A welcome seasonal offering from the all-star Albion Christmas Band.
Release Date: Available now
Label: Talking Elephant
In which Simon Nicol, Kellie While, Simon Care and Ashley Hutchings stay home while Blair Dunlop, drops by. Playing a little reverse Santa role, he collects the goods himself, returning home to pull together the pieces that now form All Is Safely Gathered In, a catch-all of festive and seasonal goodies.
Traditional seasonal songs and tunes, new takes on contemporary songs, new compositions (the mouth waters at the sight of Hutchings/Nicol and Hutchings/Dunlop credits) and spoken word are all ‘safely gathered in’ with a dozen tracks that offer up doses of melancholy, celebration and humour.
And having warmed up with an If I Were A Carpenter (maybe one to resurrect when Robert Plant appears at Cropredy in the Summer of 2023…?) that does justice to a song that’s both a classic and a standard. It includes a nice contrast of vocals from Simon and Kellie and a tweaking of lyrics by Nigel Schofield that re-imagines the story and does that interpretation thing that folk songs do.
We Won’t Come Home Till Morning (“we’re having too much fun“) could be a touring song, a shanty or as hinted, a wassail and is given a light-hearted jolly up – get ready to sing along on the tour – and along with the jaunty Royal Dog (audience participation opportunity #2) see the Nicol/Hutchings songwriting pairing shantying again in a playful mood. By contrast, Kellie’s stately vocal on Royal Are We is much more of an emotional package.
Ashely and Blair combine on The Wind with some nice electric guitar touches from the young master and a fiddle cameo from Holly Brandon (or it may be Ruth Angell’s violin – or both) while Blair also gets a lead vocal on Christmas Wreath – perhaps the pick for a soft focus video single – and if not, then gold star for a personal favourite track with warmth of a subtle cameo from Simon Care. The notion of circles and cycles is a strong theme.
Simon takes the spotlight as he does his best Stanley Holloway in the Sam’s Christmas Pudding monologue and we’re further reminded of the lush tones of Kelie While on Coming Home To Me before she flicks the switch to something more uplifting with the grand finale of the Christmas anthem Joy To The World.
The gathering of the same four members who’ve been together for over twenty years is as much a sign of Christmas as Slade, Wizzard, Sunday postal deliveries, After Eights and frozen turkeys. “By far our best ever release,” says Guv’nor Ashley Hutchings in a PR man’s dream quote. With the lineup of such quality (of which there can be little denial) it would be churlish to expect anything less. Should be subtitled ‘NOW – That’s What I Call A Christmas Album’.
The Christmas Tour began on 10th December and runs until the 22nd; it’s selling well, so check the website for details.
Here’s the Hutchings/Mills Royal Are We: