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TYKES NEWS & fRoots (David Kidman)
Album number six sees this big-hearted and enviably prolific (160 and still counting!) songsmith fast developing his craft, both in terms of writing and arranging. (And that's an objective judgement, outwith my duty to provide a disclaimer for the generosity of the credit which George bestows on me within the booklet.) Spurred on no doubt by the folk scene's growing recognition of his talent, George is now audibly taking more chances with his material, embarking carefully on ever more ambitious musical settings and structures for his songs while retaining a credible continuity of thematic concept. Even so, each song is still recognisably, intrinsically George, with that comfortable sense of conception and residence within recognisable musical traditions (here, those both of folk and pop song) counterpointed by the desire to challenge our preconceptions and philosophical parameters.
George bookends this new CD with social commentary ancient and modern: the traditional A-Begging I Will Go - the album's sole non-original - balanced by End Of The Road, which like the Streets of London of George's hero Ralph McTell, is a contemporary mirror image. He revisits his familiar theme of vocational folksong by tackling both historical (Glory Gone) and contemporary (Working Week and Last Train Home), and elsewhere ranges over harrowing reminiscence (Baba), artistic tribute (Sing To Me Angelo), and several songs on the theme of lasting friendship including at least two profoundly touching tearjerkers. And though George's geniality and lively sense of humour is compassionate, he's also entirely capable of making a barbed commentary; Anytown is a savage indictment on contemporary living and the erosion, nay destruction of traditional values (to portray which the song comes complete with some "unpleasant" electric guitar from Robb Johnson!). Landfall is a new departure, a veritable mini-suite of a song, one section of which features the voice of Mary Humphreys. Other collaborators weaving intricate strands into George's musical tapestry include Anahata, Miranda Sykes, Saskia Tomkins and Cloudstreet. And tucked in at the end there's a neatly whimsical little hidden track too…!
This is a long CD - yet it's a tribute to the diversity and consistency of George's writing that it seems not a minute too long. Even if there's often a sense that George's artistic development is proceeding so apace that he's saying that, just in case the muse were to desert him suddenly, you need to "remember him like this"!
UNICORN (Paul L)
George is a resident singer at the Herga, St Albans and Maidenhead folk clubs, and this album shows a radical departure from previous works. He has assembled a gathering of the finest musicians to accompany him on this, which has to be termed a musical adventure.
The stunning range of instruments include: cello, melodeon, concertina, small-pipes, whistles, fiddles, electric guitars and bass. George's contemporary arrangement of "A-begging I will go" works well. The other 15 songs are all self-penned and range from the man and his guitar to a calypso with steel drums on the track "Water melon seeds". Jazz, blues and rock influences are present on this album, and the collection, albeit very diverse in nature fits together well and makes for good enjoyment under George's broad and colourful umbrella. Beware the hidden track!
For those with quad surround sound systems, there are a few pleasant surprises in store!
SHREDS & PATCHES (Chris - Yorkie - Bartram)
"It's all down to Harvey," begins the sleeve-note, referring (I guess) to Mr Andrews and crediting his advice - "write what you want to write, not what you think the audiences want to hear" - as the key to George's superb song-writing. However, for me and other people of a certain age, the fact that a white rabbit features prominently on the cover and George is seen drinking some alcoholic beverage inside made me think first of that wonderful Jimmy Stewart movie featuring Harvey, the invisible giant rabbit!
Once I started listening, however, all thoughts of alcoholic fatntasists were dispelled. This is song-writing rooted very firmly in reality. George draws on his knowledge of English traditions, starting with a version of A-Begging I Will Go, followed by a great song about the nail-makers of the Midlands called Glory Gone. (Paradoxically, his Greek accent is quite strongly evident on this song yet, somehow, it does not detract from the story). On other songs, he deliberately quotes from his Greek background and Greek musical forms and still sounds English! Look up the lyrics of There Will Be Dancing for example.
"There will be dancing, kissing and romancing. There will be music and the fire bright will burn. There will be siging, bells they will be ringing. Just be there waiting on the quay when I return."
It's not just the fact that he writes in the English language, there is something deeply rooted here. Perhaps it's nothing to do with geography and more to do with the universality of the emotions and humanity. Lovely songs from a lovely - loving - singer. Ah yes, that's the point. He loves life - and writes - and sings - his love. He is backed up by a number of equally loving people including, for example, Jeff Hinds on steel drum - on a song comparing children to 'karpouzosporos', water-melon seeds. An English song based on a Greek idiomatic saying with Trinidadian accompaniment - brilliant. Very highly recommended.
