Album review: MIKE BATT – The Penultimate Collection

MIKE BATT - The Penultimate Collection

Dramatico [Release date digital 08.05.20; physical 26.06.20]

Mike Batt’s long and varied career is celebrated on this double album, which highlights his work as performer, composer and arranger. This collection features Mike Batt’s original solo material, along with his own versions of songs he wrote for other artists. There are some big names appearing across the songs including Colin Blunstone, Bonnie Tyler, Sir John Gielgud, George Harrison and Family’s Roger Chapman.

Of the songs written for other artists ‘Bright Eyes’ stands out, just as moving as the Art Garfunkel version in the vocal. ‘A Winter’s Tale’, a Christmas hit for David Essex, is possibly better than the original. ‘Imbecile’ features Roger Chapman’s distinctive vocals, whilst the duet with Bonnie Tyler on ‘Into The Sunset’ is one of those soaring ballads Bonnie Tyler does so well.

His own songs feature including ‘Summertime City’ (the theme tune to the 1970’s BBC show ‘Seaside Special’) and of course the Wombles, perhaps the act he is most associated with, especially in the UK. He was only 23 when he had the first hit as the Wombles! Three Wombles songs feature, including the TV series theme tune ‘The Wombling Song’. Listening to these again with older ears you can but marvel at the orchestration and vocal arrangements. Yes the songs have a pop friendly hook appealing to younger folks, but there is a lot going on musically too.

‘The Hunting Of The Snark’ is represented by three songs, the epic ‘The Vanishing’, which features Julian Lennon, Sir John Gielgud, John Hurt and Maggie Reilly, is a ‘must hear’.

Listening to all the songs on here you could say Mike Batt is similar to Randy Newman, maybe not a name people would know that well but play one of his songs and people will instantly recognise it.

Another interesting future compilation could be the artists he has produced and/or worked with including Steeleye Span, Justin Hayward, XTC and Katie Melua.

A perfect introduction/reminder of the breadth of work Mike Batt has written, arranged and composed. ****

Review by Jason Ritchie

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.

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