|NETRHYTHMS & FOLK ROUNDABOUT
This is master songwriter George's eighth CD of original compositions in not quite that exact number of years, and it's another stunner - although as always some of the songs may take a time to make their mark and reveal their true stature. With the aid of a handful of excellent and exceedingly versatile fellow-musicians (Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, Paul Sartin, Pete Flood, the Tindall Family), George again paints thought-provoking and gently compelling pictures of our life and uncertain times, perceptively and unsentimentally observing with a keen eye for internal and external detail. The unifying theme of this latest collection is that of multiple perspectives, each of which can be seen to have its own validity; this approach can come into play in all manner of life experiences: from love to war, from street life to country life, from international politics to personal trials. And so George steers us engagingly from an appreciative hymn-like consideration of the Miracle Of Life to genially ponder the conundrum of Serendipity and more bitterly celebrate life's Handmedowns, then moves into the realms of social observation (Street Life, Love Of A Sort, Hills Above The City) before focusing in on the effects of cultural differences and baggage (Daniel And Ayse) and needless war (Azadeh, Thieves Of Innocence). Arguably the strongest item on this collection, however, is Life's Dreams/Kite Flying, a poignant "envelope" of two linked songs reflecting from different stages of a life. George hasn't neglected his Greek heritage either, for the most ambitious track, Erotokritos, is a translation-cum-paraphrase of an excerpt from the traditional Cretan epic poem of that name concerning the parting of lovers (this is accessible rather than esoteric, I hasten to add, and its only drawback for some might be its decidedly-non-toe-tapping 17/8 time-signature!). Throughout the CD, George's singing is better than ever, and his playing - particularly on the twelve-string guitar - both accomplished and mellifluous, while the musical settings are increasingly imaginative, utilising piano, violin, oboe, cor anglais, nyckelharpa, accordion, whistle, double bass and percussion (albeit selectively deployed). I must declare a small personal involvement in this CD (including acting in an advisory capacity at an early stage in the songs' composition) but on subsequently donning the magic cloak of impartiality I feel that the end result is one of George's most musically satisfying albums to date, even though it might not contain quite the usual quota of catchy choruses (that's not a complaint, just an observation). For that reason, it may not be the album to introduce George's fine body of work to the first-time listener (except on a selective basis perhaps), but it does provide a good spread of the musical and thematic diversity of his output as well as a convincing ongoing statement of his personal integrity and deep-rooted humanity. Not to underestimate the aforementioned contributions from George's fellow-musicians who clearly hold him in great regard. And finally, a mention for the attractive and intelligently realised artwork.
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ROCK'N'REEL (4 stars)
George Papavgeris is a songwriter and singer that other songwriters and singers tip their metaphorical hats to. This is his eighth album and the chances are you've never heard of him. I certainly hadn't until a couple of years ago. George is Greek by birth and English by residence. His music carries the sounds of the eastern Mediterranean and the feel of a British folk club with enough of an accent to sound exotic and distinctive.
If you want to know why he's so admired, two songs in this set will convince you. The first is 'Daniel & Ayse', the story of two teenagers whose love ignores the religious divide between them. It's simple, moving, a modern take on a story that's centuries old. The second is 'Thieves of Innocence' about the forced useof children as soldiers - you know where. The other aspect of George's songwriting is the observation of ordinary lives and 'Love of a Sort' and 'Street Life' are both scenes from life's play.
The supporting cast includes Paul Sartin and Pete Flood, whose hand percussion is key to the feel of the music. With Vicki Swan's bass and Jonny Dyer's keyboards essential ingredients. Above all, however, stand George Papavgeris and his songs.
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All too often, when solo singers make the almost irresistible transition to something fuller and more complex, it signals a loss of their very essense. But not for George.
In this, his 8th album in as many years, the fat Greek (his term, not mine) adds a brilliant feel for orchestration to his legendary mastery of rhyme and rhythm. Paul Sartin, Pete Flood, Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, with 12 very different instruments between them, provide a rich variety of sounds and rhythms, as appropriate and precise as George's words. Add to this the Tindall family chorus, and the whole is exactly the sum of its very talented parts.
The 14 songs are as perceptive and beautifully crafted as ever. George's theme of multi-culturalism is admirably expressed in Daniel & Ayse and Street Life, both rhythmically ornate. The answer to the simple thought "exactly what have we achieved?" is disturbingly accurate in Rejection; and the way distance hides reality perfectly summed up in his typically anti-urban song Hills above the City.
On the lighter side, Serendipity is a deceptively simple exploration of how sheer chance brings people together. And his observation of an inferred lovers' tryst over a cup of coffee, Love of a Sort, is superb - a sort of MJQ meets Jake Thackray, with Jonny Dyer's Take 5 keyboard accompaniment.
Enough said - just buy it. You won't be disappointed.
