Review by Val Haines
A few years ago we ventured into London, to Cecil Sharp House but not to see anything folkie. One of our favourite bands at the time, The Candle Thieves, an indie-pop duo with an all-age following were appearing on the bill. This duo were young but their sound was reminiscent of the Beatles/Kinks style of quirky, folksy pop which appealed to us and many of our age. Also performing were two young singer songwriters. You know the type, they sing about their journey on the bus here, wonder wistfully why their girlfriend left them, and describe all the time they spend alone writing songs. The young people in the audience loved them but our mid-age and older party tried our best to ensure or yawns were inaudible.
The appeal of Terence Blacker is that he knows about ageing and is determined to write songs and sing about it. Earlier classics of his such as Young Girl with the Ukulele, Sad Old Bastards With Guitars and I’d Rather Be French appeal to a certain generation of middle-class cynics - or sensible realists if you prefer. The appeal of listening to descriptions of being old has resulted recently in Terence teaming up with now older ex-agony-aunt Virginia Ironside. Virginia has made a late career out of describing life for older women in a humorous way. Her show, Growing Old Disgracefully, directed by Nigel Planer, debuted at the Edinburgh Festival in 2012 and sees her sitting in her armchair railing against aches and pains, the pressure to join a book-club or a cruise and anything else that old age throws her way. (Cruises now seem even less attracive than ever!)
We saw her show recently at Diss Corn Hall, a double bill with Terence entitled The Time of our Lives. Both performers reminisced about their formative years as well as cocking a snook at their third age. Terence was also promoting his new CD Playing For Time.
The attarctive digipak CDs cover shows Terence as a young boy with a ukulele, looking I have to say, like a young Paul McCartney. The songs are, as you would expect, finely crafted and produced tracks covering the familiar topics of youth and bitter experience. Recorded in Italy and Suffolk, some of the tracks include lovely band arrangements. The musicians here are Hartmut Saam, accordion, Giovanni Rago, electric guitar, Fortunata Monzo, vocals, Giovanni Crecenzi, bass, Demenico de Marco, drums and percussion, and David Booth, bass, percussion and vocals.
As usual with Terence the musical styles are somewhat varied; a bit of bossa nova on Memories are Company, bluesy Forty Degrees and some nice accordion and girly chorus on the opening track The Anno Domini Rag. The Sha-La-La-La Song is a homage to the old pop radio stations and cleverly includes in the lyrics some phrases from songs which some of you may recognise. Fake News, tinge of Singing Postman style here, and Me Too, with echoes of Paul Simon’s Graceland, are right up to date with pre-virus news stories.
The standout track has to be Europa, Mein Amour, which is not exactly anti-Brexit but a real heart-wrenching farewell to Europe, cleverly reminding us of all the European influences we have come to recognise. A great CD, unmistakably Terence Blacker. Here's the chorus:
Adios, auf Wiedersehen,
Europa, mein amour.
Maybe you’ll miss me
But I know I’ll miss you more.
How I wish we could remain
Together down the years
But that’s all passed
So let’s raise a glass
And say skål, saluti, cheers.
Playing for time - Talking Cat Recordings, TCCD 1901