Shore of Botany Bay. A good gusty rendering which I enjoyed.
On to the dance tunes. Some work and some do not. I particularly liked the Shepton Mallet Hornpipe set. It had some of the old drive to it. It made me want to dance. However - why the Electric guitar? Intrusive and unnecessary are words that spring to mind. The Grandfather's set was foot stirring - with a nice touch from Bob substituting Euro-dollar for the Silver Dollar of the Bees on Horseback version.
I have always believed that Flowers and Frolics was a great live band. Dance music is always difficult to capture on a recording unless it is a live performance. It is never played the same two nights running. It must be particularly difficult for a band that has not played together for twenty odd years to come together and play again. One shouldn't make comparisons between this and the work that they did a couple of decades ago. However, I do find it difficult to come to terms with this CD. If I hadn't been around in the mid- seventies I may have had a different view, perhaps Flowers & Frolics legacy should have been Bees on Horseback.
Roger Grimes - 10.10.00
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