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MOORS Magazine (NL)
For a singer/songwriter a guitar is no longer sufficient, if he really wants his songs to be shown in the best light. A good arrangement is then essential. George Papavgeris understands this well, because his arrangements truly add to his songs, and not just the instrumental arrangements, but also the polyphonic singing that makes the refrains of his beautiful, melodic songs so irresistible. Papavgeris is a traveller, who seems to consider Europe his home country with England as his base nowadays. He began writing songs only seven years ago and made his first album only five years ago. This is his seventh album, and the first for Wild Goose, and also the first I have heard about, and I was immediately charmed by the man and his music. Warm, friendly songs, intelligent lyrics, beautiful arrangements with unusual instruments such as an Oboe, a udu or a nyckelharpa and melodies that in a lovely way come to nestle in your head. Highly recommended
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Singer-songwriter George Papavgeris will be familiar to many, and those who have seen him perform at club or festival will be delighted with the chance to purchase another record demonstrating his prolific talents. There seems to be a new CD each year and consistently there is a step-change upwards and onwards. If you haven't seen George perform, then this CD will give you an idea of his musical and literary accomplishments. His songs undoubtedly scratch the emotions and in that sense this record follows a familiar pattern. Shining forth is the great skill of saying so much so quickly. As well as the heart-tugging of "Serendipity" (superb keyboards by Jonny Dyer) there is also the acute observation of an older couple in a café in the song "Love of a Sort". How violence begets violence and how the cycle develops in wartime but also perhaps in peacetime is told in the song "Thieves of Innocence". The figure of Janus dominates the cover of the CD and here is a clue to the appeal of the material. The perspective offered is one where the songs he makes are personal to him, and at the same time they are personal to you, and this shines through the record like a golden sunset through a window. There are plenty of instruments used sparingly in the accompaniments, and George's own guitar playing deserves a mention too. Special credit goes to Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer (Los Marbles) and to the additional vocals of the Tindall family. A couple of the songs have a distinctive eastern shape and sound and at least one has a very unusual time signature. When you feel the need to get up and dance along, it's that one!! Finally and as ever, quality recording and presentation from the Wildgoose label.
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SHREDS & PATCHES
George Papavgeris is one of the best songwriters in the English langiage - and quite a nice singer too. I had the great pleasure of meeting and talking with him at Shrewsbury festival last year. He told me that he had just completed another CD and was very pleased with it. He thought it was the best CD he has made (and he's made quite a few).
Well, here it is - and he's right. It is a fabulous collection of the best songs he's written with wonderful arrangements played by some of the finest musicians on the English folk scene (Paul Sartin, pete Flood, Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer with the Tindall family adding backing vocals). There's a couple of tracks that reflect George's Greek roots and the accompanists sound utterly authentically Mediterranean.
George writes, in the sleeve-notes, about "observing ourselves from the outside and smiling (lovingly, always lovingly) at our anthropocentric veneer of self-importance". I think that just about sums it up. As I said in a review of his earlier CD, "He loves life - and writers - and sings - his love".
But, strangely, I think the best track is one that I wish I'd never heard! It's a re-recording of his 2002 song, Thieves of Innocence, about children forced to join armed militias "and a lot nearer than you might think". It is the bleakest song I've ever heard. An horrifically truthful summary of aappalling and continuing cruelty. It makes me weep and I think it should be known by everyone - yet, at the same time, I wish it couyld be forgotten! A truly great song.
There are several other tracks that will certainly become well-known session songs with tgheir catchy tunes and wise words. There's a lovely song about cross-cultural love and another about neighbours and neighbourliness which George says is, "My answer to the BNP".
And finally, the CD is dedicated to Johnny Collins who, I think, would have embraced these songs with all his heart and soul. Put it at the top of your shopping list.
Chris (Yorkie) Bartram
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It’s hard to believe that George Papavgeris only started writing songs less than 10 years ago. Hard to believe as he has in that time produced eight albums and has enough new material for number nine. Hard to believe because, from what I have heard, they are of a high standard and are being sung by the likes of Roy Bailey, Andy Irvine, Vin Garbutt and Jim Causley.
On Looking Both Ways he is joined by Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, Paul Sartin and the Tindall family. Much of the feel of this CD is provided by the hand percussion of Pete Flood, but it is the distinctive clarity of George’s vocals and a deceptively simple guitar style that stand out. The songs move from the celebration of life to social observation, from the problems surrounding cultural differences to the pointlessness of war, whilst retaining his Greek heritage.
He is not afraid to tackle difficult and sensitive subjects and Thieves Of Innocence is about the forced taking of children into armies and their transformation into killing machines – made all the more poignant as it is written in the first person. However, George always seems to retain his optimism so this is followed by Miracle Of Life, almost hymn like, encouraging us to celebrate life, something the child soldiers in the previous song are taught not to do.
The final track, aptly called The Last Song of Looking Both Ways seems to sum up the whole CD imploring us “if this is the last song to join in the chorus and let voices go free” and sing it with him. Somehow I don’t think it will be George’s last song.
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George's CDs are manufactured by Bump Studios.