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Born in Salonika, Greece in 1953, singer/guitarist George Papavgeris discovered folk music in Oxford in the early 70s, but only became a songwriter in recent years. Since then, his songs have been covered by the likes of Andy Irvine, Roy Bailey and Martyn Wyndham-Read. Listening to his seventh album Life’s Eyes, it’s easy to understand why. The deeply affecting ‘Regrets’ was written following the death of Papavgeris’ father, but will resonate powerfully with anyone who’s lost a loved one – and besides that, its melody is simply beautiful, bringing to mind the best work of Leonard Cohen. The waltz-tempo ‘Harbour Lights’, inspired by the singer’s former home in Thessaloniki, is a classic in the making, with a universal appeal that goes far beyond the specificity of its origin. ‘Rush Hour’ is another highlight, sung as a round-style trio of harmony and countermelody with labelmates Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, who contribute an impressive variety of backing instruments elsewhere on the album: Swan plays double bass, flute and Scottish smallpipes, all very well indeed, while Dyer wields the guitar, accordion and keyboards with equal aplomb and grace.
Sarah McQuaid, www.hotpress.ie 14/2/2008
Those of you who know George's work will have been amazed at his ability to write songs about anything and everything about the modern world - family, friends, politics, global warming,love, death. This CD carries on these great themes and surpasses all previous offerings in composition and performance. Some of these songs will creep into the tradition, I am sure.
On Life's Eyes he is joined by two consummate musicians well known to us in East Anglia - Vicki Swann and Jonny Dyer - who provide luscious accompaniment for George's distinctive voice whilst allowing the words to shine through. You wouldn't want to miss anything in these lyrics.They are the essence of the songs, although the tunes - mainly composed by George - make the initial impact.
George is Greek by birth, though he lived in many countries during the course of his day-job. He lives in the UK with his English wife Vanessa. Some of his family live in Australia and he has delighted audiences in the US, Oz and Europe. The influences on his songwriting and singing are therefore multi-national. His roots show very strongly in his use of Greek dance rhythms in Tsamiko ( Dance of the Old Men) and we even have a bonus track of George singing in Greek a translation of his lyrics for Rebetiko.
George has almost single-handedly restored parents as a theme for songs. Not wicked step-mothers or severe and domineering fathers, but people to be loved and respected, celebrated and mourned in some of the most touching lyrics you will hear in song-writing today. He can turn his hand to writing about life's effect on the harrassed and striven city whiz-kid who does not even notice the beggar at his feet or care too much about the goings-on in the world around him. This is effectively portrayed musically by having three separate voices weaving in and out yet never singing the same words. Very clever! Vicki has her solo singing debut on this track. More please!
I don't know how the Scottish smallpipes and guitar can transform themselves into a Greek band of tsambouna and bouzouki, but somehow they do under the watchful eye of Doug Bailey at WildGoose. As ever the recording is first class and the artwork ( by Hilary Bix who runs the Bideford Folk Club and festival - see ad) is beautiful and eye-catching.
If you have never bought a George Papavgeris CD before, then this is the one to go for. Hurry, before they all sell out!
- Mary Humphreys - Mardles magazine
THE LIVING TRADITION
George only began his songwriting career in 2001, but over 180 songs later, his craft still continues to develop apace for album number seven (which is his first for WildGoose). In many ways, though, Lifes Eyes is still very much quintessential George with his typically right-on commonsense worldview, continuing to score high on his key attributes (acute powers of observation, compassion and essential humanity), and all the while shot through with the delightful winding contours of his by now unmistakeable melodies and guitar riffs. But George also cleverly rings the changes on this record, with an increasingly adventurous approach to form and structure in particular, confidently and unassumingly bringing into the musical mix piquant flavours of the music of his native Greece, all the while consolidating his strong musical rapport with his unbelievably versatile Los Marbles colleagues Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer by presenting an ever-engaging and subtly enhancing musical backdrop for his songs. Additionally, Georges distinctive singing voice has matured immeasurably from its slightly diffident beginnings into a gloriously expressive (and idiomatic) vehicle that his superbly intricate yet intrinsically musical guitar playing ideally counterpoints.
The old adage laugh or cry, same price has always been a strong suit for George and his output, and Lifes Eyes again rides the emotional seesaw with absolute conviction, from caustic attacks on present-day society and attitudes (Another Day, Upwind Of Me) to wry slice-of-life observational pieces (the intriguingly antiphonal Rush Hour) and poignantly many-faceted lyrical sketches (Late Spring). Then there are the trademark heart-rending reminiscences where the personal is so expertly given a universal dimension (as in Regrets, written following the death of Georges father, and the unbelievably touching For A Friend), while the emotional and musical pull of (An Emigrants) Rebetiko (quite literally, where Father Thames flows into the Mediterranean), is also considerable. And all in the space of a little over an hour. There are so many gorgeous details to discover: pithy lyric bites, felicitous twists and turns of phrase and melody. This new disc is both a brave step and a proud achievement for George and his collaborators and special mention for the extremely attractive artwork (by Hilary Bix) and Georges excellent liner notes, all entirely typical of his careful attention to detail. Note too that Lifes Eyes also represents a landmark release for WildGoose: something of a departure for this hitherto fairly traditionally-slanted label, perhaps, but a constantly satisfying and stimulating one that repays your investment many times over for after all, Georges songs (like those of labelmate Mick Ryan, indeed) are undoubtedly tomorrows tradition.