Chris (Yorkie) Bartram
NETRHYTHMS (David Kidman)
Not a fez in sight, but there are plenty of fluffy rabbits adorning the sleeve of this enterprising new offering from the self-deprecating, self-styled "fat Greek" who makes himself so many friends "just like that!" wherever he performs. Album number six sees this big-hearted and enviably prolific (162 and still counting!) songsmith fast developing his craft, both in terms of writing and arranging. (And that's an objective judgement, falling outwith my duty to provide a disclaimer for the abundant generosity of the namecheck credit which George bestows on me within the booklet.) Spurred on no doubt by the folk scene's growing recognition of his talent, George is now audibly taking more chances with his material, embarking (carefully) on ever more ambitious musical settings and structures for his songs while retaining a credible continuity of thematic concept. Even so, each song is still recognisably, intrinsically (and quintessentially) George, with that comfortable sense of conception and residence within recognisable musical traditions (here, those both of folk and pop song - for George has always subscribed to the widest possible definitions of what is "folk") counterpointed by the desire to challenge our preconceptions and philosophical parameters.
George bookends this new CD with examples of social commentary ancient and modern: the traditional A-Begging I Will Go - the album's sole non-original, and in that sense a new departure for George after five albums of entirely self-penned songs - balanced by End Of The Road, which (like the Streets of London of George's hero Ralph McTell) presents through its contemporary mirror image a modern-day counterpart/depiction of the problem; it's another folk classic in the making!… George revisits his familiar theme of vocational folksong by tackling both historical (Glory Gone) and contemporary (Working Week and Last Train Home), and elsewhere ranges over harrowing family reminiscence (Baba), artistic tribute (Sing To Me Angelo), and several songs on the theme of lasting friendship including at least two profoundly touching tearjerkers (The Biggest Part Of Me and The Silence Of Friends). And though George's geniality and lively sense of humour is compassionate, he's also entirely capable of lashing out with a sensibly barbed commentary; cue Anytown, which is a savage indictment on contemporary living and the erosion, nay destruction of traditional values (to portray which erosion the song comes complete with some "unpleasant" electric guitar from Robb Johnson!). Landfall is a new departure, a veritable mini-suite in 4˝ minutes, one section of which spotlights the lovely voice of Mary Humphreys.
Other collaborators deftly weaving intricate strands into George's rich musical tapestry include Anahata, Miranda Sykes, Saskia Tomkins, the wonderful duo Cloudstreet, Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer, and Chris & Jude from Isambarde. Having mentioned that list, it needs to be emphasised that it's still George's perennially inventive guitar lines (both 6- and 12-string) that are firmly at the heart of the arrangements, any extra colours and other elements remaining at their service rather than the other way round. And the modest musicality (and yes, commendable restraint) of the arrangements ensures that the focus remains on the songs themselves - with George's own personality uppermost, naturally rather than on the personalities of other contributors. George's eclectic musical tastes have ensured his canny absorption of other musical idioms into his songs - Greek island music (There Will Be Dancing), courtly gavotte (Working Week), happy West Indian calypso (Watermelon Seeds), punky "urban folk" (Last Train Home)… Technically, perhaps some of the vocal harmonies are a tad forwardly balanced in comparison with the lead/melody line (Working Week, The Biggest Part Of Me), but this isn't as serious a criticism as it might appear. And I may have a personal quibble or two with this or that instrumental colour intruding momentarily, but it's a salutary reminder that I've been privileged to be able to follow the progress of many of the songs since initial demo stage, which necessarily gives me a biased perspective on any subsequent recorded version - after all, it's the end-product encapsulated on this on-sale CD that counts, and George and his engineer Martin Atkinson are to be credited heftily with producing a very listenable artefact. And tucked in cheekily at the very end of the CD there's even a neatly whimsical little hidden track too…!
The CD's whole presentation is eminently thoughtful in fact, and George's booklet notes are admirably informative in exactly the required manner, although it would have been useful to have identified the various duet vocalists by name on each relevant track since their individual contributions deserve to momentarily bask in the limelight and be properly recognised for their excellence. After the release of his semi-retrospective CD Ordinary Heroes in late 2004, George had quite sensibly (in his own words) "vowed not to bring another album out unless (he) felt that it would somehow add something that was not just more of the same"; hence "with innocent courage (he) took some side roads", and the result is For My Next Trick. Although it turns out to be a long CD, it's a tribute to the diversity and consistency of George's writing that it seems not a minute too long. Even if there's often a sense that George's artistic development is proceeding so apace that he's saying that, just in case the muse were to desert him suddenly, you need to "remember him like this"!
