Bill Malkin & The Band Wagon: Those Glory Days

It is always a pleasure to review an album from a local singer or band, in particular one such singer you know well and can call him a friend. Having said that, I still listen to any album and give it my honest opinion and attention that that I would give to a complete stranger (artist) – this is more difficult than you can imagine.

Bill Malkin is a singer-songwriter with songs that deserve a wider audience. Perhaps one day this will happen. He is already receiving accolades from nationally noted artists such as Anthony John Clarke. I quote: “Bill Malkin possesses that all too rare gift of bringing people and history to life for us in his song writing. The articulacy with which he relates to an audience provides the perfect canvas for his work, which is well observed, intelligently written and most of all interesting for the listener.  This new collection of his work shines as Bill’s best to date. The craft of song writing is in safe hands” — A J Clarke.  

As on earlier albums, Bill has enlisted local musicians for Those Glory Days, most of whom attend the Chester folk club ‘The Raven’. They are Dave Russell, fiddle and banjo; Graham Ballinger, acoustic guitar and harmonica; Chris Lee, fretless bass guitar; Mark Wooley, percussion; Julian Pellatt, backing vocals; and John Sylvester, keyboards. They make up ‘The Band Wagon.’ Bill sings all the lead vocals and plays 6 and 12 string acoustic guitar, plus electric guitar and bass. 

So what’s on the album? Most of the songs are written by Bill with the exception of ‘Blue Bell Shuffle,’ an instrumental by John Sylvester, and ‘The Ghost of the Mary Rose’ by Nick Mitchell. All of the songs by Bill are instantly recognisable as they are written in his own inimitable style.

Once again he has produced an album with some interesting songs, as Bill pulls his influences from various sources. The opening track is a song co-written with Graham Bellinger, about HMS Birkenhead, an iron-hulled paddle steamer frigate that ran aground off the coast of South Africa in 1852, based on Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘The Birkenhead Drill’. The album title track, ‘The Glory Days,’ reflects on the decline of British manufacturing and heavy industry, in these changing times quite a relevant song.

One of my favourite of Bill’s songs, ‘End of the Road,’ about the Welsh boxer Johnny Owen, who died after his bantamweight world title fight against Lupe Pintor in Las Vegas 1980, is revisited on this album with a better musical arrangement.       

Other songs have varied themes such as the demise of Montezuma’s Aztec nation. ‘Migrant Man’ describes the hardship and humiliation of a migrant. ‘You Gotta Hear the Words’ is about Bob Dylan and the advice given to him by his mother. The final track, ‘Old Meg,’ is adapted from John Keats’s poem Meg Merrilees

I liked the album and I think most of you will too.  It is only available direct from Bill via his Web site or from Bill at his gigs.

(own release, 2011)

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