David Kidman - The Living Tradition
Where do you begin to tell the story of this highly regarded troubadour, who even Martin Carthy regards as "Something special." We're starting here with his seventh album as he only really started writing songs in 2001, although since then he has been prolific.
Born in 1953 in Greece he has absorbed his native music and played in bands in his teenage years. He first came to folk music in England during the 70s and started to perform on the circuit. He cites Tom Leher, Jake Thackery Pete Atkins and Clive James as influences and there's something of Thackery in his disarming vocal style.
But with all songwriters it's the content that counts. George seems equally adept at the personal and the geopolitical, so childhood memories (Tsarniko), global warming (Upwind Of Me), the burden of responsibility (One By one), friendship (For A Friend) and loss of a loved one (Regrets) are handled with eloquence, the knowledge of experience and an eye for the detail that makes these subjects common to us all. Without doubt Mr Carthy has nailed it.
This is the George's first CD on Doug Bailey's WildGoose Studios label and his 7th album. The songs, the singing and the arrangements won't let you down when you buy this album. This is another collection of songs that chronicle his generation's passage through life and tell you some more about the man himself. Some of the songs reflect the pain that George has experienced in his life and some are observations and comment on life in general.
My particular favourite, One by One, an unaccompanied song, is a reflection on the passing of one's peers and just one of the songs that you will hear sung by other singers at folk clubs in the future. Some of the songs are enhanced by the subtle accompaniment of Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer's tasteful musicianship and credited as George's itinerant Los Marbles. Rush Hour is a lovely song reminiscent of the songs of Lionel Bart on which George shares the lead vocals with Vicki and Jonny. Harbour Lights, Pieces, Apology and Rozellas are also highlights of the album and fine examples of George's songwriting skills that demonstrate his confidence and ability to sing a simple song; simply but effectively.
I should mention that Doug Bailey once again gets it absolutely right with production and balance to make a finely tuned album.
Colin Andrews - What's Afoot (Thursday, May 1, 2008)
SHREDS & PATCHES
George Papavgeris has been a busy man over the last few years. As well as an impressively full diary of club and festival bookings this year, he recently released his seventh album (the first with Doug Bailey's WildGoose label) of his own songs in just over five years. Last year I had the pleasant surprise of seeing George at one of the smaller Sidmouth festival venues, and knowing little of his talents at the time, it was quite an eye opener. It is refreshing to see a performer who can hold an audience gently but firmly in his hand by presenting his highly personal songs in such a modest and straightforward manner.
On this superb album, George channels his astute observations of various aspects of life in the twenty-first century into 14 fine tracks (plus a surprise treat at the end of the CD), some of which are flavoured with the distinct and delightful essense of his Greek background, either by the melodies themselves or by the vocal decorations that he uses to great effect. The subjects of george's compositions range widely from the loss of loved ones in the poignant Regrets, to problems associated with global conflict, our environment, working lives and even sex change in Toni with an "i". He tackles these often difficult subjects with sensitivity, wit and wisdom, whilst retaining a sense of balance and humour. The choice of "favourite tracks" will depend on the individual listener's circumstances and outlook on life, as every song has its own particular appeal.
This CD is one of the most absorbing, moving and simply lovely works that I have heard for a long time. It is especially worth noting that Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer provide beautiful instrumental and vocal support throughout, and demonstrate a rare talent in finding exactly the right accompaniment to enhance each musical setting without distracting from the lyrical focal point of the songs. Greek tunes on Scottish smallpipes? - it's what the instrument was made for!
Neil Brookes - Shreds & Patches No 43
ENGLISH DANCE & SONG MAGAZINE
For someone who came relatively late to songwriting, George Papavgeris has certainly made up for lost time. Life's Eyes is his seventh album in five years and, on balance, it seems that he must have been storing up everything he had to say for quite a while! While George is a fine singer, it is undoubtedly his songwriting skills which set him apart. The subject matter here is extremely varied and unpredictable: sardonic social commentary, beautiful evocations of other places and times, reflections on the passing of family members and friends, and even the tortured yet optimistic thoughts of a pre-op transsexual.
George's arrangements, ably assisted by his 'Los Marbles' Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, complement the songs very well. Personal favourites include the impossibly catchy 'Rozellas', with its exotic imagery and bossa-nova rhythms, and 'Upwind of Me' with its cheerfully subversive message contained in a somewhat scatological package! But I think my favourite song on the CD is 'Tsamiko' (or 'Dance of the Old Men'). It seems to encapsulate the qualities which characterise George's singing and performance: the song is a wonderful narrative of a Mediterranean scene, a memory from childhood which conjures up a very specific place and time, but there is something ineffably redolent of Englishness in the melody and the way in which the story is told. It's this seamless fusion of Greek and Anglo influences, overlaid with very fine storytelling, which sum up George Papavgeris' unique appeal.
Joan Crump - English Dance & Song Magazine, http://eds.efdss.org
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