FOLK ROUNDABOUT (Joe Grint)
George Papavgeris - "For My Next Trick" CD Launch Concert -
Travellers' Studio Theatre, Harrow Arts Centre, Harrow Weald, 3rd April 2006
Here's the big man with the big tally of self-penned songs (over 160 so far, in less than five years!), who's now making a similarly big mark on folk festival and club audiences. Often dubbed "songs for tomorrow's tradition", George's material invariably celebrates traditional values; while he has clearly been inspired to a significant extent by contemporary folk songsmiths, he also draws on various other song "traditions" (chanson and even pop-song) and stylings (including those from his native Greece), and his songs always display a keen sense of structure. Whatever the idiom or musical influence, though, each song remains so quintessentially George, replete with literate yet catchy, often memorably quirky little turns of phrase and shot through with compassion and humanity. Encompassing a healthy diversity of moods and topics, quality is enviably consistent, and George proudly demonstrated this when launching his sixth CD at a full-scale concert for which he'd hired the small theatre at Harrow's Arts Centre (only yards from the room in which the famous Herga Folk Club now meets each Monday night).
However, the evening felt less like a formal concert and almost more like an ad-hoc gathering to celebrate a close friend's good fortune, for George had also engaged the services of eight other musician friends, several of whom had been involved in the actual CD sessions and most of whom, while perhaps not considered "big names", are nevertheless well-regarded in UK folk circles. The lion's share of the accompanimental duties was taken by ace violinist Saskia Tomkins and that enviably multi-talented pair Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, although the more momentary contributions of Chris Flegg, Terry Silver, Dan Waller and Isambarde's Jude Rees and Chris Green proved no less scintillating. And despite some initial minor glitches and the lack of onstage monitors, the sound balance was believably integrated and easy on the ear while granting individual performers their due spotlight where necessary.
Especially noteworthy among the handful of necessary substitutions (of performers from the original CD sessions), however, was Vicki who took the place of Miranda Sykes on double-bass; she was onstage for virtually the whole evening and provided some splendid supporting playing that was both deeply musical and a model of careful and sympathetic accompaniment. And I marvelled afresh at George's own florid and beautifully moulded guitar traceries, the modest expertise of which might be all too easily overlooked when you're concentrating on the impact of his lyrics.
On this important occasion, although every one of the album's 16 songs was performed, no attempt was made to preserve the CD's actual running order (except for the "bookends"); instead George had opted for a sensible compromise between logistical (staging) considerations and contrast for listenability. However, just like the CD, the concert kicked off with its lone non-original (now that's a "first" for George!), an amicable frug through A-Begging I Will Go, the true significance of which lay in its pairing with the album's final cut, End Of The Road, which formed George's vital contemporary take on the issue. That latter song, one of George's most masterly to date, was (appropriately, at the end of the evening) resplendent in the glorious backing of virtually the full ensemble embracing the tones of shawm, smallpipes, accordion, whistle and bouzouki alongside George's guitar.
The songs in between ranged impressively from the cutting social commentary of Anytown (complete with "dirty" electric guitar and sleazy sax) to harrowing personal reminiscence (Baba), alongside a handful of deeply-felt songs dealing with relationships and emotional commitment (Silence Of Friends, The Biggest Part Of Me), leavened with interludes of folksy philosophy and whimsical conjecture (eg. Working Week). Landfall, one of those "stranger-in-a-strange-land" pieces that George does so well, was of an ambitious and unusual construction, while Glory Gone took the form of a compelling industrial-folk chronicle and Sing To Me, Angelo a simple and heartfelt tribute to a fellow-artiste.
For those of us lucky to have heard the album already, the songs without exception came alive really vibrantly in this concert performance (the life-affirming Watermelon Seeds even scoring points over its studio-bound CD counterpart in this looser and altogether less "busy" live setting). A relaxed and gently syncopated freewheeling chug through Friends Like These (possibly George's "greatest-hit" to date!) provided the genial encore. The friendly immediacy of George's own presentation of his songs, together with the companionable and altogether unassuming musicianship of his cohorts (the poster had christened them "Los' Marbles"!), made for a very satisfying evening's entertainment that effortlessly transcended the customary, purely "business" functionality of a CD launch night.
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