reviewed by Michael Billington
HIS album is a selection of ten songs crossing all four of the original trio's albums recorded live during the period 1972/73 just before their premature split. A review of England' in Melody Maker back in 1972 likened the band's music as having "the freshness of new mown grass" and there is undoubtedly a freshness and beauty about Gladwin's poetic lyrics and delicate vocal style that has stood the test of time which is accompanied by the clear lute and guitar accompaniment of himself and Eddie Baird. Terry Wincott's gutsy vocal and recorder technique add an effective foil and the whole effect has a quintessentially Englishness that is a sheer delight to listen to. As Gladwin once said in an interview in the magazine "Zigzag" some 20+ years ago. "We wanted to bring back the romanticism of the troubadour walking round strumming his lute.
This album 'A Foreign Field That Is Forever England' is a beautiful selection from recordings made on this final tour and what is remarkable is the clarity and quality of the recordings which of course are over twenty years old and the songs are played to the same high standards as in the studio recordings. (Not always the case on live albums!) The introductions are however somewhat basic bearing in mind the foreign audience which is understandable but nonetheless their wit and humour is evident in no uncertain terms and the jokes are well appreciated.
To pick out a few tracks, it is a delight to hear their magnum opus 'Fantasia Lindum', a stunning pastoral piece inspired by the band's native Lincolnshire countryside performed in it's entirety. Their "fun number" 'Shepherd's Song' complete with bleating is also here, one they used to arouse audience participation and here performed with great zest and gusto.
Three songs from their final album as a trio 'England' are present 'Seascape' 'Landscape' and 'Dolor Dulcis' and old favourites, 'Pavan’ and 'Willowood' from the album 'Evensong’. I was surprised though at the omission of 'Toye' a popular song with fans and an ever present on live gigs and the duplication of 'Celestial Light' which appears on it's own and also as part of the Fantasia Lindum suite.