Album review: THE BEAUTIFUL OLD – Turn Of The Century Songs

THE BEAUTIFUL OLD - Turn Of The Century Songs

Doubloon Records [Release date 03.06.13)

Who of those baby boomers amongst us can't immediately recall the strains of the [the man on] ‘The Flying Trapeze’ – a staple on Children’s Favourites?

This loving re-visiting of parlour songs from the 1823 to 1918, many of which subsequently went on to become music hall and then radio favourites, brings back many childhood memories.  And it’s surprising just how many lines strike a chord across the 19 tracks that include contributions from the likes of Richard Thompson, Graham Parker, Dave Davies, Garth Hudson (The Band) and many more.

Perhaps not surprising when you learn that ‘After The Ball’ (1892) was the first song in history to sell a million sheet music copies (and went on to sell 5 million).  These were the multi-platinum selling songs of their day.

More than a year in the making, the era has been affectionately recreated with arrangements using only instrumentation that would have been available and used in the period.  From the elegant folk songs of the 1800s, to the more elaborate songs of the early 1900s there’s plenty that will stir forgotten memories.  The same is clearly true of the cast who turn in a spellbinding performance.

Admittedly something of a curio, it’s hard not to be sucked in by the charm of simpler days and a set that would sit particularly well next to Natalie Merchant’s Leave Your Sleep collection of children’s stories.  Or, for that matter Dave Rotheray’s quirky Life Of Birds.  It just goes to show – you can’t keep a good song down.

Mesmerising -  just like winding up and listening to your grandparent’s musical box for the first time in 50 years.  ****

Review by Pete Whalley


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

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